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Blues Get Offensive, Beat Predators

So far, the St. Louis Blues don't seem to miss Brett Hull a bit.

Al MacInnis and Pavol Demitra each got goal No. 8 as the Blues matched their season high for scoring with a 5-1 victory over the Nashville Predators on Saturday night. Hull had two goals for Dallas on Saturday, but he's two behind MacInnis and Demitra.

MacInnis, whose feared slap shot is now a big part of the offense, is well on his way to topping his season total of 19 goals last season.

"Al's off to a great start," coach Joel Quenneville said. "Offensively, they're going in for him, but defensively he's been rock solid back there. He's playing as good as I've seen him play."

Demitra, elevated to the No. 1 line with Pierre Turgeon and Geoff Courtnall, is an emerging star after scoring 22 goals in his first NHL season.

"It's a lot easier to score because I'm playing with great players," Demitra said. "I'm very happy. I'm getting a lot of ice time, too."

Checking line members Scott Pellerin and Scott Young each had a goal and an assist as the Blues, who did all their scoring in the first two periods, made a strong rebound from a 6-2 loss at Detroit on Wednesday night and ran their home record to 4-1-1.

"The Detroit game, we were terrible," Young said. "We don't play again until Thursday, so we didn't want to have a sour taste in our mouths the few days we have off."

The Blues, who led the NHL in goals last season, have gotten five on three occasions thus far, including a 5-2 victory over Chicago at home on Tuesday.

The expansion Predators entered the game three points behind Central Division-leading St. Louis and had won three of their last four on the road. But they tired on the final game of a six-game trip in which they beat Calgary, San Jose and Los Angeles.

"We haven't had a real taxing trip, I don't think," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "That shouldn't be an excuse. I just think our mental state before the game wasn't where it should be."

When MacInnis ripped a slap shot past Mike Dunham on a power play at 14:54 of the first period, the Blues had outshot the Predators 18-4.

Trailing 5-1, the Predators replaced Dunham after two periods with Tomas Voukoun. Nobody was blaming Dunham, who entered the game with a 2.49 goals-against average.

"Mike's not Superman," center Tom Fitzgerald said. "He's not a brick wall. You can't give up that many shots and expect him to stop every single one."

The matchup was the first of three in a 10-day span between the Blues and Predators.

The Blues had a 39-17 advantage in shots, continuing a season trend. Entering the game, they had outshot the opposition an average of 32-23.

Craig Conroy, who had two assists, set up the game's frst goal when he beat Dunham to the puck behind the net and slipped it in front to Pellerin at 6:14 of the first. Demitra, who has five goals and three assists in his last six games, scored with a bad-angle shot off the stick of defender J.J. Daigneault at 12:50 and MacInnis' goal made it 3-0.

Ville Peltonen scored his second goal at 46 seconds of the second before the Blues answered with goals by Young at 7:03 and Pascal Rheaume, a healthy scratch the previous eight games, at 13:54.

©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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