Paul Kariya had three assists to help the Nashville Predators defeat Edmonton 5-3 Wednesday, ending the Oilers’ six-game home undefeated streak. Vernon Fiddler, Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, Scottie Upshall and David Legwand scored for the Predators, who have now won six consecutive road games and four straight overall. It’s a far cry from the team that started the season with an 0-3 record.
“When we started off we were doing little things wrong and we started correcting them bit by bit each game,” said Nashville forward Jason Arnott. “We were able to grind out a few games at the beginning and then start to turn things around. It starts with our goaltenders, they have been playing extremely well. When you have great goaltending it filters its way out.”
Ales Hemsky, Ryan Smyth and Marc-Andre Bergeron had goals for the Oilers, who failed to set a team record for best start of the season at home. The 1985 and 1986 Oilers teams also started at 6-0 but couldn’t get to seven.
In one night the Oilers (7-5) went from a team that was looking for seven in a row at home to a team which has lost three of its last four.
“Our record is starting to approach mediocrity,” said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish. “We know that and it is important that we come back with a good game.”
Oilers netminder Dwayne Roloson says the team wasn’t really all that bothered about the streak, more about their overall play.
“I don’t think the streak meant that much to the team,” he said. “Accolades are great but all we are worried about is winning games in general and trying to get back to where we were in the playoffs last year and to win our last game of the year.”
Nashville has won the first three games of a five game road swing, improving their record to 8-3-1 to start the season.
It didn’t take long for Nashville to start the scoring as Fiddler tipped Kimmo Timonen’s soft shot past Oiler goalie Dwayne Roloson just 1:05 into the contest. It was the first time during this season that Edmonton didn’t score the first goal at home.
The Oilers couldn’t get the second one either as Nashville extended its first period lead to 2-0 on the power play when Weber’s shot made it through a maze of players in front and past Roloson with just under five minutes remaining in the first frame.
The Oilers finally gave the sold out crowd at Rexall Place something to cheer about just before the mid-mark of the second when Petr Sykora made a gorgeous no-look touch pass to send Hemsky in all alone and Hemsky made the most of his breakaway chance, beating Predators goalie Chris Mason top shelf glove-side.
Nashville restored the two-goal advantage before five minutes had elapsed in the third as defenceman Suter’s wrist shot beat Roloson stick-side.
Edmonton was able to pull back to within striking distance when Smyth inadvertently kicked the puck through Mason’s legs while skating in to join a scramble in front of the Nashville net. The goal was allowed after a video review, to cut the score to 3-2.
But Nashville got the insurance goal they needed with just over three minutes left when Kariya’s shot on a two-on-one opportunity was kicked out to Upshall, who put his first of the season into a wide open net.
Upshall, a native of Fort McMurray, Alberta, was happy to finally get his first goal and even happier with where it happened.
“It is great to be back here in God’s country in Alberta,” he said. “Playing in front of friends and family. It was such a great feeling to chip in with that first goal. That’s the first one in a long time.”
The Oilers once again closed to within a goal when Bergeron’s long shot from the point beat Mason with Roloson on the bench for the extra attacker.
Edmonton pulled Roloson again in a desperate attempt to tie the game but the Predators were able to score an empty net goal by Legwand.
The Oilers play the final match of their three game homestand on Friday against Dallas before going on a five game road trip.
Nashville plays the fourth game of their current five game road swing in Minnesota on Saturday.
Notes: With his first period assist, Kariya hit the 800 point milestone for his career. . . . The Predators lost each of their first three games and gave up a total of 17 goals in the process but went 7-0-1 in their last eight games in October to rise to the top of the Central Division. . . . The Oilers’ 7-4-0 record in October was the best start to a season that Edmonton has had since they went 9-4-1 in 2001-02. . . . Mason made his third start of the season for the Preds. The Oilers were the only Western Conference team Mason hadn’t played.