Upon announcing that Ilya Bryzgalov would start Thanksgiving night against the Nashville Predators, Edmonton Oilers coach Dallas Eakins noted how Bryzgalov arrived with swagger.
Eleven days into his Oilers career after a seven-month absence from the NHL, Bryzgalov's swagger showed in his game and rubbed off on his teammates. Making his first NHL start since April 25 when he was with the Philadelphia Flyers, Bryzgalov stopped all 33 shots to earn his 31st NHL shutout and a 3-0 win in Nashville at Bridgestone Arena.
The Oilers have won four of their past five games.
"It was great. Shutouts are always fun," Bryzgalov said. "So far, so good."
Bryzgalov was sharp in the first period by turning away all 13 Predators shots, including two quality saves on Nashville's first power play, to keep the game scoreless after one before Edmonton's offense came alive in the second.
"Check marks across the board for him. He did a great job," Eakins said. "There were never any nerves. Start to finish, everybody played well... it was a textbook game for us."
Making his first career start against Edmonton, and ninth straight overall, Nashville rookie goaltender Marek Mazanec entered the game with two shutouts in his past five starts. But Mazanec was a victim to his opponents' slick skating and deft passing.
Matching unsportsmanlike conduct penalties against Nashville's Paul Gaustad and Edmonton's David Perron led to a 4-on-4 early in the second. With more room for their fast skaters to work, the Oilers scored first when Jordan Eberle forced a turnover, skated around the boards and sent a sweet cross-ice pass to Jeff Petry, who fed a driving Ryan Nugent-Hopkins directly on the tape for a deflection past Mazanec to give Edmonton a 1-0 lead.
The Oilers took a two-goal lead 51 seconds later when Sam Gagner fed Taylor Hall on a 2-on-1. After receiving the pass, Hall turned on the jets for a back-hand deke that extended his point streak to five games (2-4-6).
“We can get a lot of opportunities with our speed in 4-on-4 situations and we were able to capitalize [Thursday]," Nugent-Hopkins said.
The Predators not only lost the game, they lost defenseman Shea Weber to an upper body injury late in the second after he absorbed a wrist shot from Perron just below his right eye. Playing on Nashville's top defensive pair with Roman Josi, Weber entered the game sixth in the League in average ice time (26:33) and has seven goals and 12 points with a minus-6 rating in 25 games.
"Obviously if we lose our captain, it's always hard and we hope he's OK and hopefully he gets back soon," Josi said.
Nashville played the second game of a back-to-back after winning 4-0 against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday night, but failed to generate goals Thursday despite a bevy of shots against Bryzgalov.
In the end, the Russian goalie was too much for the Predators.
"The guys are going to bear down and play hard for the new guy that's in net," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "The new guy for them is Bryzgalov, and we talked before the game that we needed to get in the hard areas and throw some pucks. He hasn't played for a while. He may be a little rusty. The game might not be tight. .. But obviously we didn't play hard enough in those hard areas."
Each team had one shot through the first eight-plus minutes of the game before the Oilers generated a couple of chances. Edmonton's line of Nail Yakupov, Gagner and Ales Hemsky put some pressure on the Predators' defense but Mazanec was up to the task.
Eberle added an empty-net goal at 19:03 of the third for the final margin of victory. The Predators blanked the Oilers' power play on four occasions and have killed off 20 consecutive power plays dating back to Nov. 15, but they still dropped to 3-1 all-time in games played on Thanksgiving.
Material from wire services was used in this report.