Nashville Predators 2, Edmonton Oilers 4 Recap: Lacrosse with a loss

Filip Forsberg may have scored the elusive Michigan backhander, but it wasn’t enough to stop the Leon Draisaitl show.

Before the game begins, some notable changes to the line-up: Dante Fabbro, who had been day-to-day with an upper body injury since the Winter Classic, returned to his regular pairing with Mattias Ekholm, effectively removing Jarred Tinordi from the line-up. Alexandre Carrier stayed on the third pairing with Dan Hamhuis. At the same time, Filip Forsberg was reunited with Matt Duchene and Mikael Granlund, while Calle Jarnkrok returned to the top line with Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson. Pekka Rinne stood between the pipes for the team after Juuse Saros got the shutout against Winnipeg on Sunday. Mike Smith got the start for the Oilers, pitting the two goalies with the most recent goalie goals against each other. Reminder: James Neal plays for Edmonton.

What Happened

The teams started the game by trading off shots on goal without either team getting a real chance to get set up in the offensive zone for a few minutes. Eventually, both teams were able to establish sustained attacks in their respective offensive zones, yet all scoring attempts were handled by Rinne and Smith with ease. However, around nine minutes into the period, Leon Draisaitl won a faceoff in the Predators’ defensive zone and sent the puck to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who fired off a laser that went past Mattias Ekholm and Pekka Rinne to put the Oilers up 1-0.

Less than two minutes later, Filip Forsberg took the puck behind Mike Smith’s net, scooped it up lacrosse style and deposited the puck into the net, becoming only the second NHLer to score in this fashion. Of course, this evened things out at 1-1.

When your team goes down early in a game, you always want an answer. This probably wasn’t the answer anyone was expecting, but it was the goal everyone had been dreaming of. Actually, no, everyone has been dreaming of Pekka Rinne’s goal, but now, they’ll dream about this one. Either way, the Predators soon went on the power play after Yakov Trenin was tripped. While time expired without a goal, the Predators had established themselves fully in the offensive zone. After the puck floated out to the neutral zone, both teams went for a change when Yannick Weber fired the puck back to Colin Blackwell, who entered the zone, passed to Nick Bonino and crashed the net. Bonino made a last minute pass back to Colin Blackwell who slammed the puck home, putting the Predators up 2-1.

With around one minute left in the period, Yannick Weber was called for hooking, putting the Oilers on the power play. With 17 seconds remaining in the penalty, the Oilers PP1 unit got in too close. Even though Pekka Rinne made several stops, he couldn’t freeze the puck and Leon Draisaitl was able to take advantage, evening the score back up at 2.

The second period started with some spirited scoring chances from both teams as the challenge was to quickly take command of the game. One of the more impressive things noticeable early on was Colin Blackwell entering the zone, only to absorb a hit from Darnell Nurse. However, no one secured the puck and Blackwell soldiered on and created a scoring chance. Whether this is the product of Hynes’s coaching, Blackwell’s determination to keep a spot on the roster, or a combination of both, this is certainly a great new look for Nashville.

About halfway through the period, the Oilers took a 3-2 lead when Josh Archibald sent a pass from Connor McDavid past Rinne.

The Predators nearly evened it up seconds later as Forsberg tried to go five-hole on Mike Smith, but Smith was able to corral it.

The Predators began playing with an intensity that I haven’t seen in a long time. A sustained offensive zone attack that cycled through all four lines, while generating tons of excitement and scoring chances, yielded no goals. However, the intensity continued until a media time-out gave both teams a break. Coming back from commercial, it seemed as though the Predators were determined to end the second period tied.

Unfortunately, during the continued intensity in front of Mike Smith, Mikael Granlund was called for high sticking when his stick was lifted into the face of Connor McDavid. Moments later, James Neal was called for slashing against his former teammate, Calle Jarnkrok. The teams had a solid minute and a half to play 4-on-4 before the period expired. Time expired with Edmonton up, 3-2.

Though the third period started with the Predators on the power play for a few seconds, they decided to forego starting with a power play unit. After spending the first minute in the offensive zone, Leon Draisaitl had breakaway scoring chance that he failed to convert and the Oilers spent the next minute in their zone.  The third period was shaping up to be one of the most exciting period of hockey we’ve seen out of the Predators in a while with both teams trading incredible shots and incredible saves.

It seemed inevitable that someone was going to break through and score soon. Although the back and forth went on for quite some time, Kailer Yamamoto was called for interference, putting the Predators on the power play. Despite some solid looks, the Predators left the power play the way they came on, trailing 3-2.

A short time later, Rocco Grimaldi was called for interference to put the Oilers back on the power play. Putting the Oilers on the power play is never a good idea, by the way. However, the Predators escaped unscathed. Back and forth play continued into the waning minutes of the game with Predators desperately trying to even things up. Yannick Weber and Dante Fabbro were working together (in order to put Mattias Ekholm and Roman Josi together for the scoring threat) when McDavid nearly pulled some wizardry on Pekka Rinne. However, Rinne’s magic is stronger than McDavid’s and he was able to stop him.

A short while later, Pekka Rinne was headed off the ice when the Predators lost possession. As Rinne scurried back to the crease to make an incredible stop, the Predators were called for too many men on the ice as Rinne’s replacement had already joined the team on the ice. The Predators found themselves on the penalty kill for the remainder of regulation.

As the Predators won the face-off, Rinne headed to the bench, but a clear allowed the Oilers to grab the puck in the offensive zone with no icing, which led to several Predators in the crease trying to stop the inevitable. Shortly thereafter, Leon Draisaitl potted the empty-netter, putting the Oilers up 4-2. Time expired with the Predators losing by two.

OTF’s Super Duper Stars of the Game

3rd: Colin Blackwell - the Professor scored his second goal in three games and definitely stirred up some discussion about who stays and who goes once Sissons returns.

2nd: Pekka Rinne - he kept the game as close as it was with some incredible saves.

1st: Filip Forsberg - scored the Michigan Backhander/Lacrosse goal.

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