<
>

Predators shake the Blues, end four-game slide

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- 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, although
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.

Game notes
Sillinger had two assists for the Blues, giving him three
goals and four assists in his last three games. ... The Predators
are 15-0-2 when leading after two periods and the Blues are 0-17-2
when trailing after two. ... Kariya has three goals and six assists
in his last eight games.