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Blues find groove, win fifth straight

The SportsXchange

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- As the Los Angeles Kings showed the NHL last year, the key to winning the Stanley Cup isn't being the best team but getting hot at the right time. Perhaps St. Louis took note.

The Blues extended their season-best winning streak to five games with a 1-0 victory over the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night at Bridgestone Arena. Alexander Steen's second-period goal was the difference.

Goalie Brian Elliott, named the NHL's Second Star of the Week for his performance in three games last week, continued his winning ways by registering his second consecutive shutout. He turned away 15 Nashville shots in celebration of his 28th birthday.

"Seriously, I'll take that any birthday, for sure, getting a win in this building," Elliott said. "(The Predators) play well here and the crowd gets into it, so it's kind of a gritty win. The puck was bouncing and there weren't too many pretty plays out there, but I'll take that win any day of the week."

St. Louis (22-14-2) moved into a tie for sixth place in the Western Conference standings. With 3 1/2 weeks to play in the regular season, the Blues have an added advantage of having at least one more game to play than their conference competitors, two in some cases.

"It's desperation time," Elliott said. "We were in the playoff picture for a while and teams were catching us, and we were looking over our shoulders. I think now, we've got to look up and try to catch other teams.

"That's the way you want to do it. You want to be on your toes and going after teams, not just hoping that they're not winning. You want to be the ones trying to get caught."

Meanwhile, the Predators (15-18-8) are five points behind the eighth-place Detroit Red Wings. With just seven games left, things are looking bleak for Nashville to keep alive its streak of three consecutive playoff appearances.

"I think everybody's realistic here. Everybody has to be realistic," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "The only thing we can hang our hat on right now is to try to win some hockey games.

"How do you win them? You have to play extremely hard, you have to play within the system, you have to be committed. We don't want any quit from anybody, and that's not our culture."

The last time the Blues and Preds met (Feb. 5), Nashville tied a season high with six goals, on just 19 shots. This one was quite different, as high-quality scoring chances were few and far between for Nashville.

The teams combined for just 10 shots on goal in a scoreless first period, with the Blues having four of them.

At 16:37 of the second period, a wide-open Steen blasted home a slap shot from the top of the left circle that got just between Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne and the right post.

"That was the situation I read, and I let it go," Steen said when asked why he shot then rather than advancing the puck further.

Even when Nashville pulled Rinne in the final minute, neither of its two shots found the net, including a pad save by Elliott at point-blank range with about a second left.

Trotz commented on the challenge of scoring against one of the NHL's best defensive teams.

"We're really young up front with the young forwards. ... when you're running up against Jay Bouwmeester and a (Barret) Jackman, and people like that, and then you're got a team that plays a real strong defensive system with a lot of commitment and a lot of back pressure, the game gets really quick," Trotz said.

"Being able to create some chances, being able to convert on chances, it's a step up. Some players are able to do it, some players take some time."

Rinne made 25 saves.

The Predators, riding a four-game losing streak, will play the second game of a four-game homestand Friday against the Dallas Stars.

The Blues travel to Minnesota on Thursday and to Columbus on Friday before playing seven of their final eight games at home.

NOTES: Nashville forward Daniel Bang (pronounced "Bawng") made his NHL debut. Bang, a 25-year-old left wing, played in the first period after being recalled from AHL Milwaukee earlier in the day. ... The Blues also made a move earlier Tuesday, recalling 20-year-old forward Dmitrij Jaskin ("YEAH-skin"). The Blues' second-round pick in 2011 was a scratch. He still hasn't made his NHL debut. ... Nashville's Mike Fisher, who hurt his hand blocking a shot on March 28, was a scratch again. He hasn't played since that day. ... Rinne made his seventh straight start.

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