The Nashville Predators started their Western Canada road trip tonight in Edmonton, desperately hoping to scrape some wins together. Their season has been bad so far, with a struggling offense, a worse power play, and not enough defense or—especially—goaltending to make up for it. Unfortunately for the Preds, the skid continued, as the Edmonton Oilers took a decisive win.
Mattias Ekholm got the scoring started early with his first of the season, taking advantage of a weird bounce to get the Preds on the board 34 seconds in. Unfortunately, the Oilers soon responded, as Leon Draisaitl made a fantastic pass to Evander Kane and Kane managed to lose the Preds defenders before putting the puck past Saros.
This was entirely forgivable—Draisaitl is a good player, and things happen sometimes—but the Preds then proceeded to let the exact same thing happen again just over three minutes later. Seconds after that, Connor McDavid scored to put the Oilers up 3-1.
John Hynes called a timeout with 12:09 still remaining in the first period. While they returned with more energy, Kiefer Sherwood almost immediately took a penalty for cross-checking, giving the Oilers a chance on the power play. While the Preds were able to kill off the penalty, they weren’t really able to recover. Roman Josi, clearly frustrated, let himself to start some hostilities behind the net. The Preds weren’t penalized for that, but they still remained in their own zone, where the Oilers had backed them in ages ago, with Saros facing shot after shot until fourth-liner Derek Ryan got a fourth goal past him.
That finally did seem to give the Preds a little bit of a jump, as they pressed the attack for the last couple of minutes of the period before the buzzer sounded with the score still 4-1 Oilers. Some post-whistle hostilities followed, setting the rest of the tone before intermission.
Although the Preds actually did get out to a strong start in the second, with Matt Duchene just missing the net a few seconds in, they were pushed back before too long. Alexandre Carrier then took a penalty. The Preds killed it off, even managing to make it into the offensive zone briefly while shorthanded, but the relief was shortlived. A failed odd-man rush from the Preds led to Sherwood taking his second penalty of the night tripping Kane while trying to break up a 2-on-0 going the other way.
Oddly, the NHL hasn’t yet made an exception to the usual penalty rules, so the Preds went right back on the kill. Saros had to make a massive save against McDavid seconds in, and another one shortly after, but the third time was the charm for both McDavid and the power play, as another try went through and gave the Oilers a 5-1 lead.
Brett Kulak at this point gave the Preds a chance of their own, taking a whack at Filip Forsberg’s hands and heading to the penalty box as a result. The Preds’ struggling power play got some time on the ice. Mikael Granlund had some persistent chances early before Josi set up Ryan Johansen for the Preds’ second goal of the night, and their fourth power-play goal of the season.
A questionable hit from Markus Niemeläinen against Ekholm led to a big scuffle, but the only penalty called was on Michael McCarron, when Niemeläinen didn’t want to fight about the hit. The Oilers headed back to the power play, but the Preds were again able to kill it off, with Saros kept busy heading back into 5v5 play.
Again, in the dying minutes of the period, the Preds began to mount an attack. Saros had to make a diving save on McDavid, but for the most part the puck remained at the opposite end of the rink from him, and without exception Oilers goalie Jack Campbell was able to keep it out of the Oilers’ net, leaving his team up 5-2 heading into intermission.
The Preds almost managed to score as the third period started—Campbell lost the puck and gave it up into traffic—but the Oilers found the puck before Granlund did and got the clear. Nashville continued to press, with Josi ringing iron, and Forsberg eventually managed to tally, making the score 5-3 and closing the Preds’ deficit to two goals with 15:09 to go.
A revitalized Oilers team returned to the attack, getting some help as Darnell Nurse continued provoking the Preds’ defenders—this time getting Ekholm to take a roughing penalty. Saros was once again called on, but an unattended Draisaitl once again set a teammate—in this case Ryan Nugent-Hopkins—up for an easy goal. 6-3.
It was, at that point, all over but the shouting, though the Oilers knew better than to turtle this time. Saros had to make some more saves—interestingly, the Oilers had only just cracked 30 shots on goal, despite the feeling of impending doom that had been building since early in the first.
With just over three minutes to go Tanner Jeannot drew an interference penalty, Tyson Barrie headed to the box, Juuse Saros headed to the bench, and the Preds went 6-on-4. Nino Niederreiter scored fifteen seconds into the two-skater advantage, and the Preds went back on the attack. Josi threw a shot in the direction of the net, forcing Campbell to make a save, and the Preds got an OZ faceoff so Saros could leave for the extra skater again.
Unfortunately, a turnover left Forsberg alone trying to defend Draisaitl and Kane again, and Kane completed his hat trick to make it 7-4 with 1:37 to go. Further hostilities ensued after the hats had been cleared off the ice. Sherwood and Jesse Puljujärvi fought; McCarron picked up another roughing penalty, putting the Oilers back on the power play for the final seconds of the game, which mercifully, after that, ended.
OTF’s Stars of the Game:
- Filip Forsberg. He made a few bad plays, but so did everyone, and Forsberg really seemed not to give up hope as the game spiraled further and further out of reach.