EDMONTON, AB -
Ryan Smyth moved closer to making history and the Edmonton Oilers scored twice on the power play, snapping a six-game losing streak in decisive fashion with a 5-1 victory over the visiting Nashville Predators.
"Any win, now, feels good. And obviously it's a special night when anyone can tie one of Gretzky's records. For Ryan, that's a special thing to see. Hopefully he can keep moving up the charts there," Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins said of Ryan Smyth's power play goal which tied him for second in Oilers history at 125 all-time PP markers (Glen Anderson is first with 126). "To match it is a great, great accomplishment. We're very proud of Ryan."
Smyth played centre onthe fourth line with Jesse Joensuu and Luke Gazdic. The trio had an effective night.
"That's the great thing about veteran guys. They don't need long heads' up about anything," said Eakins. "It's 'where do you want me to play?' and 'let's go.' He's been a pleasure to coach. He's done what we've asked of him."
Smyth talked about the record and the win.
"We needed desperately a win to get some confidence. We played with a lead and it was nice," he began. "To even tie a record with Gretz is obviously an honour. I've played a little bit longer than those guys here (Gretzky and Anderson) but needless to say, those guys are hall of famers, great players that grew the game to where it's at today."
Eakins added that he likes how Smyth enjoys going to the front of the net on the power play.
"We've used him on the net front on the power play and he's willing to go there. He likes it. He likes to be in the battle in front of the net. But the biggest thing for me was, that line's play five-on-five was great tonight. They gave us lots of minutes in the offensive zone, they cycled puck."
2:59 into the game, the Oilers’ aforementioned gritty fourth line did the dirty work and put their team on the board first. Ryan Smyth got the puck to Jesse Joensuu at the top of the crease and he found defenceman Justin Schultz, all alone on the blocker side of Carter Hutton, with a beautiful pass. Schultz fired a perfect shot past the Nashville netminder and the Oilers took a 1-0 lead.
The Predators responded with 4:35 left in the first period, when David Legwand connected on a 2-on-1 rush with a shot from the circle. Legwand was assisted by Nick Spaling and Craig Smith.
The Oilers reclaimed the lead with just 12 seconds remaining in the opening period. Taylor Hall fired a beautiful pass backdoor of Hutton and Jordan Eberle redirected the puck into the wide-open net. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins earned the second assist, on Eberle’s 18th goal of the season, by starting off the perfect play by the Oilers’ top line.
Hall’s assist was his 31st helper and 49th point of the season.
On the man advantage, Corey Potter hammered a one-timer from the point and Smyth cleaned up the garbage from the top of the crease to give the Oilers the 3-1 lead at 10:12 of the second period. The Oilers veteran was visibly enthusiastic about his goal, and rightfully so.
Smyth inched closer to Oilers franchise history as his score was the 125th power play goal of his career, tying him with Wayne Gretzky and putting him just one spot back of Glenn Anderson.
Sam Gagner set up Nail Yakupov in the slot for the one-timer and his 10th goal of the season, at 16:46 of the second period. The goal would give the Oilers a 4-1 lead.
The Yakupov goal led to chants of ‘Put in Dubnyk’ to begin rising from the crowd at Rexall Place. Goaltender Devan Dubnyk was traded to Nashville by Edmonton on January 15, in exchange for Matt Hendricks. The former Oiler however, would not see action in his return to Edmonton.
A scramble and traffic out in front of the Oilers net in the third would lead to Nashville thinking they had cut the deficit in half. However, after review it was determined that Scrivens was pinned to the ice and unable to ‘play his position’ and it was a no goal call.
Nugent-Hopkins would really seal the deal for the Oilers with his 15th goal of the season at 15:32 of the final frame. Justin Schultz passed the puck to Jordan Eberle who sauced a cross-ice feed backdoor to the Oilers’ centre and he buried it on the power play to give his team the 5-1 lead.
Scrivens made 34 saves in the win, his first as a member of the Oilers organization after being acquired in a trade with Los Angeles on January 15.