Ryan Ellis, James Neal Score in Third Period, Nashville Ties Franchise Record with Seventh Postseason Win
by Brooks Bratten @brooksbratten / Communications & Content Coordinator
Win a period, win a hockey game.
Ryan Ellis opened the scoring and James Neal tallied the game-winner, all in the third period, as the Nashville Predators defeated the St. Louis Blues by a 2-1 final in Game Four to take a commanding 3-1 series lead.
It wasn’t until the final frame that anyone was able to find the back of the net, but just as they’ve done throughout the postseason, the Predators found a way, with their stud netminder backstopping them to their seventh win of the playoffs, tying a franchise record.
“This game was just an all-around good hockey game by both teams,” Ellis said. “It was a key win for us, but we still haven’t done anything yet. They’re not going to go away, and we’re going to have to come out even harder than we did tonight. It’s a good feeling, and we’re going to go with it for a couple of days, but we have to get back to work.”
Through the first 40 minutes of Game Four, goaltenders Pekka Rinne and Jake Allen kept things scoreless for the first time in this series, turning aside 18 and 15 shots, respectively. Perhaps the most impressive came in Rinne’s crease, with some help from defenseman Ryan Ellis as he swatted the puck off the goal line late in the second stanza to keep things at 0-0.
Physicality was also present as the two clubs sought out the first goal, with Nashville’s Austin Watson throwing seven hits through two periods.
But a power play early in the third broke the goal drought, when who else but Ellis fired a shot home with traffic in front, bringing an elated fist pump on the bench from Head Coach Peter Laviolette and giving the Predators a 1-0 lead. The goal marked Ellis’s seventh consecutive game with a point, tying a postseason franchise record.
And then, with less than seven minutes left in regulation, James Neal brought the house down with a beautiful shot from above the right circle that beat Allen to the top corner and gave the Preds a 2-0 advantage.
“He’s got an absolute cannon for a wrister,” Ellis said of Neal. “It catches a lot of guys by surprise. I didn’t really see the play, but it was a heck of a shot and it went top shelf. It’s a good thing for him. He’s been working hard and battling for us, and it’s nice to see him back to his old self.”
St. Louis made it interesting down the stretch when Joel Edmundson scored late, but Rinne finished the night with 32 saves in total and his seventh win of the postseason, tying a career high.
“We knew they were going to come, and we had to weather it a little bit,” defenseman Mattias Ekholm said. “They were a little angry from their last performance, but I thought we handled it pretty well. Pekka stood tall in net. Everyone battled tonight, everyone worked hard, and we did a lot of really good things defensively.”
The Predators now find themselves just one win away from the Western Conference Final for the second consecutive season. But as they’ve said all along, their accomplishments are minuscule to this point, compared to what they’re really after.
“It’s in our own hands, for sure,” Rinne said. “Being up 3-1 now, I think we can control our destiny.”
Ellis, Rinne Star Once More:
Nashville, TN – May 2: Ryan Ellis #4 makes a save in the crease with Pekka Rinne #35 of the Nashville Predators against Vladimir Tarasenko #91and Jaden Schwartz #17 of the St. Louis Blues in Game Four of the Western Conference Second Round during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bridgestone Arena on May 2, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Nashville, TN – May 2: Ryan Ellis #4 makes a save in the crease with Pekka Rinne #35 of the Nashville Predators against Vladimir Tarasenko #91and Jaden Schwartz #17 of the St. Louis Blues in Game Four of the Western Conference Second Round during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bridgestone Arena on May 2, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. John Russell
There isn’t much Ryan Ellis can’t do, and right now, he’s doing all of it.
Like scoring a goal for the third consecutive games. Or recording a point for the seventh consecutive game. Or maybe sweeping a puck off the goal line to help make his goaltender look that much better.
Indeed, Ellis has been rewriting Nashville’s postseason record book over the past few weeks, and if he is able to record a point in Game Five, he’ll set a franchise mark with points in eight consecutive games.
And again, he’s a defenseman.
“At both ends of the ice, he does everything for us,” Laviolette said of Ellis. “He plays terrific defense, he sacrifices his body all the time to block shots and just really strong, strong defensive player for us. And then offensively, he’s on a little bit of a roll right now, playing terrific in the offensive zone. He’s getting the shot off, he’s getting it on net, and it’s finding the back of the net, a 200-foot game.”
The goaltender behind Ellis isn’t half bad either.
Pekka Rinne collected his seventh win of the postseason on Tuesday night in Game Four, the fifth time in these playoffs he’s allowed one goal or less. Building off the lessons of season’s past, Rinne continues to play some of the best hockey he ever had, and it couldn’t come at a more opportune time.
“I think it was a really good experience last year, playing two seven-game series,” Rinne said. “I think the hardest lesson that we all learned is that it’s not going to be easy. It’s extremely hard, every team is extremely dangerous, so when you have a chance to close these things out you have to really step on their throat.”
Game Five between the Preds and Blues is set for Friday night in St. Louis, a 7 p.m. CT start.