Nashville, TN -- After nearly shutting out Carolina on Thursday evening, the Nashville Predators found a chance to redeem the late goal allowed to the Hurricanes and grab their first winning streak of the season. Collecting goals from both Craig Smith and Filip Forsberg, Nashville shut down the Edmonton Oilers with a 2-0 win Saturday evening.
Jarnkrok on the top line? Jarnkrok on the top line.
It was predicted -- based on Friday's lines during practice -- that Calle Jarnkrok and James Neal would flip-flop their spots in the lineup, moving Jarnkrok to the first line.
That's exactly what happened against the Oilers on Saturday night, handing the former second round draft pick his first taste of top line action in a Predators uniform.
For the most part, it seemed Jarnkrok was quite comfortable on the top line -- almost as if he was designed to play there from the start. However, he only stayed on the first line for the majority of the first period before finding himself in a constant stream of line adjustments due to a shortened bench with Nashville's penalty trouble throughout the evening.
"I'll be honest, it got moved around a little bit," said head coach Peter Laviolette. "There was a lot of penalty kills for us tonight. The bench got broken up by the lines a little bit. I thought both Jarnkrok and Neal had good games, but at some point when we're in the third period we cut down the bench a little bit and just got to a rotation.
Jarnkrok would finish the evening with 14:36 of ice time and only one shot on net, however he had plenty of opportunities as the night waned on.
I wasn't entirely sure about how necessary it was to promote Jarnkrok to the first line only one game into the 2015-16 season. Especially with Laviolette stating the team wasn't "producing as much as we'd like" after Nashville's 2-1 win over Carolina on Thursday evening.
That being said, swapping Jarnkrok and Neal gave the Predators a quick-change ability to match up successfully against Edmonton's constant line changes throughout the game -- including the aforementioned penalty trouble.
Producing offensive chances during defensive hockey
Laviolette made it very clear on Friday that he wasn't pleased with the way Nashville's production was for its number of offensive chances Thursday night against the Hurricanes. If he didn't like certain elements of their game then, one can only surmise how he felt during the Edmonton game on Saturday.
Both teams found themselves frustrating each other in the neutral zone, fighting for space on the ice through the majority of regulation.
"I thought Edmonton played real well. They were competitive, they were fast. Quick and heavy in the battles," said Laviolette. "We talked about it after the first period. You could sense that right away. Sometimes you can sense when there's a little bit more room out there to go back and forth. There wasn't that type of room tonight. Everything had to be done quick and on point. If it wasn't, it wasn't going to work. I thought it was a real good game."
This isn't outside the norm against the Oilers, either. Nashville has had its fair share of trouble against Edmonton for the past handful of years -- regardless of who's behind the bench for them -- but the Predators have mounted a 5-0-0 record in their past five home starts against the Oilers.
Neither truly made this game anything more than a chess-match until late in the third period after Filip Forsberg stretched the lead to 2-0, even with Smith's ice breaker at the end of the second to give Nashville a 1-0 lead.
Surviving the penalty storm
Nashville's problems against the Hurricanes were very clear: don't let your foot off the gas after 20 minutes of hockey.
Saturday night against Edmonton it was a tad different: stay out of the box against a potentially quick-strike, offensive team like the Oilers.
The Predators ended up taking five separate trips to the penalty box, killing off all five of them in the process. It's great practice for a penalty kill unit that had its fair share of trouble last season, but Nashville doesn't want to make it a habit of having to kill mountains of penalties every game.
"The five tonight was too many. We have to get better at that. We can't go to the box like that," said Laviolette.
Through two games this season, Nashville has taken a total of eight penalties. That's not a recipe for success, even if your penalty kill rate stands at 100 percent. It's something, though, that the Predators are sure to work at here in the next handful of games.
"We want to stay out of the box," Forsberg said. "We're doing a good job right now, but we can't take this many penalties. It's going to hurt us. The penalty kill is doing a great job and [Rinne] is playing great, so I can't complain too much about it tonight."
Filip Forsberg, Nashville Predators -- Forsberg was doing everything he could possibly think of to put a puck in the back of the net prior to the end of the game. Luckily for him, Mike Ribeiro found him cruising up the slot midway through the third and he blasted one past Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot for a 2-0 lead.
Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators -- He didn't earn the shutout on Thursday night, but he was able to get the goose-egg against Edmonton. Stopping all 31 shots, Rinne has stopped 56 of 57 through two games for the Predators.
Craig Smith, Nashville Predators -- Two games into the season and two straight times that Smith has scored the first goal of the game for the Predators. Tonight's goal was ultimately a game-winner for Nashville, as well.