The Nashville Predators’ reputation on the ice has long been that of one of the league’s strongest defensive teams. This year’s squad has struggled most of the season to live up to that reputation, but tonight they put together a strong all-around defensive effort to win the season series from the Edmonton Oilers.
Nashville controlled the pace in the first period but were unable to take advantage of an early power play on a Shawn Horcoff hooking penalty. Then Patric Hornqvist was called for goalie interference at 7:42 despite never touching the goalie. The Oilers made Nashville pay, too, scoring just 11 seconds into the power play on a Corey Potter slap shot to make it a 1-0 game.
The Preds seemed to be energized by that and continued taking the game to Edmonton, spending most of their time in the Oilers’ zone. Mike Fisher, who’s been playing great hockey for the last two weeks, continued to lead by example on the tying goal. He followed Martin Erat to the corner and after Erat dished to him he was quick to find Sergei Kostitsyn for his third goal of the season, making the score 1-1.
The Preds came up with a huge PK after Jon Blum was called for high-sticking at 15:26. Most of the time was spent in the Nashville zone, but the penalty killers performed well to keep the game tied. Nashville finished the first period leading in shots 10-7.
The second period was all Nashville. If anything they stepped up the pressure. Martin Erat began the play that set up the Preds’ second goal of the game on a near-breakaway chance. The Edmonton defender prevented him from getting a scoring chance, but he peeled off to the corner and waited for his trailing teammates. He passed to Sergei Kostitsyn, who hung back amid the chaos just long enough to find Kevin Klein wide open by the goal mouth. Klein banged it home and suddenly the Preds led 2-1.
Nashville jumped further ahead at 11:33 after Brandon Yip entered the Edmonton zone and the two Oilers defensemen focused on him while Chris Mueller slipped by down the right wall. Yip found him with a sharp pass and Mueller put one over Dubnyk’s glove-side shoulder for his second career NHL goal, giving Nashville a 3-1 lead.
The Oilers began to press a bit in the third period, but it was a fluke goal off the skate of Shawn Horcoff at 7:05 of the third gave them the spark they’d been looking for. Trailing just 3-2 now, they began to press Nashville at every opportunity, generating scoring chances and generally wreaking havoc in the Nashville zone as they outshot the Preds 12-4.
But Pekka Rinne came up with big saves on Nail Yakupov and Jordan Eberle when called upon, and the PK unit came out and killed two more big penalties. The Nashville team defense stood up to Edmonton’s buzzing efforts and closed out the win to the delight of the Bridgestone Arena faithful.
- This game marked the first time this season that the Nashville Predators won in regulation by a margin of one goal. It’s also the team’s third straight win at home.
- Pekka Rinne stopped 23 of 25 shots tonight. Edmonton beat him once on the power play and once on a puck floated into the zone that bounced in off Shawn Horcoff’s skate. If that’s all that’s beating him, he’s looking like the Pekka Nashville fans know and love.
- Mike Fisher extended his streak of consecutive games with a point to seven on a slick pass to Sergei Kostitsyn for the tying goal in the first period. He’s been by example at a crucial time in the season and his teammates seem to be responding.
- Martin Erat had assists on the first two goals, giving him 16 on the season. After a 15-game stretch where he had registered just four points, Erat has seven in his last three games.
- Sergei’s goal tonight was his first since February 18th. In three games since being benched for his worst play ever, the normally gun-shy Kostitsyn has registered six shots on net.
- The Nashville penalty killing unit looks completely different now that Hal Gill is back.
- If Chris Mueller keeps playing like this he’s going to make it very hard for the front office to send him back to Milwaukee. He has two goals and an assist in five games on the fourth line. He has also won 54, 66, 72, 57, and 80 percent of the faceoffs he’s taken in his five games with Nashville this season.
- Tonight was the 28th consecutive sellout at Bridgestone Arena. The fanbase has stuck with the team through some pretty thin times this season, and tonight they were rewarded with a very entertaining game.