EDMONTON – The Edmonton Oilers’ veterans showed they can be just as dangerous as the young guys.
Ryan Smyth scored the game winner and added an assist and captain Shawn Horcoff had three assists as the Oilers defeated the Nashville Predators 3-1 Monday.
With the spotlight on Edmonton on young sensations Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, Oilers head coach Tom Renney said it’s vital that the team veterans step up and set an example.
“They led us, no question,” he said. “That gives the kids a chance to go out there and play the exuberant game they do. The veteran players really have to step up and play games like this.”
Smyth credited Horcoff for being the catalyst in the comeback.
“He’s a true leader,” he said. “He works hard and pays the price and leads by example. That was an excellent effort by Horc from start to finish.”
Hall and Ryan Jones also scored for the Oilers who are off to a 2-1-1 after finishing last in the NHL two seasons in a row.
Sergei Kostitsyn replied for the Predators (2-2-1), who have lost three in a row after launching the season with a pair of victories.
“That was one of the worst losses I’ve ever been part of,” said Predators defenceman Shea Weber.
Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne said the team is going through a tough stretch, as evidenced by a night where they only had 12 shots on Edmonton goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin.
“It was bad,” he said. “It comes down to effort and work ethic and playing desperate hockey. It’s the simple things like fighting for your teammates. Right now we are not doing that and this is the result. Three games in a row now and it is not good. We never really got it going tonight.”
The Oilers had the bulk of the good scoring opportunities in the scoreless first period as their young stars buzzed the net. Rinne was particularly sharp making a quick glove save at the side of the net before Hall could bat the puck out of the air. Eberle also missed the net on a couple of quality chances.
The Predators scored the game’s first goal, however, just two minutes into the second. Kostitsyn elected to shoot on a two-on-one attempt and Khabibulin was only able to get a piece of it before turning to watch the puck trickle into the net.
Edmonton had a good flurry of chances with a loose puck in front of the net on a late second period power play before time expired to keep it a 1-0 game, despite Edmonton outshooting Nashville 19-9 over the first 40 minutes.
The Oilers finally were rewarded for their pressure five minutes into the third period as Nugent-Hopkins earned his first career NHL assist, making a nice feed to Hall on the power play.
Just two minutes later Edmonton had the lead as Horcoff made a perfect pass through to Smyth, and he undressed Rinne with a backhand move to make it 2-1.
Jones scored into an empty net with 40 seconds remaining.
“I was impressed with the effort we came out with in the third,” Horcoff said. “We really took it to them. The power play goal got us the momentum and we were able to go from there. It was a really good win for us, and hopefully a momentum-builder going forward.”
The Oilers take a quick trip to Calgary to play the Flames on Tuesday. The Predators continue their Western Canadian swing in Vancouver on Thursday.
Notes: F Ben Eager made his first appearance for the team after suffering a concussion in training camp…Edmonton’s Ales Hemsky looks like he will be out for another couple of weeks with a shoulder injury but there was some good news on the injury front for the Oilers as defenceman Ryan Whitney and centre Sam Gagner both passed coach Tom Renney’s recovery test and should return to the lineup this week…Predator F Mike Fisher (shoulder) did not travel with the team on its current three-game trip. D Francis Bouillon (concussion) made the trip but was not ready to play in Edmonton…Nugent-Hopkins’ hat trick on Saturday against Vancouver in his third career game was the fastest three-goal game ever recorded by a first overall draft pick.