Everyone assumes that goaltending will be critical for all NHL teams as they navigate a schedule shortened to 48 games by a four-month lockout.
Whether it’s best to have a dominant netminder or two to share the load is unclear, and Monday’s game between the Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues did little to clarify things.
The Blues showed the value of depth when they replaced Jaroslav Halak with Brian Elliott with 7:07 to play in the second period. The Predators, on the other hand, got an exemplary performance from Pekka Rinne, who kept them in it all the way to a shootout and gave them every opportunity to win … right up to the shootout, that is.
Nashville ultimately fell 4-3 before a sellout crowd at Bridgestone Arena. It was the second shootout loss in as many games for the Predators except that this time it was over after two rounds. In Saturday’s season-opener, it took six rounds before Columbus got the victory.
“We haven’t been beaten in a game,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “We’ve been beaten in a little bit of a skills competition. At the same time, it’s huge — especially the extra points. If you can get them in the shootout, let’s take them.”
If not for Rinne, this one probably would not have gotten to the shootout. His final three saves all came in an eight-second sequence during the final minute of overtime. The second of those three, on a backhand attempt by T.J. Oshie, came as he lay on his back and seemingly out of position.
In all, Rinne made 36 saves as Nashville was outshot 39-24, including 6-0 in overtime. Oshie got his revenge when, as the Blues’ second shooter, he ended the shootout.
St. Louis switched goalies immediately after Patric Hornqvist’s power play goal put the Predators on top for the second time, 3-2. Halak, who shutout Detroit in St. Louis’ season-opener Saturday, allowed three goals on 11 shots. Elliott stopped all 13 he faced, including 10 in the third period.
“When you get thrown into the fire … obviously the long layover from last year that we had my first action of the year,” Elliott said. “It’s almost better to get back in there, really nothing to lose and just go out there and play your game, and let the guys in front of you do their job.”
Ultimately the two goalies shared the workload almost evenly. Halak played 32:53, which was 46 seconds more than Elliott. The game-tying goal came with 7:50 to play in regulation.
“I thought it was just, from a coaching standpoint, to wake up their team,” Hornqvist, who tied a career-high with three points (one goal, two assists), said. “… There was no easy goals [against Halak]. Sometimes a coach just has to make changes at goalie and sometimes they make the team wake up a little bit.”
This was the sixth time in the last 11 meetings, which dates back to Nov. 11, 2010, the Predators (0-0-2) and Blues (2-0-0) have gone to a shootout.
They have split those six games, much in the way this one left public opinion about the best form of goaltending divided.
“I think it was a tight game the whole 65 minutes,” Hornqvist said. “They got some bounces in the end … and they came up strong in the shootout.”
• Briefly: Center Paul Gaustad sat out the game with what Trotz called an “upper body” injury. He is questionable for Tuesday’s game at Minnesota (7 p.m., Fox Sports-Tennessee). “It shouldn’t be too long,” Trotz said. “It will be a couple days.” … This is the first time in franchise history the Predators have gone to overtime in each of their first two games, and it came in a season that was preceded by just a six-day training camp. “I guess that’s going to get us in shape quicker,” captain Shea Weber said. … The Predators are now 0-0-2 when scoring first this season. In 2011-12 they were 35-3-4 when they got the first goal.