A hard-fought, playoff-type game went the Edmonton Oilers way on Saturday night at Rogers Place, as they came back to defeat the Nashville Predators. The Preds held a 2-0 lead late in the second period, but saw their bid for a spot in playoff positioning and a three-game winning streak denied.
“We deserved better tonight,” Preds Head Coach John Hynes said. “I really liked our game, and I thought we played well enough to win. I think, unfortunately, a couple bad bounces went in, particularly the first [Edmonton] goal… but I think there’s a lot to build off of tonight’s game. Unfortunately, [we] didn’t find a way to win it, but I think if we play like we played tonight, more often than not, we’re going to find ways to win games.”
Leon Draistial tied the contest at 2-2 early in the third and put his team ahead later in the period with a power-play goal that ultimately proved to be the game-winner to give the Oilers victories in both games in the season series thus far.
“It was a good game, and there’s a lot of back and forth,” Preds forward Craig Smith said. “It was exciting and fast, but it would’ve been really nice to get the winner.”
Nashville scored the game’s opening goal for the first time on the trip, when Craig Smith backhanded a shot past Oilers goaltender Mike Smith midway through the first period. The 1-0 score held through most of the second stanza, but things changed late in the period.
With less than three minutes left in that middle frame, Nick Bonino tipped home a Dan Hamhuis wrist shot for his 17th goal of the season and 2-0 Nashville lead. But with time winding down in the period, the Oilers went on the power play. Moments after Juuse Saros stoned Connor McDavid on a partial breakaway, a loose puck deflected off the skate of Kyle Turris and into the Nashville net with just nine seconds left in the period.
The Preds made a push late in the third, after a pair from Draisaitl, but they weren’t able to even the score before the horn sounded.
“The first 40 minutes, I thought we were really good, played really well for being on the road,” Preds forward Ryan Johansen said. “The third period just wasn’t as sharp, and that costs us tonight.”
Saros made his third consecutive start and stopped 33 shots on the night, and just like the entire Predators squad, the netminder deserved better.
“He played really well, and he was a little bit indicative of our team,” Hynes said of Saros. “We played well enough to win the game, but we didn’t find a way to do it. We have to find it against Vancouver.”
The final contest of the trip comes in British Columbia on Monday night, and while the Predators will certainly go back and review some items to improve upon, they know an effort like this will likely yield the results they’re looking for before returning home.
“You have to stay steady on the rudder,” Hynes said. “We played a good game. We’re coming. There’s belief we’re playing the game the right way, so it’s unfortunate we didn’t get it tonight. But we’ve got to make sure we’re moving on to Vancouver.”
Nashville’s lineup remained the same as it was on Thursday in Calgary; Calle Jarnkrok, Austin Watson and Matt Irwin were scratched for the Preds, and Ryan Ellis, who has been skating with the team, remains on Injured Reserve.
The four-game excursion through Western Canada concludes on Monday night in Vancouver when the Predators face the Canucks.