It’s not easy to get ramped up for every game throughout an 82-game season; and coming into the game a letdown felt possible, facing the last-place team in the league after two emotional wins over the weekend. But the Predators took care of business and gained another two points with a 3-1 victory over the cellar-dwelling Oilers.
David Legwand once again put forth a strong effort, picking up a goal and an assist while playing well on the defensive side of the puck.
“Leggy has elevated his game,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “Tonight, he was the best player on the ice.”
Unlike their past meetings, Nashville wasted no time get up on the Oilers early. At 4:08, Martin Erat finished off a nice tic-tac-toe play with Legwand and Joel Ward to put the Preds up 1-0.
Three minutes later, Patric Hornqvist converted on a power play chance to give the home team a 2-0 advantage. Hornqvist one-timed a feed from Sergei Kostitsyn past Devan Dubnyk. After 20 minutes, the Preds held a 15-5 lead in shots.
“If you look back to their first game here in Nashville,” Trotz said, “the first period was very similar. We were all over them – we just couldn’t find the back of the net that game.
“Today, getting the first goal was a little bit of a relief because we’ve had trouble with the Edmonton Oilers this year.”
Legwand scored seven minutes into the second period to put Nashville ahead, 3-0. He broke into the zone and deposited a slick backhander past Dubnyk. 2:38 later, Jordan Eberle got Edmonton on the board with a power play tally. Edmonton kept up the pressure, but couldn’t draw closer before the end of the second.
There wasn’t much action in the third period, but Pekka Rinne stole the show in the final minutes. Rinne made a highlight reel glove-save on Tom Gilbert with just under three minutes remaining. When the Oilers’ net was empty, Rinne attempted to score a goal from his crease by shooting the puck down ice, but it was knocked down by an Oiler before it could get past the circles.
Trotz discussed his thoughts on the play: “I was going ‘Get it over that guy and I hope you score, kid… well-deserved.’ We’re up by two and we sort of talked about, if they made a poor clear, ‘just go for it kid, you deserve it.’ That one defender at the back just got his glove on it. It would have been nice. We gave him that privilege. Most times you wouldn’t because of the points – but he’s been so good that I think that was something you give him that privilege. If (the Oilers would have scored on the play), I don’t think they would have scored again the rest of the night, because (Rinne) would have held the fort. We gave him a little bit of freedom there.”
Rinne made 19 saves on the night and surrendered just one goal, strengthening his case to win some hardware this season.
This 3-1 win wasn’t pretty for the Predators; but two points are two points. They have had some difficulty with Edmonton this season, particularly with their speed. The absence of Taylor Hall and Ales Hemsky (among others) certainly made things easier tonight.
With the win, the Preds moved into a tie for fifth in the Western Conference at 88 points, and will host Anaheim and Dallas this week in what will be defacto playoff games. Even though the Preds have now won four in a row, they can’t take their foot off the pedal.