The Blues lost 3-2 to their Central Division rivals on Saturday night. It was the 13th straight win for the Predators over the Blues and the fifth time this season the game was decided by one goal. The previous three went into overtime, with two decided by shootouts.
Jason Arnott scored a power-play goal and assisted on another.
“Every time they play us we know it is going to be a hard-edged game,” Arnott said. “We know the games with St. Louis are going to be close until the end. St. Louis came out ready to play. We tried to match their intensity.”
St. Louis coach Andy Murray was pleased his team fought until the final buzzer, but found little comfort in the good effort.
“Obviously there is no such thing as moral victories or feeling any kind of gratification in losing a hockey game no matter how hard you play,” Murray said.
St. Louis spent the early portion of the game keying on Nashville’s Jordin Tootoo.
The Blues were agitated by Tootoo on Dec. 26. Tootoo’s hit against Christian Backman in the third period of that game sidelined him for weeks with a knee injury. Tootoo’s play prompted a stream of verbal assaults from the Blues, and things were settled things in the second period when he fought Jamal Mayers at center ice.
“I don’t worry about Tootoo,” Predators coach Barry Trotz said. “He has had a few of their tougher guys go at him and he has done very well. He can take care of himself.”
Tootoo drew a high-sticking penalty from Dennis Wideman at 14:45 of the third period to set up the winning goal.
“Tootoo can get under anybody’s skin,” Arnott said. “They went after him pretty hard.”
The Blues and Predators will face each other three more times this season.
“Andy’s got St. Louis playing playoff hockey now,” Trotz said. “They had a lot of emphasis on this game because we have a little bit of a streak against them. St. Louis came out and played a structured and hard game. It might not have been our best game, but we found a way to win.”
The Predators got on the board first. Josef Vasicek shot the puck toward goalie Manny Legace. Vernon Fiddler moved in from the right side and used his skate to slide the puck past Legace, knocking the goal off its posts in the process at 2:08.
St. Louis answered at 18:13. Martin Rucinsky’s shot bounced off the stick of Nashville defenseman Dan Hamhuis, as the Blues forward was spread flat on the ice in front of the net, and slid under goalie Chris Mason’s legs.
Arnott fired a one-timer from the middle of the left circle for a power-play goal at 11:20 of the second period.
Nashville’s 2-1 lead was short-lived. Just 17 seconds later, Lee Stempniak took a one-timed shot from the right circle that beat Mason high to his glove side.
Dumont gave Nashville a 3-2 advantage with a power-play goal from the right circle at 15:48 of the third period. He bounced the puck off of the right leg of St. Louis defenseman Jay McKee and into the net.
“Our power play and penalty kill were the big differences in the hockey game,” Nashville’s Steve Sullivan said. “Our power play has been solid and steady. I am happy with where it is.”
Fiddler’s first-period goal ended a streak of 12 games in which St. Louis had shut down the opposition in the first period. Arnott has scored seven goals in eight games. Stempniak has six points in six games (three goals, three assists). Mason has started 21 straight games, one short of tying the longest streak in the NHL this season.