Blues teammates mop Vladimir Tarasenko after he scored late in the third period Friday night in a 3-2 win over the Predators at Scottrade Center. (Bill Greenblatt/UPI)

By Rob Rains

Having watched him score only one goal in his first six playoff games this year, Vladimir Tarasenko’s teammates and coaches on the Blues could sense that he was on the verge of doing something special.

“I saw that look yesterday,” coach Mike Yeo said.

Tarasenko, who led the Blues with 39 goals in the regular season, scored a power-play goal late in the first period and then connected for the game winner with 3:51 left in the third period to give the Blues a 3-2 win Friday night over the Nashville Predators at Scottrade Center.

The loss was the first in the playoffs for the Predators this season and left the second-round series tied at one heading into Game 3 on Sunday in Nashville.

“He’s a special player,” defenseman Colton Parayko said about Tarasenko. “Obviously no one scores every single game. Everyone goes through periods of time without scoring but at the same time everyone just talks about his goal scoring but they don’t’ talk about his little things. He’s always doing the little things right. He’s always working hard, he’s shoving pucks in and he’s always making our team better. If he’s not scoring he’s generating thing in other areas which is very hue for our team.”

Scoring goals, especially at big moments, is the most important aspect of Tarasenko’s game and he showed it again on Friday night, knowing the Blues did not want to go down 0-2 in the series.

A major penalty on Nashville’s Vernon Fiddler for kneeing Parayko put the Blues on a five-minute power play late in the first period, and Tarasenko’s goal with 20 seconds left, through a screen by Paul Stastny, tied the game at 1.

The Blues had to come back again to the tie the game at 2 on a goal by Jori Lehtera at 7:39 of the third period before Tarasenko took over.

Jaden Schwartz started the play with a pass which deflected off the skate of Joel Edmundson directly onto Tarasenko’s stick, and he blasted a shot past goalie Pekka Rinne.

“It was a great play by Schwartzy and then probably scream for Eddy to give it to me and he made a good play,” Tarasenko said. “It’s a good goal for us. We lost the first game, we couldn’t lose this one.”

Yeo was not surprised it was Tarasenko who scored the big goals. In 40 career playoff games, Tarasenko has now scored 22 goals.

“He’s just a big game player and those kinds of guys find ways to make big plays at big times,” Yeo said. “My only concern was that if he continued to play well and didn’t get rewarded that his game would drop. And he has shown me that he hasn’t done that so if he continues to play well and continues to play the right way it’s not possible to keep him off. Eventually he’s going to find a way to break through and he showed that tonight.

“It’s a tough challenge. It’s tough on a guy like that. You have to answer the questions when you’re not scoring, the pressures you have to deal with, the matchups you have to face, the focus the other team puts on you, it’s a mental toughness that he’s been battling through really hard and real impressively.”

Even though Tarasenko only had one goal in the Blues’ first-round win over Minnesota, he knew the scoring drought was not going to last forever.

“You feel better yourself if you don’t score some games, you can’t score every game,” he said. “But if you don’t score some games, you have to help your team. You can’t get a night off. You have to do the defensive stuff.”

The Blues turned in an impressive defensive effort in front of Allen, limiting Nashville to just nine shots on goal through the first two periods, one of which was a goal by James Neal on a deflection of a shot by Ryan Ellis.

The Predators increased the pressure in the third period, going ahead 2-1 on a goal by Ellis 3:07 into the third period before the Blues rallied,

"I don't think we expected to win 16 games straight and walk to a Stanley Cup,” Ellis said. “We were bound to lose a game. Obviously, I thought we played a decent game but probably didn't deserve to win that one and obviously didn't win that one. So regroup, refocus, and learn from our mistakes, come back stronger next game, and be better.”

C Vernon Fiddler, who scored the game-winning goal in Game 1, also received a game misconduct penalty along with the kneeing major in the first period. ... LW Ivan Barbashev was inserted into the Blues' lineup in place of LW Magnus Paajarvi. Barbashev, a healthy scratch in the last two games, skated on a line with C Jori Lehtera and RW Vladimir Sobotka. ... The Predators replaced LW Kevin Fiala with C Calle Jarnkrok, who had been out with an undisclosed injury. Fiala was expected to return to Nashville with the team following the game and doctors said he will need four to six months to recover from the broken femur he suffered in Game 1. ... ... RW Mikka Salomaki also made his 2017 playoff debut for the Predators.


Audio by Mike Reeves:

Blues Post-Game Audio: Mike Yeo, Vladimir Tarasenko 4-28-17