The Edmonton Oilers faced the Nashville Predators on March 25th once more at Bridgestone Arena. While the results weren’t as brutal as the 6-0 shutout massacre back on March 8, the Oilers still failed to get the win that they so desperately needed, and instead extended their losing streak.
It’s notable that this game is the first time since January that the Oilers have had their top 4 down the middle, with no one out; unfortunately this wasn’t enough. Five minutes into the game, Nashville had five shots on goal compared to Edmonton’s one, demonstrating that while the Predators may not be better than the Oilers, they might realistically work harder, something the Oilers really need to be aware and mindful of.
Edmonton managed to convert their first power-play of the night and score around the 7 minute mark. The goal, made with assists by Ales Hemsky and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (who finally recovered from the flu that kept him out the past two games), was originally attributed to Corey Potter but later given to Taylor Hall, who deflected Potter’s shot.
Devan Dubnyk made a fantastic save on a shot by Fisher, but Nashville eventually retaliated with a goal by Sergei Kostitsyn at 11:51. Considering the harsh criticism Kostitsyn got for a bad line change in the March 17 game, which led to Edmonton’s short-handed goal, it’s not surprising that he was the one to tie the game up.
Entering period two tied, the Oilers seem to have lost some of their energy, and Nashville managed to take the lead, with goals by Klein and Mueller. While Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins had some good shots, Nashville had far superior puck support. Eric Belanger, who recently returned after being out with a groin injury for several games, unfortunately seemed to re-aggravate his injury and didn’t return to the game in the third period.
It’s generally been the third period where the Oilers have had a lead and lost it to a rallying team – in tonight’s game they were in the opposite position, desperately needing to rally themselves as the Predators held a two goal lead.
Shawn Horcoff once again stepped up and managed to score 7 minutes into the third period, revitalizing the team and giving them some hope for a rally.
The play shifted a bit after Horcoff’s goal, with the Oilers putting some great pressure on Nashville, who were clinging to their once comfortable and now rapidly diminishing lead.
In a play where Eberle was headed to the net, Nashville’s Legwand lifted the puck out of play in a bit of panic, resulting in a delay of game penalty – perhaps hinting that the Oilers’ pressure was becoming effective. However, the Oilers again failed to convert the resulting power-play.
The latter half of the third period was incredibly high energy – the Oilers’ attempted rally was fierce, and definitely didn’t fall short due to lack of effort. While the Oilers were outshot by Nashville 10-7 and 12-7 in the first two periods, in their explosive third period play Edmonton managed to outshoot Nashville a staggering 12 to 4.
In the end, though, it just wasn’t enough. Nugent-Hopkins summed it up well in a post-game interview, saying that “we had a decent start, had a lull in the 2nd and dominated in the 3rd, but by then it was too late.” What the Oilers need is to keep up the high tempo style of play that’s been successful for them for the full 60 minutes, something they’ve really struggled to do.
The only positive of this loss against the Predators is that they face the St. Louis Blues immediately the day after, on March 26th. Hopefully they can carry on the high energy game play they exhibited in the third period against the Predators and bring that against St. Louis.