The Edmonton Oilers (4-3-1) were in Nashville to play the host Predators (8-2-0) this afternoon, looking to build on a very tidy 4-1 result - and performance - over the defending champions. The Predators have been powerhouses so far this season, and looked to continue their run of form and further cement themselves as one of, if not the, team to beat in the West.
The first real action in this one came via the Oilers’ top line, as per. The trio of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Connor McDavid, and Kailer Yamamoto combined to create some havoc in front of Predators’ goaltender Juuse Saros. Nothing came from it, but it was a positive start.
But the initiative was quickly repossessed by the home side, and they spent the next few minutes pressuring the Oilers. Mikko Koskinen had to be very good early in this contest, called upon on a few occasions to make some very big saves in high leverage moments, including a partial break for Viktor Arvidsson.
The two sides traded mostly ineffective power plays before Drake Caggiula picked off an ill-advised pass in the neutral zone. He flubbed his first attempt on the ensuing odd-man rush, but stayed with it, got some help from Darnell Nurse and Tobias Rieder, and eventually stuffed home a rebound from in tight. 1-0 Oilers. In Nashville. In the afternoon.
The top line followed the goal up with another peach of a shift, this time featuring Nugent-Hopkins with some impressive hands in-close and some chances for both he and Young Kailer but Saros was defiant once more.
Despite the goal, the Predators’ influence was growing at this point and they were able to test Koskinen with a couple more excellent chances before drawing another penalty. This time, the Oilers let Nashville do most of the clearing for them, as the home team couldn’t connect when they tried to find their point men up top. Whatever works, right?
The period ended shortly after another successful kill with the score 1-0 for the visitors. Shots 11-7 Edmonton, attempts 13-10 Nashville, Oilers on the good side of SCF% and HDCF%.
The Oilers continued to impress to start the second, with McDavid’s line generating a couple nifty looks for themselves and spending the entirety of their shift in the Predators zone. The Oilers were able to complete a change with possession and get an OZD out of it, too. Honorable mention to Adam Larsson for a nice pinch to maintain the pressure on the right wall.
Edmonton’s push continued and after a couple of successful shifts in a row, they found themselves rewarded with a PP thanks to Jujhar Khaira.
The Five Lefties began the man advantage and were able to fling it around with some competence before McDavid, Lucic and Draisaitl combined to tic-tac-toe home perhaps their best power play goal of the season - in the sense that they didn’t score in spite of themselves this time. This was a proper PP goal.
Right after the Oilers extended their lead, both Leon Draisaitl and Adam Larsson had to head to the room for repairs after Leon took a Ryan Johansen high stick to the orbital bone and Adam Larsson took a puck to the gob. Both needed repairs and new sweaters, but both would eventually return to the game.
The refs were about to blow this one when the linesmen saved them and called a penalty. Leon was brought back for a blood check but by then he was leaking and it was an easy double minor. But the lede here is that neither ref had it as a penalty at first. It was egregious. Lucky for them, at least one of the linesmen were paying attention.
But after all that, the Oilers power play - now with more Caggiula! - was unable to take advantage. This kill would prove important for Nashville, and they began to roar back almost immediately. Koskinen would again be tested on a few occasions, but the Predators still couldn’t solve him.
This pressure led the Oilers to take a couple of penalties. First, Lucic cleared the puck out of play. The Oilers PK bent a little more this time, but still didn’t break.
Draisaitl and Yamamoto factored in on a couple of half chances for the Oilers right after the kill, but the Predators drew an interference penalty on Jason Garrison at the end of the same shift. This one counted, though. Filip Forsberg stepped through a one-timer from the left side and cut the Oilers lead down to 2-1. In Nashville. In the afternoon.
Just seven seconds later, the Oilers phenomenal, generational, perhaps-most-talented-hockey-player-ever-born-ever captain Connor McDavid, received a nifty Nugent-Hopkins feed in stride before beating Saros up high to put the Oilers in front by two goals again. Seven seconds, folks. It was a real beauty.
The Predators would give the Oilers PP another opportunity as the period came to a close via a bench minor for cheating, but nothing would come from it on either side of the period.
After forty minutes, the Oilers led 3-1, and were outshooting the Predators 26-18. Nashville had a slight edge in 5v5 attempts, 27-26, but Edmonton continued to hold an edge in both SCF% and HDCF%. This was a proper performance through two periods.
As noted above, the Oilers weren’t able to cash in on their PP to start the period. But, they managed to draw another one almost immediately. Unfortunately, they couldn’t make that one count either, and the score remained 3-1. In Nashville. In the afternoon.
Not long after the PP’s ended, Adam Larsson made his return, sporting a full face mask and the face of an apple that had been stepped on by at least three people.
Perhaps his return sparked his teammates, however, as Klefbom bit Larsson’s style a little bit with a two-line laser to Rieder. Rieder entered with control before finding Draisaitl in the space created from Alex Chiasson’s drive to the net, and the birthday boy made no mistake to put the Oilers in front 4-1. In Nashville. In the afternoon.
4-1. In Nashville. In the afternoon. Dreamland, people.
But the euphoria was short lived. Just 24 seconds later, Forsberg tallied again to keep things interesting. Good, quick transition led to Johansen finding a lurking Forsberg in the slot. 24 seconds. 4-2. Damnit.
The Preds looked to gain some momentum after that, and spent a couple shifts in a row in the Oilers end. Roman Josi managed to slither in past some casual Oilers defending before he and Kris Russell met and knocked the net off. On the ensuing faceoff, Josi rang one off the post. That close to 4-3. The Oilers needed to sharpen up. The Preds were coming and there was still 10 minutes left.
The two teams then traded abbreviated power plays, as Lucic drew one after a nice turnover before Benning negated it with 49 seconds left with a high sticking penalty.
In one of McLellan’s more curious moves, he started the 4v4 sequence with McDavid and Caggiula. Caggiula, who, despite scoring earlier, has shown in his career to ONLY be a drag on Connor McDavid. Naturally, they couldn’t get anything going and the Preds got to their PP without incident.
Fortunately for the Oilers, their goaltender and their penalty kill were resolute this afternoon, and the Preds couldn’t get one. Still 4-2. In Nashville. In the afternoon.
With around 5 minutes left, Zack Kassian took an, IMO, ill-advised penalty when he pasted Kyle Turris in the Oilers zone. The Predators pulled Saros to get a 6-on-4 advantage with about 4:30 left, and capitalized. So much for resolute. Forsberg with his third and the Predators were within one. Hard to justify dressing a Zack Kassian right now if he’s not going to kill penalties and seems to do his college best to take them.
But alas, it wouldn’t matter. Caggiula was able to intercept another pass with the Predators net empty. His first attempt was wide, but he is nothing if not persistent, and he was able to collect and deposit his own rebound. 5-3. In Nashville. In the afternoon.
The Preds continued to play with an extra attacker which I can appreciate, as how many you lose by at this point shouldn’t be a consideration for teams who are trying to win.
But alas, it wouldn’t matter. The Oilers came into Nashville this afternoon and played a peach of a road game to earn all two points in regulation, in front of their backup. I’d call that a successful day’s work.
Oilers 46.97% CF, 50% FF, 58.06% SCF%, 75% (!!) HDCF%. In a game they lead throughout. In Nashville. In the afternoon. Against a good team they hadn’t beaten in years. *Extreme Larry David voice* Pretty, pretty, pretty good.
I have some, but it’s not the time. Let’s enjoy this one. (I really just want to get back to Red Dead 2.)
The Oilers (5-3-1) are back at it again tomorrow afternoon in Chicago to take on the Blackhawks (6-2-2). We’ll have you covered all day on the website.