Radulov, Mason again lead PredatorsDec 1, 2006 - 3:54 AM
Radulov scored the winning goal for the third time in four games and Mason remained unbeaten in place of the injured Tomas Vokoun as the Nashville Predators edged the St. Louis Blues, 5-4.
Thoroughly outplayed for much of the game, the Predators amazingly did not trail after David Legwand forged a 1-1 tie just over five minutes into the contest. Combined with the poor play of netminder Manny Legace, the Blues faced an uphill battle thanks to the effort by Mason, who is 3-0-0 since Vokoun went down with a hand injury on November 23.
"Hopefully, it will kind of reassure the guys that they can have some confidence in me and I can help them win games," Mason said.
"Chris Mason gave us a chance to win a hockey game, and we did," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said.
With Mason turning aside 25 shots over the first two periods, Nashville moved ahead for good when Jordin Tootoo scored his first goal in 32 games at 5:36 of the third for a 4-3 lead.
Extending his goal-scoring streak to four contests, Radulov knocked the puck past Legace - who made just 12 saves - with 6:40 to go after the goalie stopped Josef Vasicek's wrist shot from the top of the left faceoff circle with his glove.
"I just work hard," Radulov said. "I just do my best. They give me a chance to play and I just play hard."
The tally proved to be the difference as Bill Guerin netted his second of the game with 73 seconds remaining to draw St. Louis within 5-4.
"The guys played our best game for 60 minutes all year (against) one of the better teams in the league and dominated the whole game," Legace said. "We should have won 4-1 or 4-2. I just let the guys down. There's no excuse. We have to win that game. I let the team down and the whole city down."
"It wasn't good enough," Kitchen said of Legace's effort. "It's got to be better than that. We should have won the hockey game."
Blues star Keith Tkachuk refused to blame his goaltender for the setback.
"We're not the New York Giants here," Tkachuk said. "There's plenty of games where he has bailed us out. We're all professionals and we all expect a lot of each other. But hey, this is a tight locker room here. We are a team here."
Scott Hartnell and Paul Kariya also scored and Mason finished with 38 saves for the Predators, who have won four straight and eight of 10.
"We were fortunate to capitalize on every chance we got," Trotz said. "Honestly, we probably should be on the losing end of the game tonight, but we found a way to win and we'll take any two points. I think the hockey gods will get us back in the future by losing a game maybe we're supposed to win."
Tkachuk and Jay McClement tallied for St. Louis, which has dropped three in a row.
After Tkachuk opened the scoring with his seventh goal just 58 seconds into the contest, Nashville pulled even at 5:04. Martin Erat's shot from the slot rang off the right goalpost, but Legwand was there to bang in the rebound.
Hartnell put the Predators ahead with 3:37 left in the first before McClement beat Mason with a wrist shot at 2:19 of the second to knot it at 2-2. Kariya restored Nashville's advantage off a give-and-go with Legwand midway through the session, but Guerin's one-timer during a 5-on-3 power play less than three minutes later again tied the contest.
Kariya's tally drew the ire of Kitchen, who believed a penalty should have been called on Erat on the play.
"I mean, that's goalie interference," Kitchen said. "Erat went right into the goalie, right into Legace. No one pushed him or anything. ... That's a bad non-call. That's something the league has to call."
Goalless since March 24, Tootoo grabbed a loose puck in the neutral zone and blasted a slap shot from the top of the right faceoff circle between Legace's pads just over 5 1/2 minutes into the third, putting the Predators ahead to stay.
"I went down the wing and shot the puck," Tootoo said. "As years go on, you mature as a player and the goals will come. As an energy player, it's always great to get goals. I just try to play my role every game and create some room for us."
"It's just awful," Legace said of the tally. "I should have stopped it, there's no question."
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