The St. Louis Blues just kept on winning and winning. Then they ran into the Nashville Predators, off to a pretty formidable start to the season themselves, on Saturday night and suffered a loss.
James Neal scored with just over six minutes remaining in the third period to give the Predators a 2-1 victory over their Central Division rivals. The win improves Nashville’s record to 9-3-2 and stopped the Blues’ winning streak at seven games.
Neal beat St. Louis goalie Brian Elliott with a quick wrist shot, though it was one the puck stopper said after he wanted back.
“I lost it in the bodies in front for a split second there,” Elliott told NHL.com. “I definitely want it back, especially late in the third period in a tied game, but those are going to happen too.”
It was understandable that Shea Weber didn’t want to answer the question. With Barry Trotz still held in high esteem in Nashville, the captain of the Predators wasn’t about to suggest that things are so much more fun now that there’s a new coach behind the bench.
“Honestly, I don’t want to get into comparing,” Weber said Sunday when asked if the style of hockey the Preds are playing under Peter Laviolette was more “enjoyable” than it was under Trotz.
“I’m not going to say it’s more enjoyable or not. Obviously, it’s been pretty successful for our team this year. We’re just going to keep doing what we’re told.”
Weber deftly ducked the question after Nashville had improved its record to 7-2-2 with a 3-1 win over the Canucks in Vancouver.
At the very least, he admitted that things were different this season.
“We’re playing an aggressive style,” he said. “We’re really trying to play forward.”
The Preds still aren’t scoring a ton, and they’re still solid defensively. Just like under Trotz. But Sunday’s game featured the kind of back-and-forth, entertaining action that Nashville GM David Poile had hoped to see when he hired Laviolette.
It sure helps that Pekka Rinne has been back to his old self in goal, and that newcomers James Neal and Mike Ribeiro, along with rookie-of-the-year candidate Filip Forsberg, have developed chemistry as a first line.
And while some observers remain skeptical, pointing to Nashville’s NHL-high PDO (a statistic that, essentially, measures luck), the Preds are leaving their opponents impressed.
“They have a deep lineup with a lot of threats on different lines,” Canucks captain Henrik Sedin said. “You have to be focused every time you’re on the ice.”
James Neal and the Nashville Predators came into Saturday’s home game hot, but the Pittsburgh Penguins doused that fire with a smothering 3-0 win.
With so much focus on Neal and Patric Hornqvist (sorry, Nick Spaling), Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury ended up stealing the headlines … although Hornqvist did get an assist.
The sweetest goal probably came when Crosby set up Malkin for a beautiful power-play goal, one of two man-advantage markers as Pittsburgh put the game away in the third period:
As well as Neal is fitting in with Nashville, seeing a play like that by his former Pittsburgh centers has to burn a bit. Fleury earned his first shutout of 2014-15 and 29th of his career, though he enjoyed a few bounces against his former teammate:
With this win, the Penguins end a two-game losing streak and improve to 4-2-1. Meanwhile, Nashville’s days of being undefeated in regulation are over, as they fall to 5-1-2.
The Predators get a little time to gather themselves for what is likely to be a big test to their legitimacy. Starting on Wednesday, they play six straight road games and seven of eight away from Bridgestone Arena.
If Nashville is still among the West’s best in mid-November, then the Predators’ critics will be quieter. The Penguins gave them some ammo tonight, though.
Want more info? Here’s an infographic from the Penguins:
Two controversial moments from the 2014 postseason will be revisited on Saturday, but it remains to be seen if anyone will be “targeted” for revenge. Even this early into 2014-15, going for the victory might just be too important to risk it.
For one thing, New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider doesn’t expect any “carryover” from the crease-crashing moment that sidelined Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price last postseason, as New York Newsday’s Steve Zipay reports.
Here’s the video replay of a moment that Habs head coach Michel Therrien labeled “reckless.”
Montreal backs up Kreider’s feelings about letting the collision go, at least to an extent, as this post discusses.
Tonight also represents an opportunity for St. Louis Blues captain David Backes to get back at Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook for a charging hit that prompted a three-game postseason suspension:
Backes seemed to state that the Blues won’t go out of their way to get revenge on Seabrook … but they won’t pass up opportunities to leave the Blackhawks bruised, as the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus reports.
While James Neal and Patric Hornqvist facing their former teams in tonight’s Pittsburgh Penguins – Nashville Predators game doesn’t bring to mind the same potential for carnage, revenge could very well be in the air in that case, too.
An old adage is that “living well is the best revenge.” If you believe the players involved, they’ll try to gain vengeance on the scoreboard.
It’s going to be weird, so they might as well get this over with.
That’s the feeling Nashville Predators forward James Neal expressed when discussing his first game against the Pittsburgh Penguins since that blockbuster trade involving Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling.
Much has been made of Neal (not to mention former partner-in-crime Evgeni Malkin) not seeing that swap coming, yet both Neal and Hornqvist are fitting in seamlessly in new locales.
Neal, 27, took a bit to get things together, but he’s red-hot for the Predators. His hat trick powered a 3-2 win against the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday and all five of his 2014-15 tallies have come in the last four games. The narrative seems to be changing from Neal supposedly being difficult in the Pittsburgh locker room to his slapstick-sweet friendship with Rich Clune.
Hornqvist, also 27, hasn’t scored a point in his last two games, yet he still has eight points and an absolutely ridiculous 34 shots on goal in six games so far.
Time will tell how this trade looks over the long haul – spend a little time on Twitter and you’ll probably already hear some hasty proclamations – but so far, both players are benefiting their new squads.
They might just take advantage of their familiarity tonight, too. Hornqvist played all six of his previous seasons with Nashville after being “Mr. Irrelevant” (230th overall) in the 2005 NHL Draft. While Hornqvist knows the lay of the land at his old home – could we see him go to the wrong penalty box like David Legwand did in Nashville? – it sounds like Neal might take advantage of his experience shooting on Marc-Andre Fleury tonight:
Many eyes will be on those prominently traded forwards, yet we could learn a lot about their new and old teams tonight, too.