By Amanda DiPaolo
On Tuesday night, the Nashville Predators faced an Edmonton Oilers squad 15th in the Western Conference, but a team that had beaten Nashville twice already and lost once in a shootout.
Head Coach Barry Trotz commented in the post-game press conference that the team has had trouble against the entire province of Alberta this season. Calgary won all four games against Nashville this season and the Predators had a 1-1-1 recording against Edmonton going into Tuesday night’s tilt.
That trouble against the Oilers ended when the Predators came out swinging, scoring on their fourth shot of the game.
The Predators opened scoring at 4:08 of the first period on a tic-tac-toe play off the rush that saw David Legwand enter the offensive zone and pass the puck to Joel Ward on the stick side of Edmonton goalie Devan Dusnyk. Ward sent a cross-crease pass to Martin Erat who was able to one-time the puck into the net for the 1-0 lead. It was Erat’s 15th goal of the season.
Erat says so many games at Bridgestone Arena has made a difference for the team down the stretch. “For us, the advantage is pretty big. Every home game we’ve played pretty well, and we played so many games on the road so it’s actually good for us to get these last games at home. We hope it’s going to play to our advantage and get us in the playoffs,” Erat said.
Just shy of three minutes later the Predators went on the power play when Kurtis Foster was called for tripping Jerred Smithson at 7:06 of the opening frame.
It took only 34 seconds on the man advantage for Nashville to make it a 2-0 game.
Sergei Kostitsyn sent a backhanded pass through defenders to Patric Hornqvist who beat Dubnyk stick side at 7:40 of the second period. Ryan Suter picked up the other assist. It was Hornqvist’s 19th goal of the season.
“I think we started the game pretty good. We went after them right away,” Hornqvist said, adding “We had a quick start and we scored two goals. After that, I thought we sat back a little bit and let them get some of the momentum there in the second, but in the third, we kept up again and took those two big points.”
The second period saw the Predators record only 5 shots on goal to the Oilers 7, but each team scored a goal in the middle frame.
David Legwand added to the Predators lead making it 3-0 at the 7:00 minute mark. The goal was Legwand’s 14th of the season. Ryan Suter and Shea Weber picked up the assists.
Trotz said that the Predators would not be in the position they are in today without the recent play of Legwand since the team lost Marcel Goc to a season ending shoulder injury.
“Early in the season, sometimes he looks at the 82 games and gets off to a little bit of a slow start. he sort of hits his stride as the games get more important. Tonight, he was the best player on the ice,” Trotz said.
The Oilers closed the gap to two goals when they were awarded a power play at 8:45 of the second period. Kostitsyn was sent to the box for tripping in the neutral zone.
Jordan Eberle scored his 17th of the season when he collected a rebound in front of the net and beat Rinne to get the Oilers on the scoreboard 9:38 into the period. Andrew Cogliano and Jim Vandermeer picked up the assists.
No goals were added in the third period, but goaltender Pekka Rinne made what looked like an impossible glove save with 2:43 left to play in the game. Tom Gilbert had the puck alone in the slot but Rinne denied the Oilers the possibility to make a game of it.
The save prompted the crowd to stand and cheer all throughout the ensuing tv timeout, for the sixth such standing ovation of the year. The Predators are 6-0-0 when the fans partake in an impromptu standing ovation.
With just 26.3 seconds left on the clock, and an empty net, Legwand fought for the puck down low and found Erat in front, but he didn’t have control over the puck and it went in off his skate. The goal was disallowed as the officials determined there had been a kicking motion on the play.
The Predators now have 88 points and have won four games in a row, winners of 6 out of the last seven, and are 8-2-2 in their last 12 games. Nashville’s homestand continues on Thursday when the Predators host the Anaheim Ducks. Nashville is in sixth place in the Western Conference standings, just three points ahead of Anaheim and Dallas, who play each other Wednesday night.
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