The Nashville Predators returned to their winning ways with a 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday night in front of another capacity crowd.
The game was the sixteenth sellout of the season which ties last year's regular season total and the Predators still have fourteen additional home dates remaining. It is a foregone conclusion that they will easily surpass the franchise record of twenty capacity crowds that was set in the inaugural season of 1998-99.
It was the Predators 13th win in their last 15 home contests and the crowd was one of the more appreciated of the year from the players standpoint after a tough loss in Philadelphia on Thursday.
Brian McGrattan had high praise for the crowd's intensity. "It was huge. On the bench, I said to Hally that that was one of the best crowds that I've ever played in front of."
"I've played in two Canadian cities and that crowd tonight blows them out of the water. It's huge to have a loud crowd behind you when you are pushing for a win and we definitely had it tonight."
McGrattan later tweeted "best fans I have seen in 10 years of pro hockey at tonight's game! #predsfansrock"
The game got off to a quick start with plenty of energy on both sides. Marty Erat launched a hard slap shot from the point during the Predators' initial power play at 6:59 that gave the team a lead that was never relinquished.
Fan favorite, Jordin Tootoo explained the crowd's role in the Predators' quick start. "The first five minutes of the game was key for us to make sure we were mentally and physically into the game. We have great fans who bring a lot of energy and we feed off of that."
"Our fans are rowdy and they bring that kind of energy. When we make big plays, big saves, or score goals, our fans are involved and we notice it on the bench and it gets us fired up."
Mike Fisher sent the crowd to another volume level (as indicated by Ryan Porth's decibel meter) at 12:30 in the opening period to put the home team up 2-0. The lead lasted into the final period when the Blues' Chris Porter closed the gap to 2-1 with a goal at 4:01.
Pekka Rinne, who picked up his eleventh straight win was unbelievable, stopping 42 of 43 Blues' shots. None were bigger than the three stops that he made coming out of the TV time-out with 8:59 remaining in the game when the Smashville crowd had stood and cheered spontaneously for the entire interuption and had every player's adrenalin pumping.
Rinne described the feeling after the stoppage. "Any time the fans get that loud it's a huge boost for us. You get chills and it's a nice feeling and we really appreciate that. It is one of the greatest feelings ever."
Sergei Kostitsyn's empty-netter with 23 seconds left in the game finalized the score at 3-1.
The crowd was such a huge part of the game that coach Barry Trotz had several comments. "Tonight it felt different. You knew it was a playoff-type and the crowd was going at it. The Blues fans were trying to raise the noise and our fans drowned them out."
"At the last time out, you couldn't hear yourself think. We almost got caught on a couple of line changes because it was so loud. I was getting hoarse and the players couldn't hear who was up. I'll have to get used to it or go to voice classes."
Finally, the greatest praise of the Bridgestone faithful came from the Blues Head Coach, Ken Hitchcock. "You’re not going to beat Nashville in Nashville on Saturday night. This is like the Coliseum in Rome coming into this place on Saturday night."
The Predators will take Sunday off and return to practice on Monday to prepare for Tuesday's home contest with the Vancouver Canucks who will make their first visit to Nashville since last year's second round playoff series.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass