Saturday, January 23, 2016

Predators Get 2nd Win In A Row, Defeat the Oilers 4-1

The Nashville Predators visited Rexall Place to face the Edmonton Oilers and were looking for their first back to back wins since December 19th/21st.

The Predators accomplished that task by defeating the Oilers 4-1.

Leon Draisaitl opened the scoring for the Oilers, beating the Predators defense back and to the low slot before backhanding a puck past Pekka Rinne for a 1-0 lead.

Mattias Ekholm answered with a a shot through traffic that slid between the legs of Cam Talbot to tie the game at 1.

Ekholm scored a...strange goal to give the Predators a 2-1 lead when his shot hit Andre Sekera in the head and disappeared into the pads of Talbot. When Talbot dropped to the butterfly, the puck squirted out of his pads and dribbled across the goal line.

Mike Fisher scored on a drive to the net that was set up by a sweet pass from Shea Weber to give the Predators a 3-1 lead early in the third period.

Filip Forsberg finished the scoring with an empty net goal.

Some observations:

  • Mike Ribeiro moved up to the first line on a wing with James Neal and Ryan Johansen. More line juggling by Peter Laviolette. Kevin Fiala was a healthy scratch. Mike Fisher centered Craig Smith and Filip Forsberg. Austin Watson drew back into the line up and was paired with Calle Jarnkrok and Miikka Salomaki.
  • Petter Granberg was paired with Mattias Ekholm on the blue line. Anthony Bitetto was a healthy scratch for the D. corps.
  • The Draisaitl goal was another example of an opposing forward skating through the Predators defense to get to a prime scoring area. This time, Draisaitl victimized Shea Weber with a strong cut to the low slot. Again, this is an area of the Predators play that has been uncharacteristically spotty and has to improve if this team is going to improve it's play.
  • Mattias Ekholm has been quietly solid for the Predators. You can see that he is a steadying presence for the rookie Granberg and he has some offensive mojo as well. His goal was a result of good judgment to jump in on the play and his unwillingness to give up on the puck in a high traffic area. 
  • Was that not the weirdest goal that Ekholm scored for his second of the night? Off the head of Sekera, disappeared into the pads of Talbot, and then reappeared to drift slowly over the goal line. A lot of puck luck on that goal, something the Predators have not had a lot of lately. Maybe, just maybe, the hockey gods are starting to smile on the Predators.
  • Matty Ek recorded his 20th point with his 2 goals tonight. That is a career high, and it occurred in 48 games. His previous high was 18 points in 80 games.
  • Exceptional vision and a sweet pass from Shea Weber to Mike Fisher during the 4 on 4 early in the third period for the Predators third goal. Weber put the pass from the corner right on to the tape of Fisher's stick. And credit Fisher for driving hard to the net, something the Predators have started to do recently and it has resulted in goals.
  • Good on Austin Watson getting back in the line up and picking up an assist on Ekholm's first goal. Watson has been struggling to stick in the line up and he needs some good things to happen for his confidence. A big body and a hard worker, this young Predator can be a contributor if he finds his game.
  • I liked the way the Predators skated tonight and controlled the neutral zone. The Oilers have some talented and explosive forwards, but the Predators skated well and negated their speed and and offensive cycle.
  • Rinne had his second consecutive strong outing. I don't really fault him on the lone Oiler goal as Draisaitl worked Weber to get to the low slot. Foir the second game, Rinne made some quality saves, but more importantly, was calm in net and looked confident. The Predators will do very well with a calm and confident Rinne.
  • The Predators won 33 of 59 faceoffs and blocked 14 shots tonight.
  • Good to see the PK start to get its mojo back. They killed all 3 of the Oilers man advantages. The Predators power play was 1 of 2.
  • Roman Josi led the team in TOI with 26:50. His partner, Shea Weber, had 26:00.
Goodness, it is nice to get back to back wins. This was a complete game by the team that was a full 60 minutes of sound, fundamental hockey. This team has struggled mightily to put these kinds of games together, and now having done that will hopefully build on that effort and establish some positive momentum.

Two more games before the All Star break to do just that.

My three stars:

1. Mattias Ekholm

2. Pekka Rinne

3. Mike Fisher

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