EDMONTON — The Edmonton Oilers finally solved the riddle that the Nashville Predators have posed in recent years.
Leon Draisaitl had two goals and an assist as the Oilers emerged with a 4-2 victory over the Predators on Tuesday.
The Predators came into the game with a 14-1 record against Edmonton since Oct. 29, 2014. In that time, Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne had won 12 consecutive starts, but he was outplayed by Mike Smith in the Edmonton net on the night.
“The second half of the season, the points matter more,” said Smith, who made 30 saves for his fourth straight win in net. “Everything gets amplified, and as you creep towards playoffs you want to be playing your best hockey.
“I love the second part of the season, playing big games and helping the team get big wins.”
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Josh Archibald also scored and Connor McDavid picked up three assists for the Oilers (25-18-5), who have gone 5-1-1 in their last seven outings.
“We went with the mindset that we wanted to check for our success today,” said Oilers head coach Dave Tippett. “We wanted to check hard all the way through the ice.
“We wanted to stay on our toes and keep moving and we checked well and it ended up in the right spot for us.”
Filip Forsberg and Colin Blackwell replied for the Predators (21-17-7), who saw a two-game winning streak ended.
“It was a tough loss for sure,” Rinne said. “I thought it was a big game for both teams. I thought we gave it a good effort at the end and tried to get the game tied up, but it didn’t happen.”
Nugent-Hopkins opened the scoring for Edmonton nine minutes into the first period when he sent a wrist shot up high past Rinne off a face-off win. It was Nugent-Hopkins's 13th goal of the season and his sixth in the last seven games.
The Predators responded two minutes later on a beautiful goal by Forsberg, who came from behind the net and lifted the puck up lacrosse-style to bank it off Smith and in for his 16th of the campaign.
“It’s something that I’ve tried a couple of times,” Forsberg said. “It’s cool that it went in, but it would have been a lot better if we would have won.”
Nashville took the lead with four minutes left in the opening frame as they caught the Oilers on a bad line change, allowing Nick Bonino to make a nice feed to Blackwell, who notched his second career NHL goal.
Edmonton pulled even with 18 seconds left in the first on the power play as Draisaitl chipped in a rebound.
The Oilers surged back ahead just before the midmark of the second period as McDavid fed it across to Archibald, who lifted it over a sprawling Rinne.
Draisaitl's goal into an empty net put the game away for in the final minute. The backhander was his 27th goal of the season.
The Predators return home to face the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday, while the Oilers are off until Saturday, when they host the Arizona Coyotes.
Notes: It was the first of three meetings this season between the two teams, who will play again on Feb. 8 at Rogers Place in Edmonton before the season series concludes in Nashville on March 2… With Zack Kassian serving the first of a two-game suspension for an altercation with Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk, Archibald moved up to Edmonton's top line with McDavid.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 14, 2020.
Shane Jones, The Canadian Press