Monday, March 18, 2013

Game 28: Edmonton 3 Nashville 2

It was by no means a masterpiece but the Edmonton Oilers 2-1 victory over the slumping Nashville Predators, was exactly what the doctor ordered. Jordan Eberle's third period snipe proved to be the difference, in a game that featured just a dreadful line change from Predators forward Sergei Kostitsyn, leading directly to the Oilers second goal of the night.

Magnus Paajarvi continued to carry the hot-hand, scoring for the fourth time in eight games and Devan Dubnyk was very solid in making  twenty-nine stops. The win pushed the Oilers up the Western Conference standings into tenth place, two points shy of the eighth place San Jose Sharks.

While both sides decided to treat fans to about as dull a period of hockey that one would ever want to watch, they finally showed some signs of life in period two. Paajarvi opened the scoring eight minutes in, sliding home his sixth of the season past a down and out Pekka Rinne, for his first power play marker of the year.   

After accomplishing absolutely nothing on a first period man advantage, the Oilers second unit hemmed the Preds in their own zone for almost a full minute, before the talented Swede finished off a lovely little feed from Eberle. It was a huge goal for Ralph Krueger's crew and one that finally gave the St. Patrick's Day crowd something to cheer about.

Unfortunately, they would run into penalty trouble as the period progressed and a Shea Weber point blast would find its way past Dubnyk and get Nashville back on level terms. Through two periods of play, there wasn't much to choose between the two teams. Rather disappointing, considering the Predators were without their top scorer Colin Wilson, as well as their leading goal scorer from a year ago in Patric Hornqvist.

Edmonton came out flying to start the third and carried much of the play but had nothing to show for it, be on the shot clock or scoreboard. However, that would all change at the 10:53 mark, with the Oilers down a man and an absolutely bone-head decision from Kostitsyn.

With Nashville pressing for the go-ahead goal on the man advantage, a pass back to the point bounced over Kostitsyn's stick and outside the Oilers zone. Sam Gagner was in hot pursuit of the loose puck and after being out hustled to the puck by Edmonton's leading scorer, the Nashville winger leisurely made his way to the bench for a line change.

To the astonishment of his own bench, Kostitsyn allowed what was a nothing play, to turn into a two-on-one shorthanded break. The Oilers would make the Preds pay for their miscue, as Petrell hammered home his second of the season, after an absolutely exquisite pass from #89. Just like that, Edmonton had the lead and all the momentum on their side. Simply inexcusable at any level...never mind the National Hockey League.

Eberle would give them the insurance goal they desperately needed, thanks to a nifty little feed from Taylor Hall, beating Rinne with a perfectly placed wrister, that fans in Oil Country were starting to wonder if they would ever see again during the 2013 season. It was not only a huge goal for the team but likely a huge load off the shoulders of the former thirty-four goal man.

Roman Josi would score in the dying seconds to make it a one goal game but it was too little too late for the Predators, who have dropped all three games on the Western Canadian portion of their five game road trip. To make matters worse, they have managed to lose all three in regulation small feat in today's NHL.

Since being shutout in back-to-back outings against Detroit and Nashville, roughly ten days ago, Edmonton has secured points in four consecutive games, posting a 3-0-1 mark and climbing out of the cellar of the Western Conference. The victory also moved the Oilers within four points of top spot in the Northwest Division, which is currently shared by the Minnesota Wild and Vancouver Canucks.

After having a rather hectic schedule during their seventeen day road trip, Edmonton will have an easy go of it over the next week, playing only twice over that time span. They will host the aforementioned Sharks on Wednesday night and close out their week on Saturday night against Ken Hitchcock and the St. Louis Blues, in the second half of the Hockey Night in Canada doubleheader.

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