The Nashville Predators have reached the light at the end of the tunnel that is a franchise record-tying seven-game road trip. They hope their second trip to St. Louis on this swing goes better than the first as they battle the Blues on Tuesday night.
The Predators have not played a home game since Jan. 21, their second straight shootout decision in Nashville to begin the season. They lost on that day to St. Louis 4-3, two days after opening the campaign with a win over Columbus.
Nashville's road trip got off to a winning start in Minnesota, but a 3-0 loss at St. Louis on Jan. 24 started a three-game losing streak. The Preds ended that skid with a shootout win over the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday and made it two wins in a row in the breakaway format with a 2-1 triumph over the previously unbeaten San Jose Sharks on Saturday.
Craig Smith scored the only shootout goal, slipping in a backhander during the second round. Pekka Rinne then sealed the win by turning aside San Jose's Joe Pavelski.
Rinne made 26 saves in Nashville's fifth shootout game of the season. It had lost each of the first three in a format that figured to be a strength for the Preds given Rinne's ability.
"I'm finally making some saves in the shootout," Rinne told NHL.com. "It's been a challenge for us but already we're on our fifth shootout. That's quite a bit since we've played eight games. It was a big win for us. Smitty's goal in the shootout was nice, and this time I was able to make the saves we needed to get the win."
Sergei Kostitsyn scored in regulation for the Predators, who are 3-2-1 on the swing and will next play seven of nine at home.
First Nashville will try to snap its four-game slide to the Blues and the earlier loss on this road trip was their second straight in St. Louis.
Rinne made 21 saves in the loss, while Jaroslav Halak turned aside all 13 shots he faced in the shutout, giving the Blues their seventh victory in their last 11 versus the Preds overall.
Vladimir Tarasenko was one of three goal scorers for the Blues and he was named the NHL's top rookie for the month of January after tallying five goals and nine points in seven games. Two of his goals have come versus the Predators and he brings a five-game point streak (2 goals, 3 assists) into Tuesday's meeting.
Patrik Berglund also had points in five straight as he was one of three goal- scorers in Friday's 5-3 setback to the Detroit Red Wings. He has four goals and two assists over his run.
Kevin Shattenkirk and Matt D'Agostini also scored versus the Red Wings as the Blues rallied back from a 2-0 first-period deficit before having a four-game winning streak snapped with just their second loss of the season.
"We definitely did a good job coming back. From there it was anybody's game," Shattenkirk said.
The loss did come with some controversy as the Red Wings scored the go-ahead goal with David Backes in the box due to a match penalty for a hit to the head on Detroit's Kent Huskins. However, replays showed that Backes did not make contact with Huskins' head and the NHL rescinded the match penalty on Saturday.
Brian Elliott is slated to start at least the next two games in net for the Blues after Halak was placed on injured reserve on Sunday. Halak suffered a strained groin versus the Red Wings and yielded two goals on 11 shots before exiting late in the first period. Elliott stopped 17-of-19 shots faced in relief.
Goaltender Jake Allen was recalled from Peoria of the AHL to serve as the backup, though Halak is expected to be back by the weekend.
The Blues begin a four-game homestand on Tuesday and have won all three of their games in St. Louis this season.