EDMONTON – Down 2-0 early in the first to the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night, Nashville coach Barry Trotz knew the next goal was going to be key.
“If (the Oilers) had gotten a third goal I think we would have been talking about something else tonight,” said Trotz after the Predators overcame an early deficit to win their third in a row, 6-3 over the Oilers.
“But we scored and started believing a little bit.”
Patric Hornqvist scored twice and added an assist for the Predators, who have gone 5-0-1 in their last six to move into a tie for first place with Chicago in the Central Division on 45 points.
Down 2-0 five minutes in, the Predators yanked goaltender Pekka Rinne in favour of Dan Ellis.
“We were sleeping at the start,” said Trotz. “We played back-to-back games and then had a big travel day and we just didn’t have any legs. But I felt the next goal of the game would mean everything at that point and that we needed to wake up and go after it.”
Ryan Jones, Joel Ward, Jerred Smithson and Marcel Goc also scored for the Predators (21-11-3).
Ellis has been impressed with how his team has battled of late.
“That has been our team lately,” he said. “We’ve shown a lot of resiliency as a team. We’ve put a lot of pressure on the net and made it difficult for other teams to play their game. We had a bit of a slow start but we picked our game up and were able to seal the deal.”
Robert Nilsson replied with a pair of goals and Lubomir Visnovsky added the other for the Oilers (15-15-4), who have lost two in a row since returning home from a five game winning streak on the road.
“Losing gracefully has been the standard here for a while,” said Oilers assistant captain Sheldon Souray. “When we go on the road and put hard work and have a team first attitude, it raises our standards. Good teams have that level consistently.
“We’re a team that takes two steps forward and two steps back, and that gets you nothing. We don’t want that to be acceptable.”
Oilers head coach Pat Quinn, angry for the first time this season after his team’s 3-2 loss to the L.A. Kings on Tuesday, was again frustrated.
“We had a nice start and then a couple weak goals went in and we didn’t bounce back and fight back hard enough,” said Quinn. “Three doorstep goals again. Call them lucky or whatever you want, but we aren’t helping (Oilers’ goalie Jeff Deslauriers).”
Edmonton started strong, striking first on the power play three minutes in as Nilsson threaded the needle between a pair of defenders and chipped a shot off of Rinne’s arm.
The Oilers doubled their lead two minutes later as the rebound off of a Gilbert Brule shot was kicked by Nashville’s Kevin Klein to a pinching Visnovsky, who pounded in his eighth of the year.
It was just the fourth Edmonton shot on net and enough to chase Rinne just 5:01 into the game.
The Predators got on the board with eight minutes to play in the opening period. The Oilers had trouble clearing the puck in front of Deslauriers and a rebound was whacked in by Jones.
“We played well for 50 minutes, but the first 10 was brutal,” Hornqvist said. “Jonesy’s goal was a big goal and after that we were all over them I think.”
Nashville tied the game 2-2 four minutes later when Ward put a backhand past an outstretched Deslauriers.
The Predators took the all that early buzz out of the building just 50 seconds later at 16:59 when J.P. Dumont sent a pass through the crease to Goc, who tipped home his fifth to give Nashville a 3-2 lead.
Nashville went up 4-2 eight minutes into the second period. Hornqvist finished off a nice three-way passing play from Jason Arnott and Dumont.
Edmonton finally got off its heels and moved back to within one with five minutes remaining in the second. Nilsson scored his second power-play goal of the night, stealing the puck from Dan Hamhuis at the blue-line and then making a diving deke to beat Ellis.
The Predators got a late power-play goal of their own with just 3.1 seconds left to regain the two-goal advantage. Hornqvist tipped a Ryan Suter shot to make it 5-3 after two.
Smithson scored for Nashville with just 43.4 seconds left to put the game out of reach.
Both teams play again on Saturday night. Oilers host the Washington Capitals and the Predators head to Calgary.
Notes: Edmonton won the only previous meeting between the two teams, 6-1 in Nashville, but the Predators have had nothing but success against Edmonton in recent years, now the winners of 12 of the last 14 meetings. … Deslauriers started his 13th consecutive game with Nikolai Khabibulin out indefinitely with a back injury. Khabibulin had a cortisone shot earlier this week hoping to speed up his recovery. … Oilers forward Mike Comrie has started skating after a lengthy absence due to mono. … Edmonton captain Ethan Moreau missed the morning skate with illness but did play on Thursday. … Nashville had defenceman Cody Franson back in the lineup after recalling him from Milwaukee (AHL) on Wednesday. … Nashville forward Jordin Tootoo remains out 3-4 weeks with a lower-body injury. … The Predators have now scored four-or-more goals 11 times in the last 17 games, including shootout winners.