The oft-cited mantra of NHL coaches is that their teams have to play 60 good minutes of hockey to win on any given night.
Tonight in Edmonton, the Nashville Predators only played 55 good minutes, but fortunately for them it was the final 55 minutes, as they came back from an early 2-0 deficit to beat the Edmonton Oilers 6-3. The win takes the Preds to 5-0-1 in their last six games.
Follow after the jump for video highlights, the recap, and advanced even-strength statistics...
Things looked grim when the Oilers scored twice in the first 5:01, making the Preds look disheveled and sluggish. Head coach Barry Trotz called a timeout, pulled Pekka Rinne out of the net in favor of Dan Ellis (more a motivational move than an indictment of Rinne's play), and hoped for the best.
And the best is exactly what Trotz got.
First, it was Ryan Jones getting Nashville on the board, thanks to an unlikely setup by Wade Belak, whose hard work and persistence on the puck led to a rebound chance that Jones buried to extend his goal-scoring streak to four games. Next, a typically workmanlike shift by the shutdown line led to a Joel Ward goal, and the game was tied.
Fans watching at home barely had time to hoist their drinks in celebration before Marcel Goc scored off a crossing pass from J.P. Dumont to put the Preds up 3-2 late in the 1st period. Just like that, what looked like an excuse to turn the TV off and head to bed became cause for firing up a pot of coffee and settling in for a classic late-night Alberta thriller.
Having fallen behind, however, the Oilers didn't buckle. Their infamous team speed presented a constant threat, and skilled forwards like Robert Nilsson and Gilbert Brule gave the Preds' defense fits at times. After a nifty tic-tac-toe passing play between J.P. Dumont and Jason Arnott ended up with a Patric Hornqvist goal midway through the second to make it 4-2, Nilsson put on his second display of speed, bursting through the defense to pull the Oilers to within a goal at 4-3.
Often, the Preds had to settle in to packing the slot defensively as Edmonton kept bringing pressure, but they were able to keep most shots from getting the net (in the second period, each team only fired 6 on goal). Nashville got a bit of breathing room in the waning seconds as Hornqvist got his second goal of the night, tipping a long slapshot on the power play from Ryan Suter to give the Predators a 5-3 lead heading into the third.
The final period was a classic example of a team hanging on for victory; the Oilers outshot the Preds 10-5, including a couple especially dangerous chances. In the end, however, Jerred Smithson buried a lead pass by Legwand to make the final score 6-3, just seconds after getting denied an empty-netter because the play was offside.
Dan Ellis ended up with 21 saves on 22 Oiler shots, and Hornqvist led the Nashville scorers with two goals and an assist. J.P. Dumont, David Legwand, and Ryan Suter each had two assists.
It was hardly a perfect game by the Preds, considering the sluggish start and 5 total penalties, including a Too Many Men call which typically drives coaches nuts. The penalty killers also got lit up twice, on the initial goal of the game and then later in the second period while trying to defend a two-goal lead. In the end, however, persistent work by the entire group led to a huge comeback victory over an Oiler squad that had won 5 straight before Tuesday night.
And what about this offense? After having scored 5, 7, and now 6 goals in the last 3 games, the Preds now sport a Goals per Game figure of 2.77, good enough for 16th in the NHL. Last two seasons, they've been mired in 24th.
From here, the Predators head to Calgary for a Saturday afternoon (3:00 Central) start against the Flames, before moving on to Vancouver on Tuesday to wrap up the western Canada swing. Their next home game is Saturday night, December 26 vs. Chicago.
For discounted tickets to any Nashville Predators home game, you can follow this link and use the special offer code "PREDS".
Looking at the advanced stats, it's a bit remarkable that the top line of Sullivan-Arnott-Erat actually shut down the Oilers, only allowing two shots on goal at even strength in roughly 15 minutes of ice time, and the Ward-Legwand-Smithson line tipped the ice in their favor for most of the night.. Rookie Nick Spaling had what appears to be a rough game, but it should be noted that 4th-liners often come out on the poor end of these metrics. His defensive play in particular was often helpful in holding onto the Nashville lead.
|Even Strength||Individual Totals||Team Totals While Player Is On Ice|
|Player||Pos||EV TOI||Shots||Shts Blkd||Missed Shts||Blocks||SOG For||SOG Ag||SOG +/-||Tot SF||Tot SA||Corsi|
|J P Dumont||R||13:25||0||0||0||1||6||7||-1||15||16||-1|