NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)The Nashville Predators have their first three-game winning streak since October and appear to finally be finding their way under new coach John Hynes as they try to fight their way into the playoff picture.
Kyle Turris scored with 2:12 left, and the Predators beat the St. Louis Blues 2-1 Sunday night to sweep the season series from the defending Stanley Cup champs.
Better yet, Nashville has won seven of 10 to climb a point out of the Western Conference’s two wild card spots with three games in hand on Arizona and two on Calgary. The Predators hadn’t won three straight since Oct. 29, and now they also have won back-to-back games in as many days over St. Louis.
“You look where we’re at, I think these last three games have given us confidence and see the light now,” Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne said. “It helps us for sure.
Craig Smith also scored for Nashville, his sixth in five games. He said it was unacceptable that it had been so long for Nashville to win three straight.
“It’s something to build off of,” Smith said.
Rinne, pulled from his last start Feb. 10 in Vancouver, made a season-high 38 saves for the win. Rinne made 14 of those in the third, keeping the game tied until Filip Forsberg chased the puck along the boards. He pushed it over to Turris, whobeat goalie Jordan Binnington glove-side with a wrister from the left circle for his ninth of the season.
“The amount of Grade-A quality opportunities he stood on his head for, it kept is in the game and gave us the opportunity to win,” Turris said of Rinne.
Tyler Bozak scored for St. Louis, and Binnington finished with 22 saves.
The Blues currently lead both the Central Division and the West, but they managed only one point in four games against Nashville. St. Louis has lost four straight and is 2-7-3 over the last 12.
“We’ve just got to battle through it,” Blues coach Craig Berube said. “It’s a tough time right now obviously. We’re playing a lot of good hockey, but we’re not coming up with wins. If we just keep competing and working like we did the last two games, we’re going to be OK.”
Nashville fans gave a hand to Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, who’s recovering after being taken from the bench Tuesday night in Anaheim to a hospital. He had a defibrillator implanted Fridayto restore his heart’s normal rhythm.
The Blues opened much better than Saturday in a 4-3 loss to Nashville in St. Louis when they didn’t have a shot on goal for more than eight minutes. They outshot Nashville 13-6 in a scoreless first period.
Smith put Nashville up 1-0 with his 17th of the season at 7:55 of the second, tapping in the puck off the rebound of a shot by Rocco Grimaldi. Nashville’s lead didn’t last long as Bozak’s shot went off the skate of Predators defenseman Dan Hamhuis as he sprawled in the crease in front of Rinne tying it at 1-all a little more than three minutes later as Blues center Jaden Schwartz slid into the net.
Grimaldi had a chance to put Nashville back up, but his shot went off Binnington and the crossbar late in the second. Hynes said Nashville had great goaltending from Rinne, who sat out five of the past six games. He also sees the Predators coming together.
“Mental toughness … guys playing for each other, I think that’s really the big difference,” Hynes said. “That’s what drives any strategy that you try to put in.”
NOTES: The NHL has rescheduled St. Louis’ game against Anaheim for March 11 and moved the Blues’ home game against Florida from March 10 to March 9. Tuesday night’s game was stopped at 12:10 of the first when Bouwmeester had a medical emergency. … Willie O’Ree, the first black player in the NHL was at the game as part of the NHL’s celebration of Black History Month with the league’s mobile museum outside the arena. Actor Jon Hamm also was at the game. … Predators forward Nick Bonino has eight points (3 goals, 5 assists) in his last 11 games. … Nashville improved to 22-6-3 when scoring first and 5-3-1 when tied after two periods.
Blues: Host New Jersey on Tuesday night to open a two-game homestand.
Predators: Host Carolina on Tuesday night.
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