EDMONTON – It has taken 34 games for the Edmonton Oilers to look the way head coach Craig MacTavish thought they would look at the beginning of the season.
Erik Cole led the way with a goal and two assists as the Oilers extended their winning streak to three games with a convincing 5-2 victory over the Nashville Predators on Sunday night.
“There were a lot of things about tonight that were the things we anticipated seeing at the beginning of the year,” MacTavish said. “There was lots of skill, lots of puck movement. We only got the one goal on the power play but we were very effective on it. It was one of our better efforts of the year.
“That’s the type of game that we thought we would see more of. It’s taken a considerable amount of time but we are starting to move in a positive direction in terms of the way we are playing.”
Cole, thought to be a big offensive threat when acquired by trade from Carolina last summer, had a three-point night to put him at 12 points on the year. But the chances have been coming more frequently and the 30-year-old said he knew his game was coming around.
“As long as the opportunities are there you are doing the right things to give yourself a chance to be successful,” he said. “Even when you are not scoring you can give a lift to the team. But it feels good to contribute the way I did tonight and finish a couple of those opportunities off.”
Sheldon Souray, Shawn Horcoff, Andrew Cogliano and Sam Gagner also scored for the Oilers (17-14-3) who have recorded points in four in a row and moved back over .500 at home with a 6-5-3 record at Rexall Place.
Gagner, who has struggled in his sophomore season, also had a bit of a breakout game with two points and hopes that he and the Oilers are starting to turn the season around.
“There have been times throughout the year that we have struggled with our consistency,” he said.
“We’ll have a few good games and then falter in the next. We really wanted to get off to a good start tonight. Nashville has proven to be a tough test for us in the past. We played well in the first and really broke it open in the second. It’s a good feeling in here and we have to make sure we build off of it.”
Martin Erat and Shea Weber had the goals for Nashville (17-15-3) which has lost three of their last five and had a nine game winning streak against Edmonton snapped. The Predators have also now lost five in a row on the road.
Nashville goaltender Dan Ellis, who allowed four goals on 17 shots, said it just wasn’t their night.
“We didn’t get quite as many pucks on goal that we would have liked to,” he said. “Pucks were bouncing all over the place. They were able to get a couple of fluky bounces which gave them the momentum and we couldn’t get it back.”
Nashville started the scoring 5:41 in as Erat corralled a deflection at the side of the net and showed good hands, tucking it past Edmonton starter Dwayne Roloson.
The Oilers were able to get back on even footing midway through the opening frame on a patented power-play bullet from the point by Souray that blew past Ellis. It was Souray’s 11th goal of the season, briefly tying him for the league lead for goals by a defenceman with Weber.
Edmonton momentarily held the lead with five minutes to play in the first when Horcoff took a low percentage shot that snuck through Ellis’ legs, but Nashville came back just 35 seconds later with a five-hole goal of its own as Weber retook sole possession of the league lead, sending his 12th of the season through Roloson’s pads.
Edmonton took control of the game in the second period with three goals.
Gagner got the scoring spree started midway through the second by stripping a puck from defender Kevin Klein and sending a backhand pass to Cole for just the fifth of the season by the former 30-goal scorer during his time in Carolina.
Just 40 seconds later the Oilers added to their lead as Cogliano’s attempt to pass from behind the net got caught up in Ellis’ equipment and dribbled behind the Nashville netminder.
Pekka Rinne came in to replace Ellis in goal but didn’t fare much better early on as a Tom Gilbert shot was tipped in front by Gagner for just his third of the season and a 5-2 Oilers lead after 40 minutes.
There was no scoring in the third.
The Predators return to the ice on Monday night in Colorado while Edmonton next plays host to the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday.
Notes: Following the game, the Oilers announced third string goaltender Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers was heading down to Springfield of the American Hockey League for a conditioning stint. . . . Oilers captain Ethan Moreau returned to the lineup after missing one game with a badly bruised wrist. He put that injury to the test early, getting into a first period scrap with Jordan Tootoo. . . . It was not a battle between teams usually packing a lot of offensive punch to this point of the season. Entering the contest Nashville was tied with Minnesota for the fewest goals in the Western Conference with 87. Edmonton had the next fewest goals in the Conference at 90 Edmonton. . . . Defenceman Lubomir Visnovsky recorded his 300th career point with a first period assist. . . . Nashville hasn’t lost this season when leading after the first period. Sunday’s game was tied 2-2 after the opening frame. . . . The Predators didn’t get their first power play opportunity until midway through the third.