St. Louis Blues\' David Backes (42) is congratulated by teammates Brad Boyes (22) and Carlo Colaiacovo (28) after his goal against the Nashville Predators\' in the second period of an NHL hockey game Sunday Dec. 26, 2010 in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Bill Boyce)
ST. LOUIS - Jaroslav Halak was in his element Sunday.
The St. Louis Blues goalie made a name for himself last spring by turning away a ton of shots while tending goal for the Montreal Canadians in the playoffs. Now a member of the Blues after an off-season trade, Halak made 32 saves Sunday for his fourth shutout as St. Louis blanked the slumping Nashville Predators 2-0.
"Obviously, I like these kind of games," Halak said. "I think everyone likes more shots than few shots."
David Backes provided the offence for Halak as he scored both goals for the Blues.
The win extended the Blues' winning streak to three games. Halak has been in goal for all three of those contests. Sunday's shutout was the 13th of his career.
Blues coach Davis Payne said that Halak's biggest strength is his efficiency.
"It's a key for him and playing the way he does," Payne said. "He's always in position for that secondary save if necessary."
Nashville's Pekka Rinne was nearly equal to Halak. He stopped 24 shots for Nashville, which has lost four straight. The Predators have scored just three goals in those four contests.
"I thought our pace and competitive level were better," said Nashville coach Barry Trotz. "We just didn't find the back of the net."
The Blues did not give the Predators any help, as St. Louis was not called for a penalty for the first time in a game since April 1, 2004 against Detroit. Nashville was only whistled for one infraction, and that did not come until 4:47 remained in the contest when the Predators' Joel Ward was sent off for tripping.
"These are the kind of games that if you don't win, you look back on them in April," Backes said. "It's always big to get two points against anyone. When you're not doing that in the Western Conference, you're sliding in a free fall."
Sunday's game was the latest in a long line of close decisions between the Blues and Predators, as seven of the last nine and 14 of the last 20 games between the two having been decided by one goal.
Backes got the Blues first goal without any help. He intercepted a clearing pass at centre, skated in along the right boards and then cut to the right circle where he beat Rinne with a wrist shot 1:45 into the second period.
"I was not at a very good angle," Backes said. "I probably should have dumped that in and got a line change. I don't know if he was expecting me to shoot from that angle. I'll take it."
Rinne admitted the shot caught him off guard.
"It was tough to catch because it came so close to my head," he said. "It hit the side of my face and went in.
"That's not the one you would like to see deciding the game. You shoot 20 times from same spot and it maybe goes in once or twice. "
With 16.8 seconds left, Backes scored an empty net goal to clinch it for the Blues.
Notes: Despite allowing just two goals, Rinne is 0-2 after returning to the lineup from a nine-game absence due to a lower body injury. ... St. Louis is 2-0 on its five-game home stand. . . . The loss snapped the Predators' five-game winning streak in St. Louis. ... The game drew 19,150, giving the Blues 18 sellouts.