The road sweep was not meant to be.
The Nashville Predators piled up wins in their first two stops in a three-game road trip, but a 4-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers in the finale stymied the visitors from climbing the standings once again. Filip Forsberg’s lacrosse-style, wraparound goal in the first period would have been the highlight of the week if his club had been able to prevail in the contest.
Instead, Josh Archibald broke a 2-2 tie in the second and the Predators were unable to find the equalizer before the Oilers sealed the win with an empty-netter.
“It’s a tough loss for sure,” Preds goaltender Pekka Rinne said. “We gave a good effort at the end and tried to get it tied up, but it didn’t happen. At 5-on-5, we were pretty even, but special teams, I feel like that’s an area that we have to win that battle, and I think things are going to start turning for us… It was a good game, but you play for results. All these points are so important for us right now, so just a little disappointed.”
Edmonton got things started in the first period, as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins beat Pekka Rinne right off a faceoff, but less than two minutes after that, Filip Forsberg went to work.
“It’s a pretty high-skilled play,” Preds Head Coach John Hynes said. “You don’t see those come around too often. Fil’s a pretty skilled player, so it’s pretty impressive.”
After Matt Duchene won a draw in the Oilers zone, Forsberg carried the puck behind the Edmonton net, and in one continuous movement, picked the puck up on the front end of his stick blade, brought his twig up off the ice lacrosse-style and threw the biscuit off of Mike Smith and into the twine to even the score at 1-1.
“It was unbelievable,” Rinne said of Forsberg’s goal. “One of the nicest goals I’ve seen live. Just an unbelievably skilled individual, and he pulls that out in the game. It’s so impressive.”
“It was great [to be able to do it],” Forsberg said of his goal. “At the time, it was a big goal too… It’s something that I’ve tried a couple of times, and it’s cool that it went in, but at the same time, it would have been a lot sweeter if we were to win.”
Five minutes later, Colin Blackwell potted his second goal in three games to give the visitors their first lead of the night, but Leon Draisaitl scored on a power play to even the score at 2-2 after 20 minutes.
“Tonight was a tough one,” Blackwell said. “It was a fast game, and Peks kept us in that game, so it’s disappointing that we didn’t come out on top. I thought we had a good first period, but obviously they had a couple of timely goals, and I think that’s kind of the story of the game.”
Connor McDavid found Archibald in front midway through the second for the only goal of the middle period. Nashville’s best chance to tie the game came in the final five minutes of the frame with extended time in the offensive zone, but Smith kept Nashville at bay.
Edmonton’s tally into the empty net late in the game read as a power-play goal, giving the Oilers two on the night. On the contrary, Nashville went 0-for-3 on the man advantage, a sticking point at the end of the evening.
“We knew coming into the game that special teams were going to be really important, so that’s something we have to continue to work at here,” Hynes said. “We didn’t get a power-play goal; they got one and then they got the one with the empty net. That was a key to the game that we have to do a little bit better job of. I thought we showed some good signs, and there were some good things we did, but there’s some inconsistency in our play, and that’s something that we’ve got to be mentally engaged in and play the right way – play to the identity that we need to play with to be able to have success on a more consistent basis.”
The Predators will now head home to Nashville for two games before a midseason hiatus with the bye week and All-Star Weekend looming, and they’d prefer to go into that break feeling good about their place in the standings.
“That was a hard-fought game… and obviously we lost tonight, but we’re back at it again shortly, so we’ve got to close the gap,” Blackwell said. “[We need to] finish on a strong note before the break.”
Preds defenseman Dante Fabbro returned to the Nashville lineup after missing the previous five games with an upper-body injury.
Jarred Tinordi, Austin Watson and Matt Irwin were scratched for the Predators on Tuesday.
With their three-game road trip now complete, the Predators will return home for two games prior to their bye week and NHL All-Star Weekend. Nashville will host the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday night (at 7 p.m. CT) at Bridgestone Arena before sporting their NHL Winter Classic uniforms on Saturday night against the Buffalo Sabres for a special White Out game.