The Nashville Predators didn’t play their best game by any means, but a span of just 51 seconds ended up being the big difference in the game as the Edmonton Oilers got a 3-0 shutout victory on Thanksgiving night at Bridgestone Arena.
Edmonton got two 4-on-4 goals in the span of 51 seconds after David Perron and Paul Gaustad were called for off-setting unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins got the first goal for the Oilers on a breakdown by the Predators in their own zone. Taylor Hall scored the second goal for the Oilers just 51 seconds later on a 2-on-1 rush to give the Oilers a 2-0 lead. Edmonton was certainly able to take advantage of the 4-on-4 play against the Predators.
“They were good, or we were bad,” said Predators head coach Barry Trotz. “Our forward lost coverage on the defenseman, and actually it opened up everything and then that’s where Nugent-Hopkins could get the redirect from the point. I don’t know if it was anything good. It was a bad read by our winger there, and they were able to seam us then after that.”
Roman Josi had the puck behind the Nashville net just prior to Edmonton’s first goal. Josi got the puck stolen from him by Jordan Eberle, and the play just broke down for the Predators from there. Jeff Petry got left wide open at the point, and he was able to waltz in and throw a shot toward the Nashville net that Nugent-Hopkins was able to redirect past Marek Mazanec.
“We actually had the puck, and we made a couple bad plays,” said Predators defenseman Roman Josi. “Myself, too. I kind of rushed it, and Eberle took it. We didn’t have good coverage, and they found the open net.”
The second Edmonton goal started with a Nashville turnover in their own offensive zone by David Legwand that led to a rush by the Oilers the other way. Ryan Ellis originally was in position to prevent the play from turning into an odd-man rush, but he slowed down and turned his head to see who was coming behind him. That hesitation allowed Hall to burst past Ellis and left Kevin Klein and Mazanec out to dry on the odd-man rush.
Nashville’s poor play on the 4-on-4 during the second period put them in a hole they were never able to climb out of. To make matters worse for them, the Predators lost Shea Weber to an upper-body injury near the end of the second period when a puck appeared to hit Weber in his right eye. Weber didn’t return to the game, which caused the Predators to play with just five defensemen for the remainder of the second and third periods.
“You just get a little more ice time, but obviously if we lose our captain it’s always hard,” Josi said. “Hopefully he’s OK, and hopefully he’ll get back soon.”
Thursday night’s game against the Oilers marked Nashville’s third game in four nights and the second part of a back-to-back set. Nashville had beaten the Columbus Blue Jackets by a 4-0 score on Wednesday. The Predators looked like that back-to-back stretch affected them, especially in the second period, even though it’s something they don’t feel like should affect them.
“No, it shouldn’t. There’s a lot of back-to-backs during the year. I thought we were OK in the first, but then those 10 minutes in the second we were sleeping and they took advantage of it,” Josi said.
Nashville also just didn’t seem to have the edge they normally play with. The Predators pride themselves on being a team that is hard to play against on a nightly basis, and it didn’t seem like they were very hard to play against on Thursday night.
“I didn’t think we played hard enough in the hard areas. We were in the corners all the time. We weren’t even giving them near enough traffic. We had a couple of good looks and then we didn’t hit the net,” Trotz said.
Ilya Bryzgalov made his first start of the season for the Oilers and came away with a shutout on 33 saves. However, the Predators feel like they made his first start of the season a whole lot easier than it should have been.
“He was good, but I think we didn’t crash the net enough,” Josi said. “We didn’t get enough traffic, and we missed the net a couple times with our shots. Obviously, he was good, but we weren’t good enough in front of the net and we made him look better.”
“We’ve gone through four goaltenders, just like Edmonton,” Trotz said. “The guys are going to bear down, and they’re going to play hard for the new guy that’s in net, and the new guy for them is Bryzgalov. We talked before the game that we needed to get in the hard areas, and we needed to throw some pucks.”
The Predators will hope to put Thursday night’s game against Edmonton out of their minds as they take on the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena.