Blues fizzle again

Early St. Louis lead fades after Nashville changes goalies
Thursday, January 5, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:22 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

ST. LOUIS — A quick goalie change helped the Nashville Predators end a four-game losing streak.

Tomas Vokoun restored stability after backup Chris Mason allowed goals on St. Louis’ first two shots, and Vernon Fiddler had the first two-goal game of his career in Nashville’s 4-3 victory over the Blues on Wednesday night.

Vokoun made 18 saves in relief of Mason, who made one save before getting yanked after only 4:40.

“It’s too bad for Mason, I don’t think he had much of a chance on either of those goals,” Vokoun said. “You have to be ready, no matter what.”

Steve Sullivan scored his team-leading 18th goal and Paul Kariya got his 13th and added an assist for the Predators, who totaled seven goals during their slump and got shut out Tuesday night at Colorado.

“I don’t necessarily think we were playing our worst but I don’t think we were playing our smartest,” Fiddler said. “You have to play a little smarter than harder and I think we did that.”

Ryan Johnson, Petr Cajanek and Doug Weight scored for the Blues, who fell to 5-13-3 at home and are tied with Columbus for last in the NHL with 25 points. The Blues had been trying to earn points in three consecutive games for the first time all season, but faltered two days after beating the Canucks 4-1 in one of their best games of the season.

“Anytime you think you’re playing well and that it’s no big deal, it’s going to come easy, it doesn’t,” Blues forward Mike Sillinger said. “They lost four in a row and they were ready to be beaten again and we gave them the first two goals — here you go.’”

Fiddler, who has seven goals and an assist in 24 games this season, put the Predators ahead to stay at 3-2 with a power-play goal from the point at 9:34 of the second period. Kariya added a power-play goal with 34.3 seconds left in the period for a two-goal lead, and Weight got his ninth on a power play for St. Louis at 4:39 of the third.

Fiddler thought he had a two-goal game Dec. 21 at Chicago, but one of the goals was later credited to Sullivan.

“I’ll do anything to contribute,” Fiddler said. “Obviously, I contributed tonight and that’s nice.”

The Predators are 4-0 against St. Louis this season, though they’re just 12-19-6 all-time. At 10-0-1 against the Central Division, they’re the only NHL team with no regulation losses against a team from its own division.

“We’ve had success against St. Louis and against the teams below us in the division,” Kariya said. “We’ve just got to keep that up.”

Three goals came in the first four minutes of the game, leaving the Blues ahead 2-1. The Predators were almost as productive as St. Louis early, beating Curtis Sanford with two of their first five shots.

“It just kind of seemed like there were good opportunities to be had out there,” Sanford said. “It was kind of sloppy at each end.”

Johnson began the early flurry with his third goal on transition as the Blues’ checking line beat the Predators’ top line at 3:26. Fiddler answered with an unassisted goal for Nashville only 18 seconds later, and 16 seconds after that Cajanek scored his third goal off a between-the-legs setup from Dallas Drake.

Sullivan tied it at 9:54, getting two stabs at the puck on a wraparound.

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