Preds use late surge to hurdle Blues in standings…

Former Nashville Predators goaltender Chris Mason was 2-0-2 coming into Thursday night against his old club.

He can longer say he’s undefeated in regulation against them.

The Predators went into St. Louis and beat the hometeam 3-1 to close out their road trip. Patric Hornqvist got the ball rolling for Nashville when he tallied his fifth of the season. Jordin Tootoo supplied some offensive support by scoring his first of the year and then, for the icing on the cake, David Legwand scored his first goal since March 14 of last season into the empty net.

Unlike Tuesday night in San Jose, the Predators deserved to win this game, and they actually did. Pekka Rinne was stellar between the pipes tonight, seeing pucks through traffic, avoiding bodies in front of the net and even laying out to make a desperation save along the ice.

With the win, the Predators find themselves at .500, a record that seemed unattainable just three weeks ago when they were in the middle of a six game losing streak, seemingly getting steamrolled every night. So, after losing to Anaheim, and then giving the game away in San Jose, Nashville was at risk for falling to 7-9-1 almost a quarter of the way through the NHL season. So, at a time when the Predators needed one of their goaltenders to step up and clutch the number one position, Rinne did just that.

Dan Ellis had a rough night in Northern California on Tuesday, and Rinne was awarded the starting role in Thursday’s game as a result. Rinne improved to 5-4-0 on the year but, more importantly, has posted a lights-out .940 save percentage in his past five games. So while the coaching staff stands pat on their “we have a 1A and a 1B” stance, it is clear that, at least as of late, Rinne should be number one on the depth chart.

And they need these wins as much as possible. The evenly-matched Montreal Canadiens come into Music City on Saturday. Nashville has 17 points in the Western Conference while Montreal has 18 points in the East. Then, the same San Jose Sharks who stole a win from the Preds this past Tuesday, will try to do it again this coming Tuesday, this time in Middle Tennessee. In addition, Nashville fans might see history as the New Jersey Devils fly in to play the offensively-challenged Predators as Martin Broduer tries to tie the legendary Terry Sawchuk for the all-time shutout record (103).

Oh, and did we mention that the Devils are currently one win away from tying an NHL record? That record? Most consecutive road wins to start a season (10).

Even division rival Columbus on the 21st will prove to be a test for Nashville.

So, needless to say, the road isn’t going to get any easier but the Preds can’t use that as an excuse. They need to put as many points in their cache as possible. Detroit’s down but won’t be for long. Vancouver and all-world goalie Roberto Luongo are struggling through some injuries right now. And if division-leading Chicago acquires a legitimate number one goaltender… look out.

Bottom line is Nashville needs to force themselves above .500 so when the teams that are supposed to lead the way start realizing their potential, they won’t be left in the dust.

We all know how dangerous the Predators franchise is in the second half of the season. Year-in and year-out Nashville makes their charge for the playoffs in late January or eary February. They flat out can’t afford to wait that long this time around. They need wins now. Especially while the proverbial powerhouses are down.

All the more reason why Rinne needs to take the starting riegns and run– no… sprint with them.

 

GAME NOTES:
* This was the first time since opening night in Dallas that Jason Arnott, JP Dumont and Steve Sullivan skated together.
* The Preds are now 8-2-1 this season when scoring two or more goals.
* Despite the three Nashville goals, there was only one Nashville assist. Joel Ward helped out on Hornqvist’s fifth of the season while both Tootoo and Legwand’s scores were unassisted.
* Hornqvist, Legwand, Jerred Smithson and Ryan Suter finished with a team high plus-2 rating.
* Legwand was the only player wearing a Predators sweater to finish above .500 in the face-off circle on Thursday. He went 13-5 for an outstanding 72% success rate. No other Pred was better than 46% inside the dot.
* Much-maligned winger Martin Erat was demoted to the third line towards the end of the game.
* Arnott took a team-high six shots on goal. Rookie Andreas Thuresson was next in line with five.
* The next two games on the schedule are radio only. And, just like the LA Kings game last week, even if you have NHL Center Ice or NHL Game Center Live, you will not be able to see the Sharks game next Tuesday so get your tickets and come down to the rink as it’s literally the only way you’ll see the game.