ST. LOUIS(AP)-Vladimir Tarasenko was at the right place at the right time to take advantage of a lucky bounce and help the St. Louis Blues get a big win.
Tarasenko scored twice, including the tiebreaking goal with 3:51 left to give the Blues a 3-2 victory over the Nashville Predators on Friday night, tying their Western Conference semifinal series at one game apiece.
On the go-ahead goal, Jaden Schwartz led the rush and initially tried to pass it to Joel Edmundson, but the pass was off the mark and Edmundson kicked it right to Tarasenko’s stick.
“It’s a great play by Schwartzy and then I probably scream for Eddy to give it to me and he made a good play,” Tarasenko said. “It’s a good goal for us. We lost the first game, we couldn’t lose this one.”
It was the first lead for St. Louis in 116:09 of the series.
“It ended up actually going off a stick and in, but I’m not taking anything away from him (Tarasenko),” Predators goalie Pekka Rinne said. “He has a great shot for a reason.”
Jori Lehtera also scored for the Blues, and Jake Allen stopped 22 shots ‘” including 14 in the third period.
Ryan Ellis had a goal and an assist and James Neal also scored for the Predators, who had their franchise-high five-game postseason winning streak snapped. Rinne finished with 17 saves.
Game 3 is Sunday at Nashville, Tennessee.
Tarasenko, who scored 39 goals in the regular season, had scored just once in the Blues’ first five playoff games.
“He’s just a big game player and those kinds of guys find ways to make big plays at big times,” Blues coach Mike Yeo said. “My only concern was that if he continued to play well and didn’t get rewarded that his game would drop. And he has shown me that he hasn’t done that.”
Blues defenseman Colton Parayko said Tarasenko should be measured by more than just goal-scoring.
“He’s always doing the little things right,” Parayko said. “He’s always working hard, he’s shoving pucks in and he’s always making our team better.”
Ellis put the Predators ahead 2-1 at 3:07 of the third period as he took advantage of a turnover by Vladimir Sobotka and fired a slap shot past Allen.
“I don’t think we expected to win 16 games straight and walk to a Stanley Cup,” Ellis said after Nashville’s first loss of the postseason. “We were bound to lose a game. Obviously, I thought we played a decent game but probably didn’t deserve to win that one and obviously didn’t win that one.”
Lehtera tied it at 7:39. Parayko’s shot came loose in front of the net and Patrik Berglund took a whack at it before Lehtera buried it for his first goal of the postseason.
Neal gave the Predators a 1-0 lead at 7:49 of the first period. Ellis took the shot from the point and it deflected off Colton Sissons and then Neal before deflecting over Allen and into the net.
Tarasenko tied it 1-1 with a power-play goal with 19.4 seconds left in the opening period. It came after Nashville’s Vernon Fiddler received a 5-minute major and game misconduct penalty for kneeing Parayko, who limped to the locker room but returned in the second period.
“That’s a dangerous play,” Blues forward Paul Stastny said. “We’re fortunate that (Parayko) didn’t’ get too banged up. … I think for such a big guy, I think he’s a fluid mover so when he does get hit in different positions like that he doesn’t stiffen up.”
It was the Blues’ lone power-play goal in five chances. St. Louis is just 2 for 21 with the man-advantage, last among all postseason teams.
“I think we just get too excited to go on the power play and everybody tries to be too nice and tries to make good plays,” Tarasenko said. “I think we need to be more simple.”