The Nashville Predators went into the second half of this back-to-back coming off a win last night which nevertheless added Alexandre Carrier to the unavailable list. The St. Louis Blues, no pushover at any time and having a great start to the season, were to be backup goalie David Rittich’s first test in gold.
After just a little back and forth and some checking, Michael McCarron and the Blues’ Dakota Joshua got into a fight as each of them got their first shift of the game, and both took their seats in the sin bin for five minutes. It was a fight for the sake of fighting, and while McCarron won the fight, it was the Blues who seemed to get the momentum from it.
Rittich was called on to make several big saves over the next several minutes, and another Rittich save showcased the tensions in the game with about nine minutes elapsed. Rittich stood up to catch the puck out of the air, bumped into Pavel Buchnevich, and fell over back into the paint; four Preds skaters immediately swooped in to express their disapproval of Buchnevich and had to be separated by the refs.
Jordan Kyrou drew first blood, taking advantage of a lapse in defensive coverage to get an uncontested shot past Rittich at 12:23. The Preds tried to respond, but Jordan Binnington made the saves he was called on to make, and the Preds were having a hard time getting anything going either way.
Late in the period, Roman Josi took a delay-of-game penalty for deflecting a puck over the glass, and Kyrou scored again to extend the Blues’ lead to 2-0. The period ended with that still the score.
However, seconds into the second period, Matt Duchene scored to cut the deficit in half, with some nice passing between himself and his linemates to set it up. After that great start to the period, though, the Preds weren’t able to sustain the pressure, and the Blues settled into the Preds’ defensive zone again. Rittich made some saves, and some of the defenders helped him out—including Mark Borowiecki, making some good plays in his return from injury—but the overall situation was not good.
In spite of that, the next goal was scored by Luke Kunin, thanks to a great pass from—again—Matt Duchene. With the score even again, the Preds finally did start to get their legs under them, but weren’t able to convert again before the momentum shifted back.
Mikael Granlund and Yakov Trenin have had some good chances, though their line hasn’t been showing up on the scoresheet. They got another as the second period wound down and yet another with just seconds left, but no joy. Although the balance of the period’s play favored the Blues somewhat, it was the Preds who scored both goals, leaving the teams tied 2-2 heading into second intermission.
The Blues came out strong to start the third, but Rittich stifled their opening salvo.
Just minutes in, McCarron blocked a shot with the side of his knee and stayed down on the ice. He was helped off by Mattias Ekholm and Phil Myers, in the company of a trainer. After Alexandre Carrier’s injury last night, and especially after the Preds put Rocco Grimaldi on waivers this morning, this isn’t ideal for the team—it’s obviously not ideal for McCarron either way.
Trenin finally capitalized on one of his chances, giving the Preds their first lead of the game with four minutes elapsed in the third period. Kyrou had been pushing hard for his third; seeing the next goal go to the Preds was both a relief and a surprise. After that, it was Ryan O’Reilly with some great chances, and an equally great save by Rittich to cap off the sequence.
However, the Blues tied the game again on a Vladimir Tarasenko goal, as Tarasenko fought his way through three defenders to score. The Blues continued to push after that for a bit, but then the third-period shell set in. Late in the third Ryan Johansen almost managed to give the Preds a lead again, as part of a last-minute push that also included a scramble at the Blues’ netfront and some great saves by Binnington, but the game did head to overtime.
Overtime started with what felt like about an hour of Blues possession, but Duchene came in as the overtime hero yet again, scoring off a brilliantly clever assist from Granlund to give the Preds the win.
OTF’s Three Stars of the Game:
3. David Rittich — objectively it might not have been the greatest performance, but playing behind a tired team struggling with injuries, at the end of a long road trip, and in his first actual game with that team...he did pretty darn well under the circumstances, and did what the Preds needed him to do.
2. Matt Duchene — two goals, including the OT winner, and an assist on Kunin’s game-tying goal
1. Mikael Granlund — four assists, really felt like he made every single goal happen, and could have easily added a few more assists.