Predators rely on familiar formula to beat Blues, reach 100 points

Saturday, April 10, 2010 at 10:56pm

The goals did not exactly pile up for the Nashville Predators during the latter part of the season.

Yet the victories did. There were 47 of them for the season, the third-highest total in franchise history, including 14 in 21 games since the Olympic break. That was just enough to get the Predators the third 100-point season in their history.

It did not matter that they allowed exactly as many goals in the past 82 games as they scored (225) or that the other seven Western Conference playoff teams were comfortably on the plus side of the ledger.

More often than not, Nashville found a way to win and each time it was worth two points in the standings.

Case in point was Saturday’s regular-season finale, a 2-1 shootout victory over the St. Louis Blues before 16,702 (a little more than 400 shy of a sellout) at Bridgestone Arena.

“We got it done,” coach Barry Trotz said. “It wasn’t probably the way we wanted to. I don’t think we had as much detail as we wanted to, but we found a way to win.

“That’s been this group’s sort of mantra all year. They just found ways to win.”

More than half of the Predators games (43) this season were decided by a single goal, and they were 28-9-6 in those contests. Only Phoenix won more often by the slimmest of margins.

Half of those 28 victories were in games that extended to overtime or a shootout.

“That’s the way the season has been all year for us,” captain Jason Arnott said. “… We wanted this win (Saturday) night, no question. We came out flat, but we picked it up in the second and the third.

“… They gave us a good fight. It was a good game.”

Arnott gave Nashville a short-lived 1-0 lead at 5:26 of the third period when he came off the bench during a rush and one-timed a pass from Shea Weber into the net. St. Louis, which is not a playoff team, tied it 4:52 later on a goal by David Backes.

Each side got three shots in overtime. In the shootout, Pekka Rinne stopped all three Blues’ attempts, and Martin Erat’s conversion was all that the Predators’ needed.

“I think it can be difficult to get excited about a game like this; not only on our side but on their side as well,” St. Louis goalie Ty Conklin said. “We’re all professionals and we don’t want to lose any games – whether they matter in the standings or not.”

This one mattered for Nashville.

It raised the Predators’ point total to 100 exactly and kept alive the possibility that they could finish as high as fifth place in the conference standings. Of course, they also still could finish sixth or seventh as well, pending the outcome of Sunday’s contests, and any one of the top four teams remained a possible first-round opponent.

“If you look at the standings, almost every team has 100 points,” Rinne said. “So that’s one of those things where you have to keep going if you want to make the playoffs. That helped us over the last month and a half of the season.

“It was nice to win the last home game of the season and the last game of the regular season. Momentum-wise, it’s good to end the season with a win.”

Even if it’s not really that different from most of the other victories.

Briefly

• Forward Joel Ward sat out the third period after he became sick during the second intermission.

He logged a total of 11:10 of ice time before he took ill but was one of three Nashville skaters who did not have a shot on goal.

“He was fighting a little bit of a bug,” Trotz said.

• Rinne won 10 of his final 14 starts and finished the regular season with a 32-16-5 record. Only Tomas Vokoun with 36 in 2005-06 and 34 in 2003-04 had more wins.

Rinne’s 58 games played tied Mike Dunham for the fourth-highest total in team history.