I won't even pretend, honestly I hate it when the Edmonton Oilers play the Nashville Predators. I mean it doesn't ever seem to matter who is on the Predator's coaching staff (obviously the head coach Barry Trotz hasn't changed), who's in net, who is on the team roster, it all leads up to an Oilers loss what must be 99% of the time. During the 2009-10 and 2008-09 season, the Oilers went 1 and 3 against the Predators. Looking back even further is more depressing, 0 and 4 in 2007-08 and 2006-07. The last time the Oilers were able to beat the Predators more than once through a season was 2005-06 when the Oilers were 3 and 1. That's 2 wins against the Preds in the past 4 years and 5 wins in the past 5 years, 5 out of 20. Not quite my 99% assessment, but really not that far off either.
The silver lining for many Oilers fans before the game even began is that Devan Dubnyk is back to healthy and was to start for the Oilers, while Nikolai Khabibulin in out for undisclosed reasons. No, it's not because he is serving jail time, but the Oilers have not mentioned much about anything concerning Khabibulin lately.
This game was pretty dull, but it's Sunday night, many are watching football and many just don't want to get too excited before trying to sleep tonight. Thankfully the Oilers and Predators had you covered. The excitement did pick up for the overtime period, and there were bursts of excitement and cheering, but overall this game won't be one of the more memorable events of the 2009-10 Oilers season.
The first period took a while for the Oilers to get going. The Predators got the first shot of the game in during Jim Vandermeer's interference penalty, but no goal. Celebrate that PK goodness folks! Neither goalie saw another shot until the Oilers got their first from Magnus Paajarvi nearly 9 minutes in. That's OK though, the boys were likely worn out from the Skills Competition and there is still a lot of time in the game. Alright, they shouldn't be tired from the Skills Competition, I do blame everything on the scary Predator on the team's jerseys. That must be what the real issue is.
Rexall place must be a really amazing place to score your first NHL goal. The history, the banners, the fact that there are fans in the seats. It must be a dream for teams in the southern states. So, how fortunate for Nashville Predator Alexander Sulzer who took his teams' first penalty to score his teams first for the night, and his first ever NHL goal on a picture perfect setup, beating Devan Dubnyk on his right.
Total shots for the period, 5 a piece. Not the strongest start, but with Taylor Hall, Sam Gagner and Kurtis Foster with one shot each, and Paajarvi with two it should just be a matter of time before someone, maybe even the team's second most accurate shooter (Gagner according to Saturday's Skills Competition) scores.
The second period started out with a lot more intensity from the Oilers. Well, it seemed like it at least maybe even just because I wanted it to feel more exciting than the first period. Theo Peckham made it onto the game-sheet but for taking a holding period. Thankfully the Oilers successfully killed that penalty and returned to 5 on 5, where the team tends to see their best success. Midway through the period Linus Omark and Paajarvi showed their fantastic speed and chemistry in a two on one that barely missed the back of the net. Omark may not be all shootout moves and youtube videos, sometimes it's just the way he reads a play or carries the puck that can add to your enjoyment of the game.
The best part of the period, in my opinion, was Zack Stortini missing the open side of the net on his breakaway. The rebound also eluded the big guy who was looking for a fight on the night after his charging penalty in the first period. Patrick Hornqvist, who was the recipient of Stortini's hit says that the hit was a good clean hit, but you know that the Predators would take exception to a hit that would lay one of their own out and every shift Stortini takes make end with a fight for the night.
The third period started out with some celebration for Oilers' fans, a backhand goal from Andrew Cogliano that snuck past Pekka Rinne on a pass from Liam Reddox. Cogliano's face is looking far less like he has a beak, it appears as though the cyst was successfully removed from his mouth, and this goal proves that it was not his mouth trauma that caused his recent offencive numbers.
A really unlucky bounce/re-direct from Joel Ward in the dying seconds of the Oilers' penalty kill put the Preds ahead by one. Thankfully the Oilers' didn't pack it in for the night, instead Taylor Hall beat Rinne, top corner to tie the game and to break the team scoring tie. That's right, Hall has now taken the lead as the team's leading scorer.
The Preds hoped that the final penalty in regulation, called against Theo Peckham would put them ahead. The Oilers killed off the portion that remained in the third shockingly enough. If it was the successful kill or the shock of earning one point, we will never know, but something put a spark of life back into the team.
Overtime saw the Oilers not only successfully kill off the remainder of Peckham's penalty, but also come within an inch of taking the second point of the night thanks to efforts by Shawn Horcoff. The play went for review as it hit Rinne's stick which was behind him and in the net. A closer look showed that the puck made it to the line, but no farther. The Oilers had a few other chances, but no goals.
The shootout must have had many Oilers fans sitting up in their seats because Omark was the first shooter. Omark went with a fake slap shot and likely one too many fake-outs with his feet and hip because in the end, Omark was denied. Marcel Goc was up next and denied by Dubnyk. Sam Gagner didn't have much luck either, his shot was easily turned aside by Rinne. Dubnyk was the first to be beat by first time shootout participant defenseman Cody Franson. The pressure was on for Hall, but no dice, the Predators leave Edmonton for Calgary with both points on the evening.
Here we go, positives and take aways for the night. The Oilers fell below .500 again for faceoff wins winning just 40%. Horcoff and Cogliano took the lion's share of the the faceoffs and won 11 of 20 and 7 of 21 respectively. The Oilers must be glad to have Horcoff back but Cogliano has had better nights in terms of faceoffs, so at least he's scoring goals.
The Oilers power play was not effective; the Oilers did not score on any of their four opportunities. Thankfully, the Oilers didn't get scored on while with the man advantage either, so there's a positive.
The penalty kill was successful four out of five times. Even though it was mostly successful, it still needs to improve. The big positive for the night is that it was only one goal and not two or three.
Zack Stortini and J.F. Jacques each played about two minutes through the 60 and I didn't even notice Jacques. Stortini is continuing his efforts to be a hitting and scoring impact in the game. You know who else wants those same things? Taylor Hall, you can check out a video of his hit on Jerred Smithson here:
The Oilers did keep up with the Predators in terms of shots on net, even though the Predators did win in that department, 28-24 through 65 minutes. The Oilers are getting more than 20 shots a night on a fairly consistent basis, this is another big positive.
The Oilers will need to bring up the intensity for Tuesday night's battle against the Phoenix Coyotes. The upcoming schedule doesn't get any easier. Be strong Oilers fans, excitement will hopefully return to our games.