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Eberle's three-point game leads Oilers past Predators

by Derek Van Diest

EDMONTON -- Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins just needed the Nashville Predators back in town to snap a long goal-scoring drought.

Nugent-Hopkins scored the game-winning goal in a 5-1 victory against the Predators on Tuesday night, snapping a 15-game scoring skid. His previous goal had come against the Predators in their most recent visit to Edmonton on Jan. 26.

"Tonight was one of those nights where everything went right, but we worked for it," Nugent-Hopkins said. "Coming back from road trips, sometimes you can get a little lazy, but I thought we did a really good job of not letting that affect us.

"The biggest thing for us was we were working the cycle game. If you're playing with the puck, you get more chances."

Jordan Eberle led the way offensively for the Oilers with two goals and an assist. Sam Gagner and Taylor Hall also scored for the Oilers, who won all three games against the Predators to sweep the season series.

Gabriel Bourque scored the Predators' only goal.

"It's nice to score a little bit," Eberle said. "That being said, we also kept the puck out of our net. Our penalty-killing was great, and our power play is finally starting to score, which is huge. The biggest thing with our offense right now is that our power play hasn't been contributing the way it needs to, and to get a couple of goals on the power play definitely helps."

Oilers goaltender Viktor Fasth made 28 saves in improving his career record against the Predators to 4-0-0. Predators goalie Pekka Rinne allowed five goals on 26 shots before being pulled in the third period. Carter Hutton stopped four shots in relief.

"It was obviously not the best game for myself," Rinne said. "I'm disappointed for sure. It's the way it goes, I guess, once in a while, but it's not acceptable. It's a little bit embarrassing too."

Gagner opened the scoring at 19:25 of the first period, getting to a rebound in front of Rinne and lifting a shot over the goaltender. The play started with David Perron fighting off a check in the corner before finding defenseman Martin Marincin at the point. Marincin took a shot through traffic that Rinne stopped, but the rebound fell to Gagner.

Nugent-Hopkins increased the lead to 2-0 on the power play at 8:18 of the second period, taking a cross-crease feed from Eberle and firing a shot past Rinne.

Hall put Edmonton up 3-0 at 14:48 of the second on a bizarre sequence of events. The Oilers left wing lifted a backhand shot over Rinne that appeared to hit the crossbar. Play continued for more than a minute, during which the Predators came close to scoring and Oilers defenseman Mark Fraser was assessed a holding penalty.

A video review once play stopped determined Hall's shot had gone in the net, and the clock was reset back to the time of Hall's original shot.

Fraser's penalty, however, did stand up, putting the Oilers on the penalty kill immediately after the goal was awarded.

"Our whole bench knew it was in, and then we were just waiting for the whistle," Oilers coach Dallas Eakins said. "All of the play that was going on was just going to be put back on the clock. Unfortunately, we ended up taking a penalty there. It's always interesting when they back up time and put it all back up on the clock, and the game is suddenly longer than it was supposed to be."

Bourque cut into the Oilers' lead at 18:39, lifting a shot over Fasth from in tight.

In the third, Eberle scored his first goal at 8:38, taking a pass from Anton Lander in front and lifting a backhand shot over Rinne. He added another 1:23 later to make it 5-1, getting a loose puck in the neutral zone and powering a backhander through Rinne, who was pulled and replaced by Hutton.

"If you're going to play the Edmonton Oilers, they have really good forwards," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "They're skilled, they'll challenge you one-on-one, and if you're one-on-one play is not good and if you're not giving your goaltender any support, they'll just hang on to the puck. That's what they do.

"They love to cycle, they love to move around, and we didn't kill any cycles, we were mirroring people and we were light on the puck. We had a lot of no-shows, guys that didn't play to their capabilities, and that's not good enough for us."

Oilers left wing Nail Yakupov was a late scratch for Edmonton due to an ankle injury. Right wing Matt Hendricks left the game in the second period with a leg injury and did not return.

The Oilers continue their six-game homestand Thursday when they host the Buffalo Sabres. The Predators travel to play the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday.

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