Blues lose to Preds 3-1 as offense continues to sputter
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- With the Nashville Predators struggling to generate offense, Calle Jarnkrok delivered at just the right time.
Jarnkrok scored twice to lead the Predators over the St. Louis Blues 3-1 on Thursday night.
James Neal also scored and Pekka Rinne made 23 saves for Nashville, which has won two straight for its first winning streak of the season.
"I've been feeling good," Rinne said. "I always put a lot of pressure on myself, but at the same time this year, I try to focus on the things that I can control and not to get frustrated at what the game throws at you. I just try to focus on doing my job."
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Jaden Schwartz had the lone goal and Carter Hutton made 25 saves for the Blues.
Schwartz scored the game's first goal at 3:59 of the opening period.
From the right corner, Vladimir Tarasenko found Schwartz in the lower part of the right faceoff circle, where he beat Rinne on the short side with a wrist shot just inside the post.
Nashville drew even at 18:26 of the second on Jarnkrok's second goal of the season.
In the right corner, Colin Wilson's spinning backhand pass glanced off the skate of Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester and landed on Jarnkrok's stick in the slot. Jarnkrok double-clutched and then beat Hutton high to the glove side.
Hutton spent the last three years as Rinne's backup in Nashville before signing with the Blues in the offseason.
Jarnkrok's goal came just minutes after Nashville failed to convert on a two-man advantage that lasted 1 minute, 17 seconds.
"It was such a timely goal," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. "To leave that 5-on-3 and still not get one, for him to get one after that to send us into the break at a tie score, it was just a real big difference in the game. It gave us a little bit of energy."
Nashville finished 0 for 5 on the power play.
For the second night in a row, the Blues were perfect on the penalty kill. In their home game Wednesday night against Chicago, they killed off all six Blackhawks power plays. But spending all that time short-handed took a toll in back-to-back games.
"When you are looking for offense and for goals, and those players are spending 5, 6 minutes a night on the PK, especially our D, it's tough," Blues forward Scottie Upshall said. "We've got to be better, stay out of the box."
Neal gave Nashville a 2-1 lead at 3:44 of the third.
Skating down the left side, Mike Ribeiro sent a cross-ice pass to Neal at the right post, where he beat Hutton for his fourth of the season.
"I think after a while, you start living on one goal, you're not going to win many games," St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said. "I didn't think we had any energy in the third period at all."
Jarnkrok scored his second of the game 1:06 later with another wrist shot from the slot. It was the Swede's third career two-goal game.
"That's kind of my spot," Jarnkrok said. "I'm always there trying to be the high F-3. I got a great pass from (Wilson) that first time and a good pass from (Mike Fisher) that second time, so that was nice."
Jarnkrok had a chance for his first career hat trick with 1:45 remaining. With the Blues on a power play and Hutton pulled in favor of an extra attacker, Jarnkrok's long-range attempt at the empty net sailed high over the crossbar.
NOTES: Fisher returned to the lineup after missing three games with an upper-body injury. ... Predators LW Pontus Aberg had an assist for the Swede's first NHL point. ... Blues RW Nail Yakupov returned after being a healthy scratch for three consecutive games.
Blues: Play at Columbus on Saturday.
Predators: Conclude their five-game homestand Saturday against Anaheim.