The Nashville Predators looked to build off a win Tuesday night tonight against the Edmonton Oilers, while the Oilers were fighting for their playoff lives.
The Oilers got off to a good start, in spite of Jesse Puljujarvi taking a penalty less than a minute in. It gave the Predators a power play opportunity, but the Oilers’ penalty kill worked aggressively up the ice and seemed to spend most of their 4v5 time in the Preds’ end.
However, Filip Forsberg scored the first goal of the game, making it up the ice and jump-starting the Preds’ attack before finishing it off with his 200th career goal. Shortly after, Nick Cousins drew a penalty, sending Darnell Nurse to the penalty box and putting the Preds back on the power play.
The Oilers’ penalty kill was once again up to the task, keeping the puck almost entirely out of their end and entirely preventing the Preds from getting set up. It might be advisable for the Preds to avoid drawing any more penalties—in fact, according to Natural Stat Trick, on the Preds’ first two power plays the Oilers led in almost every offensive category while shorthanded: shots 4-3, unblocked shots 4-0, shots on goal 3-0, high-danger chances 1-0, and expected goals 0.13-0. Scoring chances were 1-1 for the teams, and actual goals 0-0.
Energized by their penalty kill, the Oilers continued to press the attack, eventually drawing a penalty of their own as Mattias Ekholm was called for a cross-check against Kailer Yamamoto. Mark Borowiecki had to help Juuse Saros out early on the penalty kill, as the Oilers got to work with no impediment at all. Some valiant work by Saros and the skaters let the Preds escape their penalty kill unscathed, but it was a stressful two minutes.
In the dying minutes of the period, the Preds managed to make it back to their offensive zone, a side of the ice the puck had seen very little of. Mikko Koskinen had only faced three shots up to that point, and only saved two of those; he got a chance to get some work in in the last few minutes of the period.
Unfortunately for the Preds, Connor McDavid on a quick counterattack scored to tie the game 1-1 with just under 30 seconds remaining before first intermission.
Further unfortunately for the Preds, Oilers defender Evan Bouchard opened the second period by putting the puck over the glass, sending the Preds back to the power play. The Oilers, shorthanded, once again had the better of the looks, and play mercifully returned to 5v5.
Koskinen, falling down, managed to make a save on Matt Duchene; at the other end, Saros scrambled desperately to make a save on McDavid. A long shift trapping the Preds in the defensive zone led Ryan Johansen to take a slashing penalty, and the Oilers’ lethal power play—even more threatening than their penalty kill, which seems cosmically unfair—got another chance.
The Preds managed to kill it again, this time even briefly getting out of their own zone, and this time Duchene did manage to score almost immediately after play returned to 5v5. Play opened up after that, with a rapid exchange of chances at both ends, but the majority of the zone time again fell to the Oilers.
Despite their skilled attack, it was a weird pinballing bounce off a faceoff that allowed the Oilers to tie the game again. The shot deflected at least twice—off Cousins and Johansen—on its way from the faceoff dot to the back of the net; it was initially credited to Derek Ryan, which would have made it a triple deflection, but the NHL eventually walked that back and re-credited it to Bouchard, who’d opened the period with that wisely-placed puck over glass.
The emphasis on the deflection isn’t meant to let the Preds off the hook. Saros had already faced more than half again as many shots as Koskinen, whose name I had to double-check just now because he’s had so little to do this game; if you keep bleeding shots, not even counting the wear and tear from extended d-zone shifts, some of the bounces will go against you.
Tanner Jeannot started the third period by hitting a post, and the Preds actually managed to spend some time in the offensive zone. They dodged a bullet in the process, as Koskinen played the puck in the Martin Brodeur No-Fly Zone but the referees missed it, allowing the Preds to continue their attack.
Before too long, the Oilers regained possession and settled back into the Preds’ zone, first allowing a few quick shots the other way and then settling in to bury Saros in pucks. The Duchene line did briefly locate the offensive zone again, but it didn’t last long. A better chance came for the Herd Line, but that too didn’t last long.
With less than a minute to go, Zach Hyman knocked Alexandre Carrier into Saros, which then dislodged the net from its mooring. Play resumed, and the clock ran out as the teams headed to OT still tied 2-2.
While the Preds managed to secure possession early, and Koskinen had to make a big save on Duchene, the Oilers then got hold of the puck. Both Saros and the post had to step up big. The Preds got a couple of shots of their own, but weren’t able to secure any kind of sustained offensive possession until the final half-minute or so of overtime, and with 3.3 seconds remaining in OT they were called for too many men on the ice as Roman Josi tried to jump on before a tired Johansen made it back to the bench.
Colton Sissons won that faceoff, though, and the game headed to the skills competition, where McDavid scored the only goal of the shootout.
All in all, this was a deeply inglorious outing for the Predators, with Juuse Saros the only player in gold to distinguish himself. The offense, defense, power play, and penalty kill all struggled badly. Jeannot, Yakov Trenin, and Luke Kunin got some solid chances in, but the Herd Line, Benning, and—shockingly—Josi, who spent half his icetime against Leon Draisatl, were the only players who so much as broke even in xG share at even strength. (While Josi was able to shut down Draisatl reasonably well, the matchup against McDavid went considerably worse.) The rest of the team didn’t deserve the one point they got; Saros didn’t deserve the loss. A rough game to watch.