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First-period flurry pushes Predators past Oilers

by Robby Stanley

NASHVILLE -- The Nashville Predators scored three first-period goals in a 3-2 win against the Edmonton Oilers at Bridgestone Arena on Tuesday.

"I was really happy about the first period. I was concerned a little bit going into the game, just coming off of the long road trip," said Predators coach Peter Laviolette, referring to Nashville's 4-2-0 trip. "Historically, it's meant to be a flat period for the home team. I think our guys did a really good job of conquering that and coming out and playing a real hard period."

The Predators took a 1-0 lead at 2:51 when Mike Ribeiro tapped in a puck that trickled through Oilers goaltender Viktor Fasth's legs. Predators forward James Neal took the shot that created the chance, and Filip Forsberg picked up the secondary assist to extend his point streak to six games.

"We put the puck deep and got it back from their defense because we were kind of all over the place, I guess, in the start there," Forsberg said. "I think that was the key for our quick start."

Matt Cullen gave Nashville a 2-0 lead at 9:21. Predators defenseman Seth Jones took a wrist shot that went off the boards, and Cullen dove headfirst to backhand the puck past Fasth. It was Cullen's fifth point in seven games since coming back from injury.

"He's a guy with a lot of skill," Predators defenseman Shea Weber said of Cullen. "When he's healthy, he's helping our team, so we're thankful he's back."

Forsberg scored his sixth goal in as many games with 54 seconds remaining in the first to put the Predators up 3-0. His shot from in close off a feed from Ribeiro from behind the net went in off Fasth's pads.

"It was just trying to stay on the forecheck," Forsberg said. "We were talking about staying on the forecheck. It's been working pretty good against these guys before, so that was a big key for our game. I just tried to stay on the forecheck there. [Ribeiro] got the puck and just threw it in there, and I just tried to get it on the net."

Nashville's top line of Forsberg, Ribeiro and Neal has at least a point in seven consecutive games.

"There is an open-door policy for getting to the offensive zone and creating havoc," Laviolette said. "That line seems to have it going on right now."

Ben Scrivens replaced Fasth in goal to start the second period, and it seemed to provide a spark for the Oilers. Edmonton forward Benoit Pouliot cut the lead to 3-1 when he scored 31 seconds into the period on a wrist shot over Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins assisted for his fifth point in as many games.

"It was just kind of a fluky goal. It got a redirect from a bad angle, and those redirects are tough things to handle sometimes," Laviolette said. "They gained some momentum from that and they picked it up."

Nail Yakupov scored to make it 3-2 at 14:42 of the second period. Oilers forward David Perron made a backhand pass through the crease, and Yakupov was planted by the net to one-time the puck past Rinne.

"I thought we settled down after the first period and got our feet underneath us," Edmonton coach Dallas Eakins said. "We had a good meeting in between periods and defaulted back to what we've been practicing a lot, how we've been playing as of late. I thought we were much better through the remaining two periods, but that's too far a hole to dig in this league."

Edmonton had power-play chances at the end of the second period and the beginning of the third but was unable to convert. Scrivens stopped all 18 shots he faced in relief. Edmonton finished its five-game road trip 2-3-0.

"We're playing very, very well in stretches, and then we need to get better in stretches. We've been very streaky," Eakins said.

Neal finished the game with a season-high 10 shots on goal for Nashville and 15 shot attempts. Rinne is 5-1-0 in his past six games, and Nashville has won three in a row.

"[Rinne] is unbelievable. It's such a confidence boost for our team to have him back there," Forsberg said. "It feels like we don't even have to play defense sometimes because we know he's there. He's been really good for us, for sure."

Edmonton returns home to play the Ottawa Senators on Thursday, when Nashville visits the St. Louis Blues.

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