Snapping a home three-game skid is a good start.
David Legwand scored twice while Paul Kariya notched his 500th NHL assist as the Nashville Predators beat the St. Louis Blues 4-1 on Thursday night.
Nashville set franchise records with its 50th victory and 108 points. The Predators lost any chance of catching Detroit in the Central Division when the Red Wings improved to 111 points by taking Chicago to overtime Thursday night before losing 3-2 in a shootout.
The Predators need one point to clinch the No. 4 seed and home-ice for the first round of the playoffs. They wrap up the regular season Saturday night at Colorado.
“It’s something we have to move forward with,” Legwand said. “You’re going to play a good team in the first round either way you look at it.
“Home ice is always good and something we look forward to.”
The Predators had been struggling at 3-5-2 over the previous 10 games and were in danger of losing a fourth consecutive game for the first time this season. They finally fixed some problems against St. Louis with the return of Scott Hartnell from a broken foot and beat the Blues for the 15th time in 16 games.
“It was important for us to play well,” Kariya said. “We were better against Chicago, but especially the past two weeks, we haven’t been playing good hockey.
“It was important for us to get a win, but also to play well, and play a solid, 60-minute game.”
Rookie Alexander Radulov and Peter Forsberg also had goals for Nashville, which scored twice on the power play in its final home game of the regular season.
Christian Backman scored the only goal for St. Louis, which had won three of four.
This series has been very tight with nine of the previous 15 games decided by a goal, and St. Louis had incentive because a Blues victory would have ensured the Predators could not catch Detroit for the division title.
But Legwand got the Predators off to the fastest start in franchise history with a goal 11 seconds into the game.
St. Louis coach Andy Murray called a timeout at 2:46 to settle down his team.
“We thought they were flying, and we weren’t,” Murray said. “There is no sense waiting till the last minute to call your timeout.”
Nashville made Legwand’s goal stand up until Backman shot from near the blue-line with 10.6 seconds left in the period, and the puck beat Tomas Vokoun’s outstretched left leg to tie it 1-1.
The Predators took control in the span of 28 seconds in the second, starting with Legwand’s goal off the power play at 12:02. Kariya started the score with a pass from the right side cross-ice to Jason Arnott, who passed back to Legwand at the right post, and he easily scored.
Then Radulov scored at 12:30, grabbing a loose puck at the back of the left circle. He cut back to his left and skated up to the net and scored on a wrist shot.
Forsberg padded the lead with his 13th this season on a slapshot from the left circle at 4:12 of the third with Nashville enjoying the man advantage.
Then the game disintegrated with 54 combined penalty minutes in the third.
The Predators were talking with reporters after the game, but already had a sense they had no chance at the division title. Forsberg pointed out Detroit had tied the game and predicted the Red Wings would get at least a point.
“Unfortunately, we lost two games against Detroit and Dallas, and that kind of killed us,” Forsberg said.
“We’ve got one game to go. We got to make sure to win that one and concentrate on the first round and not look any further anyway. Hopefully, we can get two points and start the playoffs at home.”
Notes: The earliest Nashville had scored in a game was Jan. 1, 2000, when Sergei Krivokrasov scored 22 seconds into a 3-2 win over San Jose. … This was the first time Vokoun has played against St. Louis this season. Chris Mason was 6-0-1 with a 2.08 goals-against average. … Nashville centre Scott Nichol skated in his 300th NHL game. Hartnell had missed 18 with a broken foot. … Blues centre Jay McClement extended his points streak to six games with an assist, giving him six points (one goal, five assists). … Nashville improved to 38-10-when scoring first and finished 21-8-3 in the Central Division.