ST. LOUIS (AP)—The St. Louis Blues’ decision to use five forwards on the power play looked like a stroke of genius in their opener.
Keith Tkachuk scored two of St. Louis’ four goals with the man advantage in a 5-2 victory over the Nashville Predators on Friday night. Brad Boyes and David Backes also scored power-play goals for the Blues, who won their season opener for the first time since 1996 and ended a five-game losing streak against Nashville.
“We’ve been kind of touted as a bottom-five team,” Backes said. “It’s a new year, it’s a new team, it’s a new season.”
Star defenseman Erik Johnson was to have been the quarterback on the power play. After his season-ending knee injury in a team golf outing before training camp, coach Andy Murray elected to go with all skill players.
“It’s an experiment and it’s working right now,” Tkachuk said. “We’re getting more shots, that’s the key. Special teams win you games.”
St. Louis, last in the NHL with a 14.1-percent success rate last season while finishing 14th in the Western Conference, was 4-for-6 overall on the power play. The Predators hadn’t been expecting it.
“They really changed it up and kept us guessing a little,” goalie Dan Ellis said. “We couldn’t keep up.”
The Blues scored four times with the man advantage for the first time since Jan. 1, 2004. They needed 24 power plays over five games to score four last season.
Lee Stempniak, Paul Kariya, Andy McDonald and David Perron, one of three Blues players age 20 or younger, added two assists apiece. The Blues had been winless in the previous 10 openers, including two overtime losses, since opening with a victory over the Avalanche in 1996.
Goalie Manny Legace said players were inspired by a raucous sellout crowd during pre-game ceremonies.
“The guys were just all fired up,” Legace said. “If we can play to that intensity every single night, I like our chances.”
The 35-year-old Tkachuk was honored during a first-period stoppage for his 500th career goal, an empty-netter in the finale last season and his 27th overall. He tied it midway through the opening period, zinging a one-timer past Dan Ellis, and the Blues took the lead for good 33 seconds later on defenseman Barret Jackman’s quick shot from the left side at 13:18—their only even-strength goal of the night.
Tkachuk was whistled for three minor penalties, the only blemishes on his night.
The Predators scored on the game’s first shot, when Suter beat Legace on a 3-on-1 break, but the Blues built a three-goal cushion entering the third.
“I thought we had the momentum, and everything just fell apart,” coach Barry Trotz said.
Predators C Radek Bonk, day to day with a hip flexor injury, was scratched. … The Blues opened at home for the first time since 2002. They’ll play eight of their first 10 games at home. … Boyes, a 42-goal scorer last season, has seven goals in nine games against Nashville the last two seasons. … Jackman was helped off the ice midway through the second after getting kicked in the groin, but thought he might be able to play on Saturday. Blues backup goalie Chris Mason, who played for Nashville, will start Saturday night on the road against the New York Islanders.