This is Edmonton's last game before the 2016 NHL All-Star Game. The Oilers will return to action Tuesday, February 2, against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The 7:00 p.m. MT game can be seen on Sportsnet West or heard on 630 CHED and the Oilers Radio Network.
EDMONTON, AB – Though the Oilers were first to get on the board, thanks to Leon Draisaitl’s 12th goal of the season, they were unable to keep the Predators at bay, falling 4-1 to Nashville.
Three minutes into the first, Oilers defenceman Andrej Sekera registered the game’s first shot for Edmonton with a clean strike from the top of the blueline, but Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne robbed him of the opportunity, catching the shot in his glove.
Two minutes later, a prime opportunity presented itself for Nail Yakupov, who one-timed a pass from Jordan Eberle in front of Nashville’s net, but the puck traveled an inch off course to the right of Rinne’s pad.
The Predators had their chances early too.
As Nashville advanced into Edmonton’s zone, Predators defenceman Shea Weber fired off two shots, less than a minute apart, on Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot, but the netminder denied him of each.
The Oilers were unable to capitalize on their first man advantage after Nashville forward James Neal received a two-minute penalty for slashing Iiro Pakarinen midway through the first. Once back to even strength, however, Draisaitl edged Edmonton forward 1-0 after advancing into Predators territory on a pass from Taylor Hall. Draisaitl drove to the crease and backhanded a rolling puck into the top right corner of Rinne’s net.
The celebrations were short-lived though, as Nashville responded 1:42 after Edmonton’s goal. A scramble in front of Talbot’s net saw the Predators deliver three consecutive shots. Mattias Ekholm scored the equalizer, earning his sixth goal of the season, on a distant shot that slid to the left of Talbot’s pad, trickling into the net.
“It was a tough game for us but I thought we played pretty well,” said Hall.
“We battled hard, they’re a pretty good team that comes hard. They have a healthy lineup and quite frankly we don’t. So not only do we not have a healthy lineup, our schedule’s been terrible, so all things considered, I think it was a pretty good effort and we played hard.”
Nashville started the second period on the man advantage after Pakarinen ended the first with a two-minute penalty for hooking with only seven seconds to go in the opening frame.
“It’s tough. You want to win every time, especially when you’re headed into the All-Star break,” said Pakarinen. “I think we didn’t play that bad. We had our own chances and they had a pretty lucky goal that one, and that was too big a penalty by me. I think we played a pretty good game and we had some chances too but their goalie was great tonight.”
A lost puck in Talbot’s crease granted Nashville a 2-1 lead on the power play after the puck, tipped in by Ekholm, slid under his pad during a scrum in front of the net at the 1:48 mark.
The Oilers first opportunity came early in the frame from Lauri Korpikoski point-blank from the top of the crease.
At 15:34, Griffin Reinhart followed suit with two great chances to score, firing a shot from the top of the left circle and then his own rebound but Rinne was equal to the task.
“I liked Griff’s game tonight. He defended well, he jumped up into the play, he had some good scoring chances, he was assertive. He played hard, and I was impressed with his game,” said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan.
“The good thing about it is there’s always internal competition, and he’s throwing himself back in the mix. There’s going to be other guys. Davy is going to get healthy, then Klef’s going to get healthy on that back-end. I like that. I like when we have guys pushing each other, rather than just showing up knowing they’re going to play.”
A mass scramble in front of Nashville’s net saw Sekera with a chance to score with 1:01 left in the second, but the shot went wide as the Oilers scrambled to regain possession and keep pressure in the Predators zone.
With 16 seconds remaining in that frame, Eric Gryba and Neal each received two-minute penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct. After 40 minutes of play, the Oilers trailed the Predators 2-1.
"It’s not ideal but I thought we kept playing. We played in their end for a lot of [the third] period, and like I said, we’re shorthanded and we’re a tired group. We battled hard and I thought we could have deserved a little bit better," said Hall.
Mike Fisher opened the third scoring 52 seconds into the period, giving Nashville a two-goal lead, and recording his sixth goal of the season.
“I think that hurt us a little bit,” said Pakarinen. “It’s always tough when you’re one goal down and [are trying] to get that 2-2 goal and they score that 3-1 goal, it’s always tough when you’re two goals behind.”
Edmonton received their third power play of the night after Eric Nystrom was sent to the penalty box for slashing at 16:11. Although they were unable to capitalize, the Oilers continued to get chances throughout the frame. Draisaitl delivered another shot that deflected off Fisher’s stick, which snapped on impact.
Edmonton was unable to inch any closer to Nashville, with Preds forward Filip Forsberg burying one more for Nashville after Talbot retreated to the Oilers bench.
Tonight’s game marked the second of three meetings this season between the Oilers and Predators and the first of two games in Edmonton. The last time these teams met was in Nashville on October 10 where the Predators shutout the Oilers 2-0.
“We had some guys who really came and participated and were hard and had an impact on the game,” said McLellan. “Then we had some passengers. The passengers let the rest of the group down and that’s what we get. When we’re as thin as we are right now, we can’t have that.”
Eight of the Oilers last 10 games have been decided by one goal, including last game where they were defeated 3-2 by the Dallas Stars.
This is Edmonton's last game before the 2016 NHL All-Star Break. Hall, who leads the Oilers in points (47), and is ranked sixth in NHL scoring, has been named to the All-Star game in Nashville and will represent the Pacific Division.
After playing nine games in 15 nights, the Oilers will go nine days between games. They return to action February 2 at home against the Blue Jackets.