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Oilers chase Rinne, shock Predators 6-3

by John Manasso
NASHVILLE – Ales Hemsky's last hat trick came so long ago that the city he was playing in at the time has since changed names.
In the 550th game of his NHL career, Hemsky, a two-time 20-goal scorer, recorded his first hat trick and added an assist, helping Edmonton down the Predators 6-3 at Bridgestone Arena.
Hemsky said the last time he scored a hat trick was probably in junior when he played for the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Hull Olympiques 11 or 12 years ago. Hull is now part of the city of Gatineau, Que.
"That was different hockey," quipped Hemsky. "It's not NHL."
Edmonton coach Tom Renney, whose team is 3-0-1 in its last four, was visibly surprised when he was informed that Hemsky, who has 123 career goals, had never recorded a hat trick in his ninth season in the League.
"I can't believe that," Renney said. "That's amazing. Well, good for him and hopefully a lot more."
In one of those strange quirks of the NHL season, the Oilers have owned the Predators in 2011-12. Edmonton, which entered the day next-to-last in the overall standings, won the season series 3-1-0, outscoring Nashville 15-6 in those three wins.
For the Predators, the day began optimistically with news that wing Alex Radulov, after four years of playing in the KHL, would likely rejoin the team. Trotz met with Radulov after Tuesday's game, and the Predators said he will receive his jersey from GM David Poile on Wednesday before practice at Bridgestone Arena.
Preds coach Barry Trotz said in the morning that he did not want Radulov to be a distraction for the Predators, who were coming off a 2-1-1 road trip. After outshooting the Oilers 44-20, he thought they did a good job of that, but nonetheless the Predators squandered a chance to move two points ahead of Detroit for fourth in the Western Conference. The Central Division rivals entered the day tied with 92 points and now have played the same number of games.
Edmonton chased Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne, who began the night tied for the League lead in wins with 39, with three goals on seven shots. The third goal came 28 seconds into the second period when Rinne left a fat rebound of a shot from just inside the blue line and Hemsky lifted the puck over Rinne's left pad before the goalie could freeze the puck. Anders Lindback replaced Rinne with Nashville down 3-1.
Trotz said Rinne has been the team's MVP but sensed that Tuesday was not his night.
"Ninety-nine out of a hundred, Peks probably just snaps that up," Trotz said of the third goal. "It was just a wrist shot…. But I just felt at that point, I know it was basically the first shift of the second period where I felt I got to change the mojo a little bit. It's one of those nights."  
Ex-Predator Randy Jones quickly made it 4-1, cashing in a rebound for a power-play goal at 5:51.
Nashville had a goal disallowed at 9:26 of the second when it was ruled the Preds' Patric Hornqvist made contact with Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk (41 saves). Dubnyk said Hornqvist made contact with him both before and after the shot was taken.
Hornqvist then earned his team-leading 24th at 12:35 on a power play. But Hemsky completed his hat trick by scoring on an unassisted breakaway at 14:03 for a 5-2 lead after two periods.
Hemsky picked up Matt Halischuk's pass along the boards and went in alone. He said he almost messed up the goal.
"I was a little nervous when I went there," he said. "I kind of panicked a little bit. I got lucky on the third one. Finally. Finally, break some luck."
Edmonton only had one shot through the game's first 12 minutes, but another ex-Predator, Darcy Hordichuk, made the Oilers' second one count. In a matchup of fourth lines, Hordichuk, standing behind the goal line, banked a shot off the skate of Preds defenseman Kevin Klein and into the net at 12:50 of the first period, as rookie center Craig Smith was late in defending the play.
Edmonton took advantage of a 2-on-1 to make it 2-0 at 16:32. Hemsky called his own number and beat Rinne to the stick side with a wrist shot. The play was briefly reviewed, as Nashville's Martin Erat checked Oilers forward Sam Gagner into the goal, dislodging the net. The officials ruled the puck crossed the goal line first.
David Legwand got Nashville on the board with 6.8 seconds left in the first. Shea Weber threw the puck to the net from the right boards, creating a scrum in front. Gabriel Bourque tipped the puck to Legwand, who dove to poke the puck past Dubnyk.
Legwand scored his second of the game and 18th of the season at 4:18 of the third, but Dubnyk made 17 saves in the final period, including a save on Martin Erat on a breakaway on a gorgeous pass from Ryan Suter, and Gagner hit the empty net with 1:41 left.
"They're going to push," Dubnyk said. "They're battling for home ice advantage and they put on a real good push in the third."
Edmonton's young players have garnered most of the headlines this season. Renney was asked about some of the veterans – Gagner also had an assist – having a big night.
"It's nice to see the results for those guys," he said. "It's not been an easy season for us. But it is a season that we continue to go through and will be better for in the long run."
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