American Thanksgiving is a good day for the Edmonton Oilers to visit a city like Nashville. All tenth-rate American hockey cities give thanks for OIL, because when the council sells its ambulances to subsidize NHL arenas and the taxpayers are rioting outside the mayor's house burning Dustin Byfuglien like a candle the mayor can say "hey, guys, at least we aren't the Edmonton Oilers." And the masses disperse, mumbling things like "we don't know how lucky we are" and "seriously, Martin Marincin should be on their first pairing."
So the Nashville Predators would doubtless have been glad to see these turkeys. But if you thought the Oilers were gonna get mashed, they suddenly made the game as interesting as ice cream on pumpkin pie by scratching the Poor Man's Marc-Andre Bergeron like the spud he is. Oooh! Were the Oilers about to roll back the clock and smother the Predators with the smallpox-infested blanket of decent defense? If so the Preds weren't unprepared: Edmonton and Nashville treated us to an old-school display of early-2000s nothing-nothing hockey perfect for a day where Americans express gratitude for how much shittier the past was.
Because of future dementia patients throwing a child-sized ball around charmingly small fields this game was broadcast on the Ocho, where we got to read the ticker if we weren't much hockey fans. The Predators, wearing their traditional dying grandmother yellow, played like they knew they were hosting the Oilers tonight so sure, they could push their defensemen way up and sorta half-ass it in the neutral zone and run the "let Filip Forsberg skate for a while and see what happens" play six times.
An Oiler got hurt (booo), it was Matt Hendricks (meh) blocking a shot (oh for god's sake we've already seen that one). For a minute there it looked like Nail Yakupov and Calle Jarnkrok were gonna throw down, which would have been worth the span of our too-brief lives, but alas cooler heads prevailed. All heads were cool in this game, so cool that Randy Carlyle thinks they'll live forever. There were many shots, but few quality chances. Andrew Ference made the play of the day by skating behind his goalie in a fashion that happened to prevent a goal this time, and the other nine times causes one.
The television coverage was appropriately breathless. Gene Principe interviewed a mascot. During the second intermission Doug MacLean seemed to advocate the Oilers deliberately losing to draft Connor McDavid. Well, he'd know.
Now, the game had its moments. The Other Forsberg was held almost in check; he had no more scoring chances than Nail Yakupov did, which I for one will happily take. Jeff Petry had a quiet game, apart from when he nearly split the defense shorthanded. Shea Weber took many hard shots, a tactical error: Viktor Fasth is most vulnerable to floaters from the red line. Pekke Rinne, despite facing a surprising volume of shots, was visibly bored at times and stickhandling like he'd replaced his water with Stoli. We were all reminded Olli Jokinen is technically still alive. And Jordan Eberle had chances to make something good happen on the rush and not score, causing normally-sober statistics nerds to explode into clutch-prairie-boy-hating paroxysms.
You couldn't hate how the Oilers played. (You could hate the game, and indeed I did.) There were few mistakes, and apart from the usual minute-long bimbo explosions where Edmonton's defense went full Eakins and the Predators did everything but aim, the Oilers looked like the better team. Edmonton's players weren't at all bad, except for the ones who always are; it's too much to ask Nikita Nikitin to look like an NHL defenseman, but Mark Fayne looked dandy and Oscar Klefbom could almost cause human emotion to stir again in my breast. Boyd Gordon treated the faceoff dot like his own personal vassal, his stick snatching the puck in a perpetual droit de seigneur.
Then we went to overtime, playing about thirty seconds of 4-on-3 because Seth Jones missed the dry scrape and wanted a little extra rest. And Eberle got a penalty shot when Weber echoed the instincts of all fans by falling asleep, and in what was finally a legitimately exciting moment Eberle took a substandard penalty shot into Pekka Rinne's left skate. Eberle, as we know, is an indisputably clutch performer, and scoring the winning goal risked extending Dallas Eakins's tenure as head coach. Lose one game now to win five later.
So finally we had some drama: unfortunately the drama consisted of the Predators finally saying "wait a minute, what the fuck are we doing playing with these goofballs?!" A 3-on-1 because Nikita Nikitin briefly forgot what the ice was for and wiped out on loose wood like a stripper at 4 AM, Nashville ragged the puck stupid, shot just wide, post, post, goal. Great turning shot by Filip Forsberg, the sort of great shot that the aforementioned Yakupov just didn't quiiiiiiiite get off.
Hey, we got a point with a solid performance on the road against a superior team. Keep adding up all these moral victories and maybe we'll make the moral playoffs.
P.S.: some #SadOilersPoetry:
We thought was the D we'd been seekin'.
But in overtime, late
That ass can't even skate
And that's why the Oilers were beaten.