The Nashville Predators moved one step closer to clinching a playoff spot as Steve Sullivan picked up a bouncing puck to create a breakaway, scoring on Chris Mason and putting the Preds ahead to stay, 3-2, in the 3rd period.
This game was a thriller, however, as it looked for a while like Nashville's recent scoring drought on home ice would continue...
By the early stages of the second period the Blues had jumped out to a 2-0 lead, causing concern among Preds fans that perhaps the guys weren't taking this game seriously enough. They had a solid advantage in shots on goal (15-11 after one), but making a comeback is tough when the other team gets physical, and the referees decide to let things go.
Much as in their earlier meeting in December, the Blues took every opportunity they could to manhandle, hold, cross-check and rough up the Preds, and for the most part the referees decided to "let the boys play". Probably the most absurd example of this is when Ryan Suter exchanged blows with one Blues player (can't remember which) and Suter got two minutes for Unsportsmanlike Conduct, even though he took about 4 cross-checks in a row in full view of the official.
The Preds need to get used to fighting through garbage like that, however, because at playoff time, all too often the referees swallow their whistles.
They did crawl back into this game, though, first thanks to a quick shot on net by Cody Franson (how many times have we heard that?) that was tipped home by Dustin Boyd midway through the second. Then, in the waning seconds of that period, Patric Hornqvist led what looked like a harmless rush into the St. Louis zone, as he was tangled up with a defender and the puck was in his feet. As it came loose, however, Colin Wilson picked it up and pulled it across for a nice backhander over Chris to tie things up heading into the third.
After Sullivan's breakaway goal to give Nashville the lead (make sure you catch the video highlights, it was a beauty), the matter turned to locking things down to close out the game. That went mostly well, except for a rush by David Perron that slipped through the Preds' defense, only to be stopped by a sensational save by Pekka Rinne, who was outstanding once again tonight.
The win pushes Nashville to 96 points on the season, allowing them to hold onto 5th place despite a win by Detroit over Columbus. For St. Louis, their playoffs hopes are basically slim & none, "and slim just walked out the door."