EDMONTON – The most important save in Nashville’s 3-2 shootout victory over the Edmonton Oilers wasn’t made by Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne, but by his discarded stick.
After battling back to send the game to overtime, the Oilers had a great chance to win it on the power play in extra time. Shawn Horcoff beat Rinne with a backhander, but the netminder’s wayward stick kept the puck from crossing the goal-line. A video review confirmed the puck didn’t fully cross the line.
“That was a huge lucky break,” Rinne said. “I dropped my stick and I had no clue where it was and luckily it was on the goal-line and that saved the game for us.”
Predators head coach Barry Trotz agreed that his team got a little fortunate.
“You’ve got to be good to be lucky and lucky to be good,” he said. “That’s part of the game. It’s like the referee being in the way or what have you. We’ll take it.”
Defenceman Cody Franson scored the shootout winner and added two assists as the Predators won their third game in a row.
Alexander Sulzer and Joel Ward scored in regulation for Nashville (27-15-6), which has now won 10 of their last 12.
Despite the win, Trotz wasn’t completely thrilled with his team’s performance.
“I didn’t like the way we played,” he said. “I had a feeling we’d be a little bit sloppy with three games in four nights before we got to this one. We got through the first period but as the game went on we turned way too many pucks over.
“I don’t take anything away from the Oilers but we could have been a little bit firmer in a lot of areas in our game.”
Andrew Cogliano and Taylor Hall responded for the Oilers (14-25-8), who have lost five straight. Edmonton has just two wins in the last 16.
Oilers head coach Tom Renney said it’s important that his team doesn’t about who their opponent is at this point, but just work on their own game.
“That’s probably the big thing for us right now,” he said. “As much as the opponents are really good and most of them are ahead of us in the standings—except one—we tend to beat ourselves. It is tough and it tests your patience and your ability to persevere as a coaching staff. But it is even tougher for the players because they are working their guts out.”
With the game tied 1-1 in the third, the Predators regained the lead with six minutes remaining on the power play as Ward tipped a Sulzer point shot past Oilers goaltender Devan Dubnyk.
Edmonton tied it with just under four minutes to play when Dustin Penner slipped a puck to Hall. The Oilers rookie showed good patience waiting for Rinne to go down for his 15th of the year.
Edmonton was 0-for-4 on the power play and has only one goal with the man advantage in the last 14 games.
Nashville got on the board first with a goal 12 minutes into the first period as they transitioned well following a successful penalty kill. Sulzer came out of the box and joined the rush to deposit his first career NHL goal past Dubnyk.
Edmonton had its first good chance to tie it up nine minutes into the second on a 2-on-1 as Magnus Paajarvi got a pass across to Linus Omark, but his shot rattled off the crossbar behind Rinne.
Edmonton tied the game up just over two minutes into the third as Liam Reddox made a nice move to jump around a defender and feed the puck to a hard-charging Cogliano, who chipped the puck past Rinne.
The Predators play the fifth game of a six-game road trip on Monday in Calgary. The Oilers start a two-game road swing Tuesday in Phoenix.
Notes: It was the first of four meetings between the two teams this year. … Although Rinne came into the game holding a 5-1-0 record against the Oilers, his 3.37 career goals-against average in eight games against Edmonton is his second-worst against a West opponent. His worst is 3.64 versus Calgary. … In their previous 11 games the Predators outscored opponents 42-21 and allowed two or fewer goals in nine of those games. … Predators forward Marek Svatos missed the game with a lower-body injury. … Oilers defenceman Jim Vandermeer, returned to the lineup after missing seven games with an ankle injury. To make room for him on the roster, the Oilers sent Taylor Chorney to the AHL. … Oilers all-star game selection Ales Hemsky can’t participate in the match due to a concussion. Jordan Eberle also had topass on the opportunity to take part in the all-star skills competition due to an ankle injury.