Edmonton - November 23, 2011 - Take note NHL, the kids are starting to find their way on the road. After a tough outing in Dallas the previous night, the Edmonton Oilers rebounded with their best road game of the season, pounding the Nashville Predators 6-2. Jordan Eberle lead the onslaught with two goals and an assist, while Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had two helpers a piece. Not to be outdone, veterans Shawn Horcoff, Ryan Smyth and Ales Hemsky all had two point nights, as Edmonton's top two lines were too much for the Predators to handle.
The Oilers came out hard in the first and were carrying the play from the get-go. They were rewarded at 9:31 mark, when Horcoff banged in his fourth power play marker of the season, while being tackled to the ice in the blue paint. The lead became two, when Ales Hemsky broke in all alone, on a feed from Smyth, and made it look almost too simple, beating Preds star netmeinder Pekka Rinne, with a perfectly placed shot. Eberle stretched the lead to 3-0, with his first of the night. Taylor Hall carried the puck into the Nashville zone and was levelled by Jordan Tootoo, from behind, but Hall still managed to get the puck over to his linemate, who fired a wrister past Rinne. After one, the Oilers led by three goals, had a 13-3 advantage on the shot clock and managed to chase one of the best goalies in the league from the Nashville net.
The Preds came out hungry to start the second and forced the Oilers into taking three penalties in the first thirteen minutes, which included a two man advantage for just under a minute. Nashville peppered netminder Devan Dubnyk with eighteen shots during the middle stanza but were unable to beat the Edmonton puck stopper. Dubnyk needed to have a good outing, after being less then stellar in his last four appearances and the big man did not disappoint. While neither side were able to find the back of the net in the second period, that all changed in the third.
Jordan Eberle opened the scoring in the third, with his second of the night, to put this one to bed. Nashville did manage to break Dubnyk's goose egg with a pair of goals in the final ten minutes but the Oilers managed two more themselves. Defenceman Jeff Petry notched his first of the season during an Edmonton power play and Horcoff ripped a bullet past the Preds back-up Anders Lindback, for his second of night on a great feed from Sam Gagner.
Edmonton is now off to Minnesota, to play the Wild in a Friday afternoon affair and then finish their four game road trip with a stop in Colorado. The Saturday night game will be the fifth time this season that the Oilers have played on Hockey Night In Canada. Three of the previous four games have turned into the Ryan Nugent-Hopkins show...so what are the chances the kid makes it four out of five?
The Oilers top two lines came out and simply took the game over. Nashville could do nothing to slow the visitors down, as they imposed their will on the Predators. They still need to find some secondary scoring but the current mix of the top six, be it w/ Horcoff or Gagner, has too much skill to not find the back of the net on a regular basis.
Dubnyk's play was probably, the most important thing to take from the lopsided victory. Yes he received a ton of run support but he looked good from start to finish. The netminder has been inconsistent for weeks and hopefully last night's performance will get him back on track. As good as Khabibulin has been this season, in order for them to be successful, Dubnyk has to do his part.
The Lander-Paajarvi pairing looked very good, when they saw the ice, and you could argue their line set the tone for the game with a great first shift. It is becoming more and more apparent that Anton Lander will not be sent down to Oklahoma City so the team must decide what to do with Paajarvi. Would time on the farm be best for the young Swede or would playing on the fourth line with his countrymen be the way to go? The two have obvious chemistry together and having them play on the same line, may help them both with their comfort level on the ice. Magnus seemed to have that jump back in his step last night and I'm sure playing on a line with his good friend played a part.
The third pairing of Colten Teubert and Alex Plante were good for the first forty minutes but struggled a bit in the third, taking all three of the Oilers minor penalties in the period. They played just under fifteen minutes on the night, which allowed the top two pairings from having anyone play over twenty five minutes. They two should be able to hold their own against the Wild but could have their struggles with a very talented and quick forward group in Colorado.
This clubs special teams improvement continues to be the biggest reason for their turn around. After being near the bottom of the league in both power play and penalty kill for the last number of seasons, Edmonton are among the best in the league. They are tied with San Jose for the fourth best power play and share the seventh best percentage on the penalty kill with the Boston Bruins.
You would think with the Oilers having two blow out victories in their last three games, that Sam Gagner and Eric Belanger would have been able to find the back of the net but still nothing. While the third line wasn't terrible on the night, they once again, created very little. Gagner made a great play on Horcoff's second goal of the game but as a line, there continues to be nothing. No one can complain about Ryan Jones and his production this season, but the other two have to find a way to put the puck in the net.