Eric Nystrom stated on Monday that Nashville’s six-game, 12-day road trip, in which the club went 4-2-0 to earn eight out of a possible 12 points, wouldn’t be as memorable if the Predators didn’t return with success on home ice.
For the Preds forward and his teammates, that hope came to fruition on Tuesday.
The Predators hung on to defeat the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night by a 3-2 final at Bridgestone Arena. The victory came with Edmonton scoring two unanswered tallies in the second frame after Nashville got off to a quick start.
“I really liked the way we played the third period,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “We still had some chances, we had some looks and we were still pressing for offense, but we did it in a smart manner and didn’t allow too much against us. Sometimes you have to win a game three to two. I was happy with the third period in the sense that I thought our guys kept competing and kept playing and were fairly tight.”
It looked as if Nashville might run away with the game, after the Preds nearly matched their first period goal output for the entire season in the opening 20 minutes against Edmonton. Nashville potted three in the first stanza, compared to five in the first through 14 games headed into Tuesday’s contest, and it didn’t take long for the home team to get on the board.
Mike Ribeiro crashed the crease and swept in a rebound off of a James Neal shot past Oilers goaltender Viktor Fasth at 2:51 of the first. Neal’s attempt was one of 10 shots he registered on the evening, a team-high for the Preds thus far in 2014-15. Rookie forward Filip Forsberg picked up a secondary assist on the play, extending his point streak to six-straight games.
Appearing in his first home game of the season, veteran forward Matt Cullen put home a backhand while falling to the ice at 9:21 of the frame to finish an impressive effort on the play. Cullen’s tally was his second of the season after recording one goal and three assists on the Preds six-game road trip.
Before the period was out, Forsberg did what he’s now done in five-straight contests. The Swede banked a puck in off the pants of Fasth from the side of the cage to give Nashville a three-goal advantage headed into the room.
“We were all over the place in the first,” Forsberg said. “I think that was the key for our quick start.”
“I was really happy about the first period,” Laviolette said. “I was concerned a little bit, I think, going into the game having just come off of the long road trip. Historically, it’s meant a flat period for the home team. So I think our guys did a really good job of conquering that and coming out and playing a really hard period.”
Ben Scrivens replaced Fasth in the Edmonton cage to start the second, and Benoit Pouliot got his club to within two just over 30 seconds into the period with a wrister that went off the bar and over the line.
The Oilers then inched to within one, thanks to a Nail Yakupov strike on a one-time attempt from the top of the crease at 14:42. Nashville held a 3-2 lead after two, as well as a 28-14 advantage in the shot department.
“We had a lot of attempts in the second period, but I think you certainly have to give Edmonton credit for the way that they came out,” Laviolette said. “They gained some momentum from [their first goal] and they picked it up. We talked about the way they got the next goal. Burying [Edmonton] four to nothing is a huge deficit and three to one is a doable comeback. They ended up making it three to one and that set the tone for them a little bit in the second period.”
Edmonton mustered nine shots on the Nashville net in the final frame, but Preds goaltender Pekka Rinne was equal to the task, holding the Oilers at bay and sealing the victory for a Predators team that now owns a 10-3-2 record on the season. The Preds continue to sit atop the Central Division with 22 points, and the club is now 6-1-2 in one-goal games in 2014-15.
The Preds bench boss was pleased with the contributions he continues to receive throughout the lineup, even if everyone may not end up on the score sheet by the time the final horn sounds.
“There is an open-door policy to go to the offensive zone and create havoc,” Laviolette said of his forward lines. “[The Forsberg-Ribeiro-Neal] line seems to have it going on right now, but at other times like Cullen’s goal, other lines are pushing the puck around the offensive zone, and they’re hunting. That’s a good thing. One of the lines that’s down there, and they don’t have it on the score sheet yet, but are always in the offensive zone and hunting as well is the Jarnkrok line. I feel like it’s just a matter of time for them. There are no different parameters per line. At some point everyone will contribute.”
Nashville will head back to St. Louis to face a Blues team on Thursday night that is right behind them in the standings. And while the Preds were content to win their third-straight contest in their first game back after a long road trip, they’re well aware that things won’t come any easier as the current campaign continues into November.
“We’ve got to go into another tough building,” Captain Shea Weber said of St. Louis. “We were just there and we know it’s going to be a battle. Obviously we’ll enjoy tonight for five-to-10 minutes and then it’s on to the Blues.”