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Rinne, Forsberg Guide Preds Past Oilers

by Thomas Willis / Nashville Predators

Thirty-seven saves from Pekka Rinne and a wrister for Filip Forsberg led the Nashville Predators to a 1-0 overtime defeat of the Edmonton Oilers on Thanksgiving night.

The third installment of a four-game home stand for Nashville, the Preds received strong play from two of their best players this season in order to slip by the struggling Oilers. The loss was Edmonton’s eighth-straight overall and third to Nashville, which completed a season sweep of their opponent with the one-goal victory.

Forsberg’s marker in OT was an impressive individual effort, with the winger shaking off several Oilers defenders before lighting the lamp.

“I was pretty tired,” Forsberg said. “We were out there for a while and we had a couple of chances. I kind of saw (Shea Weber) and [Roman] Josi lining up for the one timer but it was a hard pass to make, so I just tried to spin away and tried to shoot it at the net and I was lucky it went in.”

The game’s lone score was Forsberg’s team-leading 10th of the season, while Rinne notched his NHL-leading 15th win and 34th career shutout.

“Early on, I thought if it weren’t for [Rinne], we would’ve been in trouble,” Nashville Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “The first eight or nine minutes we were not sharp, we gave up too much and then through the course of the game, he was as sharp as he was in the first eight or nine minutes. So, it was a really strong effort by him and I think that happens sometimes where your goaltender is a guy who can make a difference in a game and get you some points.”


Sweep to Sweep:

Evidence of the Preds rapid transformation from last season can be found in a lot of places, and one pretty clear avenue has been the team’s play against the Oilers.

Last season, Nashville was swept in three games by Edmonton in 2013-14, while being outscored 13-2. Thursday’s OT win, however, reversed the previous campaign’s fortunes by giving the Predators a three-game sweep of the Oilers this season.

After the game, Rinne credited the series of wins over Edmonton as another testament to the strength of the Predators game plan orchestrated by the new coaching staff.

“I feel like we are executing our systems really well; I think every single game we have a game plan ready when we go out there and we have been having success,” Rinne said. “We are doing a lot of things right now and it starts with the coaching staff, comes through the players and executing the coach’s plans. We have been getting results, and it’s just something that builds your confidence all the time.”

Prior to the contest, Laviolette explained he didn’t want his team to overlook the game against the Oilers, even if they’d beaten Edmonton twice already on the young season.

Preds Captain Shea Weber said the reminder was one that he and the team took note of even if it took several minutes for Nashville find their legs.

“We knew not to overlook them,” said Weber. “Numbers wise they’re very good offensively as far as getting shots and in zone time. I don’t know why we started so slowly, maybe the guys ate too much turkey yesterday or something.”


Rinne Stops Them All:

Over the past two games, Rinne has stopped all of the shooters he’s faced in a pair of shootouts (10 for 10). Thursday, he denied every Oiler in 65 minutes of play and threw in a save on a penalty shot in overtime for good measure.

One-on-one with Jordan Eberle - and the game on the line - Rinne outwaited the Oilers winger before stretching his left leg to collect the pad stop.

“Eberle is really nifty in penalty shots,” Rinne said of the chance. “I think he’s one of the better shooters stats-wise in the NHL in penalty shots and shootouts. You just try to stay patient with a guy like that because he has multiple different moves. I thought he got a little bit too close to me and I was able to get my leg over there and he didn’t put it over my leg. That was in OT, so a big save and I’m happy I made that stop.”

Winning by the slimmest of margins, Nashville needed their star in net to be at his best, and with 37 saves, Rinne was just that. The Finnish netminder has been dialed-in during the Preds three-game home stand, recording 85 total saves and guiding the Predators to three-consecutive wins in extra time.

“He’s an unbelievable player, we’re so happy to have him,” Forsberg said. “He keeps us in games that we shouldn’t be in. I can’t even count how many times he’s done that already this year. We’re just so happy he plays on our team and not against us.”


Fisher Returns

Nashville forward Mike Fisher skated in his first game of the 2014-15 season on Thursday, collecting 12 minutes of ice time. The 34-year-old center injured his Achilles tendon during offseason training in early July and rehabbed for over four months before returning to the Preds lineup.

Traditionally one of Nashville’s top forwards both offensively and in his own end, Fisher drove the play on several occasions against the Oilers. The forward said his first game in awhile went smoother than he thought it might.

“I felt pretty good,” Fisher said. “It was nice to get back out there. I felt for the most part good and it’s only going to get better as I get comfortable in the games. Overall, anytime you win it’s a good thing. My foot felt pretty good.”

Laviolette agreed the forward had a strong game after returning from such a severe injury and explained his reasoning behind the minutes Fisher saw on Thursday.

“I thought he was good,” Laviolette said. “We didn’t heap on the workload for him. I thought it was good to just play him 5-on-5 tonight. I think just getting back in the game for him was important. He went out early and had some good hits, he also had some shifts were he was banging around in the crease searching for goals. I’m really happy with the way he played and it was good to see him back in the lineup. I know the guys have missed him too.”


Endgame:

Pekka Rinne now leads the NHL in wins with 15. He is also tops in the League in save percentage at .932 and second in goals-against average, sporting a 1.86 mark. Tonight was Rinne’s 34th career shutout and second of the campaign, tying him for fifth in the League in that category on the season.

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