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Blues, Backes off to solid start vs. Predators

The SportsXchange

ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis center David Backes was not happy with his offensive production a year ago, and if the first game of the new season is any indication, he is determined to do something about it.

Backes scored a goal and assisted on another Thursday night to lead the Blues to a 4-2 win over the Nashville Predators in the season-opener for both teams.

It took just 2:05 into the season for Backes to score his first goal, deflecting a shot from Alex Pietrangelo while the Blues were on the power play, just three seconds into a minor penalty on Nashville.

The Blues added a goal by Vladimir Sobotka at 5:43 of the period and four minutes later Backes earned an assist on a goal by T.J. Oshie, which increased the lead to 3-0 and knocked Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne out of the game after he allowed the three goals on only six St. Louis shots.

"It was a pretty ideal first 10 minutes," Backes said. "Then maybe we took a step back, but they are a team that keeps coming at you and they got a couple and kind of woke us up again. We had to get back to playing our style of hockey. The result we love and it's one step along the way, learn from some things tonight and take the good and keep on doing it."

Rinne was not happy about the way his season started.

"It's not the way you want to go in," Rinne said. "It's three quick goals and I just got pulled. Obviously not happy with that and not happy with my effort."

Backes scored a career-low six goals in the lockout-shortened 48 game 2012-13 season, a big drop from two 31-goal seasons he had earlier in his career.

Only once last season did he and Oshie scored in the same game. Oshie also struggled offensively a year ago, scoring only seven goals, as his season was limited to just 30 games because of injuries.

"As a line (along with Alexander Steen) we feel like we've got some responsibility to kind of set the tone and the set the bar for work ethic and with the skill that those two guys have and me getting in the other team's way it seems to work out to some offensive prowess," Backes said.

Nashville scored on goals by Mike Fisher at 10:42 of the first period and David Legwand at 5:09 of the second period to cut the lead to 3-2, but Steen responded with the Blues second power-play goal of the night at 11:16 of the second period to restore the two-goal advantage.

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock thought the special teams was the difference in the game as the Blues scored on two of their four power-play chances and killed off all four of Nashville's power plays.

"I thought our special teams was excellent tonight and especially our penalty killing," Hitchcock said. "I think we're like every other team. We leave here and we're happy that you won and you've got a list of things that you need to work on. You pick a few and tomorrow you start working on them."

The loss spoiled the NHL debut of Predators defenseman Seth Jones, who celebrated his 19th birthday Thursday. He was the fourth overall pick in the NHL draft last summer and is the son of former NBA star Popeye Jones.

"I felt fine," Jones said. "I had a couple of good shifts to start the game and I carried that with me throughout the game. Too bad we didn't get the win. I felt good, I felt confident. I knew it was going to be fast out there and St. Louis likes to play a fast game."

NOTES: New Blues F Brenden Morrow, signed as a free agent Sept. 23, had to fly to Detroit and back Thursday, landing about three hours before game time, in order to obtain a work visa so he could play in Thursday night's game. ... St. Louis D Jay Bouwmeester played in his 636rd consecutive game, the longest active streak in North America's four major pro sports. ... Nashville opened the season with eight players who were not on the team's opening-day roster last year. One of the new additions, LW Viktor Stalberg, signed as a free agent from the Chicago Blackhawks, did not play because of a sprained shoulder. ... The Blues open the season with five consecutive home games, not playing a road game until Oct. 17. ... The Predators open the season with back-to-back road games, traveling from St. Louis to Denver to play the Avalanche on Friday night.
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