ST. LOUIS -- Vying for one of the last playoff spots in the Western Conference, the Nashville Predators know they need to get all the points they can.
The Predators trailed by three goals just seven minutes in, replaced their starting goalie and then pulled off an improbable comeback capped by Rich Peverley's overtime goal to beat the St. Louis Blues 4-3 on Tuesday night.
"This is a tremendous two points," Peverley said. "We can't afford to lose any of these games. We need to get two points as many times as we can. It was a big character builder because we knew we could come back and win. We have to carry that into the next game."
Nashville, which began the night one point behind Vancouver for the conference's eighth and final playoff berth, was on the verge of a disastrous loss to the team that stands second to last in the West. However, after the Predators replaced Dan Ellis with Chris Mason, and Nashville got goals from Brandon Bochenski, Jordin Tootoo and Vernon Fiddler.
Peverley was able to deke into the left circle and beat Blues goalie Hannu Toivonen with a wrist shot. The Predators jumped to the ice in a frenzy to congratulate Peverley, who along with Bochenski and Tootoo accounted for six points as Nashville's fourth line.
"It's kind of the way that the second half of our season has gone," St. Louis coach Andy Murray said after his team dropped to 3-14-3 in its last 20 games. "The first 41 games, we close that game out with a win. We don't give up any chances, we continue to pressure and forecheck and play hard. The first thing we said when they came in after the first was outwork a hard-working team."
The Predators appeared to get the message when coach Barry Trotz called a timeout after the Blues' third goal, at which time he pulled Ellis in favor of Mason.
"After they got the third goal, we sort of said, 'That's it. We can't let them have any more. We've just have to chip away. We've got to get out of this period,"' Trotz said. "The boys really battled. We just rolled four lines."
McDonald got his 18th of the season 1:40 into the game, knocking in a behind-the-net feed from Perron from just inside the left circle. Mayers made it 2-0 on a blast from just inside the right circle, beating Ellis high stick side after receiving Barret Jackman's cross ice feed at 4:50. Perron made it 3-0 after converting McDonald's pass after a 2-on-1 at 6:46.
After sending seven shots at Ellis, St. Louis managed only nine the rest of the way against Mason.
"We knew that they would raise the level of their game and we would need to raise the level of our game," Murray said. "It's been a situation here in the last half of the season when that challenge has been there, we haven't gotten it done."
As good as it was for the Blues after one period, it took a turn for the worse when goalie Manny Legace stopped all eight shots he faced in the opening period, then was replaced by Toivonen at the beginning of the second after sustaining a hip flexor.
Bochenski got the Predators' comeback going at 6:06 of the second period, beating Toivonen with a wrist shot from the high slot for the only score of the period.
Tootoo's 11th goal of the season cut St. Louis' lead to 3-2 just 1:53 into the third period on a slap shot from just outside the left circle.
Toivonen preserved the lead with two point-blank saves on Vernon Fiddler, including a dazzling glove save with 13:22 to play. However, the Predators tied it with 6:32 to play when Fiddler stole a puck at the side of the Blues' goal from Keith Tkachuk, skated around the net and roofed a puck over Toivonen's shoulder at the near post.
"I'm not playing good enough. That's what it is," Toivonen said. "Some saves you've got to make and if you don't make them, you can't win."
Seconds after Fiddler's tying goal, the Blues thought they had regained the lead when Jay McKee's shot from the left point got past Mason, but the goal was waved off when it was ruled Perron interfered with Mason in the crease. It appeared that Perron was taken down in the crease by Nashville's Marek Zidlicky.
|Jordin Tootoo (right) and Rich Peverley save Nashville from a disastrous loss to the lowly Blues. (AP)|
|Nashville (40-31-9) «||0||1||2||1||4|
|St. Louis (31-35-13)||3||0||0||0||3|
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|01:40||Andy McDonald (18), Wrist Shot. Assist: David Perron, David Backes|
|04:50||Jamal Mayers (12), Snap Shot. Assist: Barret Jackman, Erik Johnson|
|06:46||David Perron (12), Wrist Shot. Assist: Andy McDonald, David Backes|
|06:06||Brandon Bochenski (3), Snap Shot. Assist: Rich Peverley, Jordin Tootoo|
|01:53||Jordin Tootoo (11), Slap Shot. Assist: Marek Zidlicky, Brandon Bochenski|
|13:28||Vernon Fiddler (11), Wrist Shot, Unassisted.|
|01:43||Rich Peverley (4), Wrist Shot. Assist: Jan Hlavac, Ryan Suter|
|17:24||McKee, 2 min, Hooking|
|18:00||Hamhuis, 2 min, Interference|
|18:00||Kariya, 2 min, Diving/Embellishment|
|Shots On Goal|
|Power Play Conversions|
|Attendance - 17357|
|Referees - Dennis LaRue, Wes McCauley|
|Linesmen - David Brisebois, Don Henderson|