The Predators began a western Canada road swing by getting punched in the mouth in the first four minutes of their game with the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers came out flying and the Predators didn't match their speed. Four shots, two goals, a 2-0 Edmonton lead, and all of a sudden this game looked out of hand.
Coach Barry Trotz used his timeout, pulled starting goaltender Pekka Rinne, and told his team to start skating. Dan Ellis came on in relief, and the complexion of the game began to change.
The Predators cut the deficit to 2-1 when Wade Belak, working hard in front of the net, got the puck to Ryan Jones and Jonesy notched his 4th goal in four games. Gritty goal. A blue collar goal. A goal that served notice that the Predators were not going away quietly.
Joel Ward tied the game at 2 with his 6th goal of the season with some good work in the hard area around the net. Ward was in the right place to gather in a rebound and bury the shot because he was taking a beating battling for precious position. Grit and heart. Nope, the Predators were not about to give in to the Oilers.
Marcel Goc gave the Predators their first lead of the night with his 5th goal of the season off assists from J.P. Dumont and Patric Hornqvist. The Predators had seized momentum because of their resiliency and their unrelenting effort. You could see the Oilers reaction- "Is this the team we smoked 6-1 in Nashville?" The answer is "No".
In the span of four minutes, the Predators had seized the momentum and had taken the crowd out of the game. The effort would continue in the second period as Patric Hornqvist notched his ninth goal of the season on a nice give and go with Jason Arnott. Patience and efficently moving the puck set up Hornqvist for a wide open shot that he buried.
The Predators gave up their second power play goal of the game to the lightning fast Robert Nilsson at the 14:12 mark of the second. That score made it 4-3 Predators, but the Oilers were flying and had seized momentum. It appeared that the Preds were just trying to hang on and get out of the period when Dustin Penner was called for holding. With just four seconds left in the period, Ryan Suter fired a slap shot from the blue line that was tipped by Patric Hornqvist in front of the net. 5-3 Predators. Period over. Heart ripped out of the Oilers.
In the third period, the Oilers applied pressure, and lots of it. Ellis was strong in net and the Predators were able to withstand the onslaught. Jerred Smithson and David Legwand broke in on a two on one, and Smithson took a nice feed from Legwand and fired the puck past Oiler goalie Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers at 19:16. 6-3 Predators. Game over.
In the first 18 games of the season, the Predators scored 39 goals, an average of 2.17 goals per game. In the last 16 games, the Predators have scored 62 goals, and average of 3.875. Why the turnaround? Coach Barry Trotz said it best when he said that this team is playing like they are instead of like what they want to be. And this team is blue collar. They are gritty. They play with resilience and heart. and when they play like that, they are winners.
They got punched in the mouth early in this game. They responded like a winner. They took the punch, got back up, and threw their own punches.And in so doing, knocked out a worthy opponent.
With this win, the Predators are now tied for first in the Central Divsion with Chicago with 45 points. This is the third fastest team to get to the 20 win plateau in the history of the franchise.
It's a long season. There are more punches that will be thrown at you, boys. You have now shown you can take the hits and deliver your own. That comes from knowing who you are. That comes from heart. Keep punching, boys.