Photo by John Russell
Predators forward Darcy Hordichuk closes in on Oilers center Jarret Stoll during Tuesday's game.
David Legwand scored a late goal to break a 2-2 tie and give the Predators a 3-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers Tuesday night at the Gaylord Entertainment Center.
The goal was the result of hard work by forward Paul Kariya and defenseman Marek Zidlicky deep in the Oilers zone. The two worked the puck back and forth in tight quarters along the end boards with their feet before Kariya spun off of Edmonton blueliner Daniel Tjarnqvist and spotted Legwand in front. Legwand took Kariya's feed and one-timed it past Oilers goaltender Dwayne Roloson with 2:45 remaining in regulation.
"The big play I really thought was Paul Kariya behind the net," Predators head coach Barry Trotz said. "He just kept that thing alive and got it to 'Leggy.' He buried it."
The win gives the Predators a 19-8-3 record for the season and a string of 10 straight home games with at least one point (7-0-3). It was Nashville's first home game since returning from a four-game West Coast road trip.
Goaltender Chris Mason, who has temporarily assumed the No. 1 role while Tomas Vokoun is sidelined with a hand injury, started his ninth straight game Tuesday. He made 38 saves, including a number of key stops in the final minutes, to notch his eighth win of the season.
"He's been playing awesome for us," Predators forward Scott Hartnell said of Mason. "Steady as a rock in there, between the pipes. Tonight, when the game was on the line he was there to make some saves. There weren't many rebounds. He's just doing a solid job in net for us."
After a scoreless first period that was full of chances at both ends, the two clubs combined for four second-period goals. The Predators scored twice in a 2:44 span to take a 2-0 lead early in the period but the Oilers answered with two of their own in a 28-second span.
Vern Fiddler opened the scoring for Nashville at the :48 mark of Period 2. Skating in on the right side, the Edmonton native backhanded a shot that was muffled by the stick of an Oilers defender. The redirected puck fooled Roloson, who helplessly watched as the puck slid past his outstretched right skate and just inside the far post.
Nashville capitalized on its second power-play chance of the night at 3:32 to extend the lead. Defenseman Shea Weber fired a shot from high in the zone and it hit Oilers defenseman Jason Smith in front. Everyone seemed to lose sight of the puck as it dropped to the ice, and rookie winger Alexander Radulov used his quick hands to get to it first. He swatted the puck toward the open right side of the net for his ninth of the season.
The Oilers cut the lead in half less than a minute later. Edmonton won a face-off in Nashville's zone and a shot was blocked to the end boards. A hit freed the puck and provided Raffi Torres with space to center toward Fernando Pisani. Pisani, alone in front, beat Nashville goaltender at 4:30 to make it 2-1. At 4:58, defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron banged home the rebound of a shot by Torres to even the score.
"For me it was just 'stay focused,' " Mason said of his mindset after Edmonton's two quick scores. "They tied it up and then we just had to keep our composure. We knew that they were going to come hard and they sort of got a little bit of momentum. I think we did a good job of doing that. We finished the period. We came in here (to the locker room) 2-2 and thought, you know what, 2-2 going into the third in our building--we felt good in here. I think it showed in the third period. We stuck with it and were fortunate enough to get the last goal there."
The game was a physical one. An unlikely individual, defenseman Marek Zidlicky, helped establish the physical tone for Nashville, delivering two big hits in the opening minutes. The Predators' energy line of Darcy Hordichuk, Jerred Smithson and Jordin Tootoo was a strong presence all game, throwing its weight around and generated chances. A shift by the trio 15:00 into the game garnered applause from the GEC crowd once a whistle stopped play.
"Our fourth line [was] playing really, really physical," Trotz said. "They didn't play much but boy, when they were out there they were creating a little stir."
Offensively, Nashville generated chances with its transition game and also won the puck possession battle with sustained periods of play in Edmonton's end.
"[Hordichuk and Tootoo's] line, they had some great shifts," Fiddler said. "I thought every line contributed one way or another. We had posssession a lot of the night... It just wore them down and as the game went on I thought we got better. That's very important when you come back for your first game from the road."
LEHTONEN TO BE REASSIGNED: The Predators will reassign defenseman Mikko Lehtonen to Milwaukee of the American Hockey League on Wednesday. Due to an injury and coaching decisions, the Finnish blueliner has played in only two of Nashville's last 16 games. In Milwaukee he will have the opportunity to play regularly and can be recalled when needed.
NOTES: J.P. Dumont posted two assists for his fourth multi-point game of the season... Alexander Radulov scored his seventh goal in the last 10 games... David Legwand's goal was his first game-winning goal of the season... Chris Mason started his ninth straight game. He has a 5-3-1 record over that span... Center Scott Nichol wore the "A" on his jersey as alternate captain in the place of injured winger Steve Sullivan... Vern Fiddler, who tallied the first goal of the game, had gone 12 games without a goal... Nashville is 5-3-0 when tied after two periods, 7-1-2 vs. Northwest Division opponents, and 11-6 in one-goal games... Greg Zanon registered an assist for his first point of the season... The Predators penalty killers went 3-for-3 Tuesday, and are now 48-for-53 over the last 12 games... Steve Sullivan and Mikko Lehtonen were scratches for Nashville.