|Photo by John Russell
Predators Peter Forsberg, Alexander Radulov
and Vern Fiddler celebrate Radulov's second-period goal that made it 2-1.
The Nashville Predators defeated the Edmonton Oilers 4-3 Tuesday night at Nashville Arena. J.P. Dumont earned First Star honors with a goal and two assists while forward Ramzi Abid had a breakout game with three helpers in the victory. Goaltender Tomas Vokoun recorded his second straight win against the Oilers after shutting them out 4-0 in Edmonton on Saturday.
With the victory Nashville improves to 49-21-7, tying the franchise record for wins in a season. The Predators reclaim the top spot in the league and move two points ahead of the Detroit Red Wings for the Western Conference lead. Detroit visits Nashville Thursday for the crucial final game of the regular season series between the two bitter division rivals. Tickets are still available and can be ordered online or by calling 615-770-PUCK.
After a quiet first period, the game erupted in the first five minutes of the second. Edmonton opened the scoring with a power-play tally at 1:57 but the Predators answered less than two minutes later and added a second goal at 4:18.
Petr Sykora then scored 2:30 into the third period to tie the game for Edmonton. Sykora picked up the puck in the neutral zone and carried it a couple of strides across Nashville's blue line before using a Predators defender as a screen against Vokoun. Sykora's long shot beat Vokoun to the stick side.
Edmonton recaptured the lead at 5:57 when Toby Petersen carried a puck in from center ice and forced his way around Predators defenseman Shea Weber. After powering in from the left side, Petersen released a shot that slid past Vokoun to the far side.
For the second time in the game Nashville answered quickly, knotting the score at 3-3 just 24 seconds after Petersen's goal. Dumont made a fantastic play off the end boards to feed Jason Arnott as he charged the net. His one-timer beat goaltender Dwayne Roloson at 6:21. The Predators built on that momentum to go up 4-3 at 8:40 of the third. This time Dumont was on the receiving end as Abid delivered his third assist of the night to leave Dumont with a simple backdoor tap-in.
Nashville came up with two big penalty kills in the third to seal the win. In a symbol of the team's effort, defenseman Greg Zanon, who ranks among league leaders in blocked shots, lay down to stop a Shawn Horcoff shot in the final minute of play. The hard shot stung Zanon, who paused very briefly before climbing back to his skates. Zanon then pursued the play, wrested the puck away from an Oilers player and promptly cleared the puck down the ice to allow the Predators to swap for fresh penalty killers and close out the game.
Earlier, Dumont was whistled for hooking 1:33 into the second. Edmonton's Ales Hemsky, playing in his first game since missing nine of the last 10 games with a shoulder injury, capitalized to make it 1-0 with less than two minutes gone in the period. Dumont quickly redeemed himself for the costly penalty, leading a two-on-two rush up the middle of the ice and backhanding a feed to trailer Shea Weber. Weber's shot from the slot eluded Roloson to make it a 1-1 game at 3:37.
Twelve seconds later, Nashville's Darcy Hordichuk landed a big hit on defenseman Ladislav Smid in the left corner of Edmonton's zone. Captain Jason Smith was in the area and stood up for Smid by challenging Hordichuk to a fight. Hordichuk had the upper hand and eventually wrestled Smith to the ice. During the bout, Hordichuk's jersey rode up on him a bit, and after the battle one of the referees immediately skated over to examine the tie-down strap that all players are required to use to keep their jersey secured. In addition to a minor for charging and a major for fighting, Hordichuk was ejected from the game for not having his jersey properly tied down. (Predators head coach Barry Trotz said the Predators will challenge the ruling with the league, claiming that Hordichuk's jersey was indeed tied down but simply came loose during the scrap.) Smith was saddled with a minor for instigating the fight, a major for fighting, and a 10-minute misconduct. The teams continued to skate at equal strength, though the Predators were reduced to 10 forwards for the remainder of the game.
Winger Alexander Radulov gave Nashville the lead 29 seconds later. Vern Fiddler carried the puck into the Edmonton zone along the left wall and dropped it for teammate Peter Forsberg. Forsberg authored another one of his trademark setups, hitting Radulov on the doorstep from the top of the left circle. Radulov swiftly swept the puck past Roloson to give Nashville its first lead at 4:18.
Nashville was rewarded with two power plays midway through the second but failed to convert despite numerous chances. Roloson and Vokoun carried their strong play from the first period, making a number of saves over the balance of the second period. Vokoun shut the door on a redirection by Fernando Pisani at 6:48 and later made back-to-back stops on Horcoff in front and Patrick Thoresen's rebound from farther away in the slot with 16:30 gone. Roloson denied a Jason Arnott scoring bid from the slot at 15:23 after Rich Peverley made a diving play to keep the puck alive for Abid to center it to Arnott.
The Predators outshot the Oilers 9-8 over the opening 20 minutes, which saw a number of superb saves by the goaltenders. Vokoun made two big stops for Nashville within 30 seconds of each other. First he blocked a close-range shot by Raffi Torres around the 5:30 mark, then followed that up with a stop on a one-timer chance by Jean-Francois Jacques. Roloson's standout saves came during the Predators' lone power play of the period. With Torres in the box for hooking, Roloson denied Weber's point blast with 9:00 gone and made a dramatic, stretching glove save 11 seconds later when Radulov deflected Ryan Suter's low bullet high toward the top portion of the goal. He closed out his team's two-minute penalty kill stint by sticking tight to the right post to thwart David Legwand's stuff attempt from the right corner.
The most intense action of the first came at the 15:00 mark, when Smith took exception to a shove by Abid and the two dropped the gloves. Abid appeared to land a few good shots to take a narrow win in the bout.
TIMONEN EXITS EARLY: Predators captain Kimmo Timonen left the game late in the first period Tuesday and did not return. Head coach Barry Trotz labelled Timonen's injury as an "upper body strain" and said his removal from the game was primarily precautionary. Trotz said he expects the team's top-scoring defenseman to be eligible to play in Thursday's home game against the Detroit Red Wings.
NOTES: Nashville recorded its 49th win to equal last year's franchise record for wins. The team now has 105 points--one behind last year's franchise record... Forward Ramzi Abid, who had two points in his first nine games with Nashville, posted three assists Tuesday and earned Second Star honors... With one goal and two assists, J.P. Dumont became the third Predator to reach 60 points this season. He was named the game's First Star... Shea Weber scored and now has goals in two straight games... Vern Fiddler recorded an assist and has points in three straight games (2g-2a). His linemate Alexander Radulov scored a goal and also has points in three consecutive games (2g-2a)... Peter Forsberg assisted on Alexander Radulov's goal and has five assists in the last three games... Goaltender Tomas Vokoun stopped 24 of 27 shots to record his second straight win... Nashville went 4-for-5 on the penalty kill and is now 45-for-50 in the last 11 games... The Predators outscored the Oilers 2-1 in the second period and have now outscored opponents by a combined 95-59 in the middle frame... Nashville is 27-7-4 at home... The Predators are 12-12-3 when allowing the first goal, 23-13 in one-goal games, and 34-1-5 when leading after two periods... Martin Erat, Scott Nichol, Jordin Tootoo and Steve Sullivan were scratched for Nashville.
PREDATORS HEAD COACH BARRY TROTZ
General Game Impressions
"It was, I mean it thought the Oilers played pretty well, I thought we responded really well, I mean we got real shorthanded on the bench losing Hordichuk and Kimmo left early so we had a real short bench. I think we're still feeling the effects from a little bit of the road trip so we responded pretty well I thought the first 2 periods they battled hard, we battled hard...in the 2nd period we got to capitalize on our chances a little bit. Then in the third period they (Oilers) got their 2 goals there and then I thought the Arnott goal was huge, it was real huge and that's just a great response cause you know the Sykora goal went in and then they (Oilers) came back right with the Peterson goal and our bench didn't have a lot of energy tonight I think because we're a little bit shorthanded. But they responded really well, Arnott scored and then once he scored I thought we played real well after that...Then at the end I thought the guys that were killing off the last minute and 50 seconds (or so) did an excellent job."
On the Oilers
"The Oilers are a proud organization and we knew they were gonna be very tough. Roloson didn't play against us in Edmonton (March 24th), he's been real good lately and you saw that tonight. Added Hemsky to the line-up and he's a dynamic player. They came and played real hard, they really battled hard, to me that's a sign of character - I've had the pleasure of being with some of those guys over at the World Championships, guys like Horcoff and I know Jason Smith a little bit... and they have real good character...they're gonna play hard to the end...they were real tough today no question, it was a real tough game."
On Abid stepping up his game tonight
"We always need people to step up and Rammer (Ramzi Abid) he was real strong down low, got involved. You know their (Oilers) most experience defencemen had two fights tonight, you know Ramzi did well against Smith. So ya we're looking for people to step-up, and you know that was a good example of that happening."
PREDATORS RIGHT WING J.P. DUMONT
On going two points up on Detroit
The way we look at it right now, with five games now for games left, we have to go out there and win every game. It's going to be a race till the end of the season and right now, I like our situation. We just need to keep our focus and we get in the playoffs and our good attitude right now, we want every game. It's a good way to look at it.
On playing with only 16 skaters at one point during the game
It's not the kind of hockey we want to play, but like I said, we have a lot of depth. We proved that again tonight. To tell you the truth, it's really hot out here. It's the first time for me playing like this and it's a lot of fun when it's a good crowd and stuff like that, but it was plenty hot out there. It showed at the end of the third, when the shifts were really short, but we kept our composure and it was a big game for us tonight.
On players stepping up and showcasing the Predators' depth
Like I said earlier in the year, every game is going to be somebody different. Again tonight, we had goals from a lot of lines, but defensive play too, at the end from Zanon, to block that shot. Those are the big plays we don't really see, but those are the big plays that make a team better. All little things like that are going to make us a better team and it was a big win tonight.
PREDATORS FORWARD VERNON FIDDLER
On the game
It was just a case of it going back and fourth. You don't really want to get in those games, but at the end of the day, we got the two points. That's most important.
On playing with Radulov and Forsberg
I think we've found a bit of chemistry. I've had consecutive good games. I mean, Forsberg is such a skilled guy and Radulov, the same thing. I just try to get in there on the forecheck, get the puck to those guys, and go to the net. I guess it's worked out pretty good so far.
PREDATORS LEFT WING RAMZI ABID
On players stepping up and filling in roles
Every team, throughout the course of the year, have some injuries. It's important for guys from the minors to come up and play with confidence. The coaching staff has done a great job here. They're great to me and Rich Peverley and they are putting us in great position here.
On the heat in the arena
It was hot out there. We talked about, between the second and third (period), we want to keep our shifts short and roll the lines over, and that's what we did.
On the feeding off of Peter Forsberg's talent
It seems like he has eyes behind his head sometimes. He makes very nice plays and he sets up guys in a great way. He's been doing that his whole career and he did it again tonight.
On playing Detroit with a two point lead on Thursday
These two games against Edmonton were really important to us. We got the job done. We got the four points. Now we can focus on Detroit.
EDMONTON FORWARD ALES HEMSKY
On the game...
"They have a good team. We played a better game than we played at home. We battled hard, and played hard, but tough night. We could have won the game; I think we played pretty good, better than before, for sure."
On the topic of recovering quickly...
"I missed nine games, but you ride the bike and stuff like that. And I got a couple practices in me too. I'm trying to get a tempo from the start, trying to make some plays, get more confidence out there."
EDMONTON DEFENSEMAN TOM GILBERT
On the game...
"I think we came out a lot stronger than the last time we played them. It's just disappointing to lose this game. The big difference is probably the little mistakes, and this is a team that can capitalize, and it's something we have to try to eliminate."
On coming back from concussions...
"I think it's getting a lot better. I can feel my conditioning getting a lot better over the last couple of days. Just getting the feel of the game back is something that's coming back to me too, so I think as games go on I'm going to feel more and more comfortable."
EDMONTON COACH CRAIG MACTAVISH
On the game...
"We played hard. It's disappointing on a night we finally get a little bit of offense. We had the lead for a fraction of a second. We come in and score two goals to start the third and quickly give them both back. We made some mistakes, after Ales scored a goal, we gave that back on a mistake made by Ales coming back. Toby scored, and then we gave that right back. To put yourself in this position, we know how difficult the wins have been for us; to put yourself in this position and come away empty on a night when you get three goals is pretty disappointing."
On the topic of Jason Smith...
"Unreal, just the way that he played. Two fights and you couldn't ask for more commitment and better leadership from Jason. It means a lot."
On the topic of Matt Green and Tom Gilbert...
Matt I thought really played well. He was aggressively carrying the puck and Gilbert, it's quite obvious he's got a head for the game. They got victimized a little bit with their sticks on the last two goals. The one from behind the net, you shouldn't be allowed to funnel that pass into the front of net. And the other one on the 2-on-1, that was a nice play by Abid that went right through our defender.