Preds Shut Out Blues, Sweep Season Series

Pekka Rinne made 27 saves and the Nashville Predators defeated the St. Louis Blues, 4-0, on Sunday afternoon at Bridgestone Arena. It’s Nashville’s fourth consecutive victory and gives the Preds a 4-0 season sweep of their divisional rivals.

Nashville put forth another effort that was worthy of a first-place seeding in the Central, throwing 39 shots at the net and refusing to let the Blues get even one goal on the board.

“We have a pretty good rivalry with [St. Louis], so any time we can assert our dominance against them, we’re all for it,” Preds forward Colton Sissons said. “We’ve been in tough battles with them throughout the season and in years prior but it feels good putting them away like that at home.”

The Predators had no trouble getting up for the early start, and less than five minutes into the opening frame, Sissons tallied on a power-play opportunity and then Kevin Fiala picked a corner over Jake Allen at the 14:21 mark to give Nashville a 2-0 lead after one period.

It took Scott Hartnell just 1:20 into the second stanza to redirect a shot into the cage, and then Austin Watson’s shorthanded tally extended the lead to four after 40 minutes.

From there, Nashville continued to turn the Blues away, thanks to Rinne and those in front of him, who continued to block shots until the horn sounded, to help the netminder record his sixth shutout of the season, just one shy of his career high.

“Pretty much every night you see a lot of big blocks, especially on the penalty kill,” Rinne said of his defensemen. “[Ryan] Ellis, even at the end of the game when it’s 4-0, takes a [Colton] Parayko shot somewhere in the leg. I thought to myself ‘ouch, that’s a heavy shot.’ Anytime they block a shot, I feel like they do it for me, so I feel very grateful for that.”

The Predators will now prepare for a four-game trip, starting on Tuesday in Winnipeg against a Jets team that is jockeying with Nashville for the first two spots in the division.

“It’s always good to get on the road with the guys and this will be a good trip for us,” Watson said. “[We are] going into Winnipeg right away – a team that we have been pretty tight with all season long. They have a great home record and a great team, so, it’s a challenge that we will have to be ready for.”

Rise & Shine:

Two days ago, Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette said perhaps the most daunting challenge entering Sunday’s contest against St. Louis – with a puck drop approximately 20 minutes after 11 a.m. – would be ensuring his club was ready to compete before lunchtime.

Challenge accepted.

Laviolette’s team was ready from the start, refusing to let St. Louis into the game, and even when the Blues did have their chances, Rinne and his mates were there to record their League-leading ninth shutout of the season.

“Full credit to the guys,” Laviolette said. “It’s a different scenario, you’re waking up early just to eat something that you might not want to eat that early in the morning and getting ready for a game, warmups starting at 10:30, and it’s just a completely different time frame for us. Like I said, full credit to the guys in the room because when the puck dropped they were ready.”

“We had a really good start,” Rinne said. “I was really impressed with the guys and how they started off today. I thought that everybody did a really good job preparing themselves. It’s a kind of different time to play a game. It’s not your typical time when you eat breakfast and go play an NHL game so it was different but it was a lot of fun.”

The victory is a contrast to the team’s play after they dropped two consecutive games in regulation – a rarity for this Predators team – just over a week ago. But since then, things have been looking up once more, certainly a positive sign as the team prepares to enter the final full month of the regular season in the coming days.

“You know when you’re playing well and when you’re not playing well,” Watson said. “Just about a week ago, we weren’t very happy with the way that we were playing even though we might have been getting some wins. So, this has been good for us – it’s been a good stretch and (we) got back on the same page and have been playing well together.”

Trading Places:

Earlier in the day, the Predators acquired a fourth-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft and traded Pontus Aberg to Edmonton.

“It just wasn’t working out for him,” Laviolette said of Aberg. “Decisions are always tough, lineup decisions on a nightly basis, decisions inside of an organization are always tough. For me, it’s a new opportunity for him to kind of hit the reset button and get on track with what he’s trying to do as far as the National Hockey League goes. I thank him for his time here and what he did, but for us, we’re going to move on and into a different direction.”

Following the game, the Predators also made a move to acquire forward Brandon Bollig and goaltender Troy Grosenick from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a sixth-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft.

Notes:

With an assist in the first period, Craig Smith extended his point streak to a career-high seven games (2g-5a).

Austin Watson’s goal was his second shorthanded tally of the season. He now leads the Preds with three shorthanded points (2g-1a).

Nashville has won six of its last seven games against St. Louis – including four in a row – and has scored at least four goals in four of those wins.

The Predators are now set to embark on a four-game road trip, beginning Tuesday night in Winnipeg against the Jets. Nashville will then play in Edmonton, Vancouver and Colorado before returning home next week.

Pete Weber’s Postgame Report