A 3-1 series deficit looms large if you let it. The clichés for that situation consistently ring true: you have to take it one game at a time. To win three games, you must first win one. And so on.
After Game 5 against the Nashville Predators, the Blues season remains on the brink–but Friday night, they weren’t quite ready for curtains. With a 2-1 win at Scottrade Center, St. Louis staved off elimination Friday and forced the series back to Nashville for Game 6 Sunday.
In the first period, it seemed like the Blues lacked the necessary offensive punch to outlast the Predators in a do-or-die game. A five-on-three man advantage late in the first yielded just one shot on goal, and it felt like the sequence we would ultimately point to after the game in order to explain the Blues elimination. Instead, they rallied back.
“The mentality that we had to be able to bounce back from that, really impressive,” Mike Yeo said. “And that’s what we asked our guys before the game is whatever happens good, bad, you have to make sure that you come back and you’re ready to go out and perform. It’s one thing to say it, it’s another thing to go out and deliver, and that’s what those guys did.”
And the one guy most responsible for turning that momentum around didn’t even know he’d be in the lineup until just before game time.
“I actually didn’t know until warm ups,” Dmitrij Jaskin said regarding his insertion into the lineup after being a healthy scratch for the entire playoffs previous. “But I was ready since day one when the playoffs started.”
Alexander Steen had been gritting through numerous physical ailments throughout the playoffs, and Friday was finally the day he succumbed. Steen tried to give it a go, but ended up scratched from the lineup, with Jaskin taking his place.
Jaskin made his chance count.
After the Blues squandered that five-on-three late in the first, and the remainder of a four-minute power play to begin the second, Jaskin quelled any sulking by notching a goal to help the Blues score first for the first time in the series.
“We needed him to have a big game, and he did just that,” Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo said of Jaskin.
After Nashville tied it later in the second, the Blues needed another tally to go back ahead. Jaden Schwartz provided it mere seconds into the third period, and the Blues held on from there. Though the Predators registered only 22 shots, Allen’s margin for error in defending them was once again slim.
Whether the Blues can afford to get into another low-scoring goaltender’s duel Sunday is a reasonable question. Like Allen for the Blues, Pekka Rinne has been sensational for the Predators. With playoff hockey, it’s understood that goals are going to be hard to come by, but the Blues will need to take better advantage of the kinds of opportunities they got away with squandering Friday.
“It’s gotta be better,” Pietrangelo said of the power play, acknowledging that Steen’s absence made things more difficult Friday. “We had too many opportunities to not capitalize.”
It’s another win-or-go-home game on Sunday, and it gets tougher in less friendly confines than Scottrade Center–the Blues, especially offensively, will have to pull out all the stops. Vladimir Tarasenko was absent from the score sheet again Friday, having gone silent since his Game 2 outburst carried the Blues to their only other win in the series. Perhaps he can break out Sunday–somebody will have to.
Needing three straight wins, the Blues had their backs up against the wall going into Game 5. In keeping with the adage, they just needed to get the first one–and they did.
Now, here’s where it gets interesting.
To borrow a phrase from Blues Fox Sports Midwest rink-side reporter Andy Strickland, that ‘honkytonk crowd’ inside Bridgestone Arena is going to want to finish things on home ice in Game 6. Without a doubt, they’ll be a rowdy bunch. But if the Blues come out firing to quiet the raucous crowd, and the Preds can’t seal the deal–all bets are off.
“It’s gonna be great,” Allen said of the challenge of Game 6 in Nashville. “That building’s rocking. Always is, it’s fun to play in. They love playing there and I think we have a lot of pride in shutting teams down in their building. We’re gonna have a huge test Sunday.”
If the Blues pass that test, they come home for a winner-take-all Game 7. So by all means, win one game at a time. But do it twice more, and the city of St. Louis will be talking about it for years to come.