Edmonton - November 29, 2011 - Over the last few years, the Nashville Predators have more often then not, had their way with the Edmonton Oilers. That being said, the Oilers have already managed to pick up two victories against the hard working Predators and were looking to make it three for three on Monday night. Unfortunately for the home side, the visitors had no intention of allowing the streak to reach three in a row. Making only his second start of the season, goaltender Anders Lindback was able to do what all world netminder, Pekka Rinne, could not...beat the Edmonton Oilers. Led by a hard hitting performance from forward Jordan Tootoo and a clutch goal from linemate Nick Spaling, the Nashville Predators found a way to edge a weary looking Edmonton Oilers club by a score of 2-1.
On Jordan Eberle "Mini-Stick Giveaway Night", the Oilers were able to muster up next to nothing upfront. They managed all of eighteen shots on goal, with the aforementioned Eberle, being the only one able to solve the Preds other goaltending tower. The club was playing their first game without injured forward Taylor Hall and his absence from the lineup, was clearly felt.
Goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, did all he could to give the Oilers an opportunity to steal two points from the Preds, making a number of highlight reel saves throughout the night. Unfortunately for Khabibulin, the one puck that slipped past him in an all out Nashville onslaught, during the second period, was one he would love to have back. After making numerous acrobatic saves, the veteran netminder had a harmless looking shot from defenceman Shea Weber, somehow elude him, to even the score at one. The Predators gained momentum, after finally solving the Russian netminder and simply took the proceedings over. For the remainder of the period, it was all Nashville but they could not get that go ahead marker, thanks to the Edmonton netminder.
Edmonton continued to generate little during the final stanza and ultimately paid for it. After Sam Gagner coughed up the puck to the right of the Oilers net, the Predators jumped on the opportunity and quickly found away to get Spaling the puck, who rifled a shot, from the slot, off the crossbar and past Khabibulin at the 12:21 mark of the final stanza. The Oilers still had more then enough time to tie things up but were simply not up to the task. While they gained possession in the final minute of play, Lindback was never pressed into making a quality save to secure the victory.
The play of Nikolai Khabibulin was the only reason this game was close. If not for the Oilers netminder, this one would have been out of hand midway thru the second period. With the veteran goaltender's play not dropping off much from his all-world start to the campaign, you would have to think that he will be the go to guy for the foreseeable future. With the level that Khabby is currently at, I can't see Devan Dubnyk getting much playing time, outside of back-to-back games.
The fact that they decided to play Magnus Paajarvi on the second line with Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky. While Paajarvi didn't get much done with the opportunity given to him, they at least gave him the chance. I would expect to see Paajarvi in the same spot come Wednesday night and it will be up to him to get the job done.
I posted a piece on the power play and its importance without Taylor Hall in the lineup...I will leave it at that. If you haven't had a chance to read it, it's HERE
Outside of the last three minutes of the game, when he played nearly two and a half minutes, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had all of four shifts, totaling just under three and a half minutes of ice time in the third period. Why you ask? Good question and I honestly can't find an answer to give you. For some reason, we got a steady diet of the second and third lines in the final period and it was a bit curious. While the top line had not had their best night, they were still the line that scored the lone goal and the ones most likely to score the next one. With Taylor Hall already out of the equation, I am not too sure why they would want to take RNH and to a lesser extent, Eberle, out of the mix in the third.
On the 630 CHED Post Game show, analyst Rob Brown described Paajarvi as "looking lost" on a line with Horcoff and Hemsky. Outside of a few shifts, I would say Brown's assessment was dead on. Honestly, I wasn't expecting #91 to light the world on fire in his new role but I was hoping for more then he showed. We will see how he does Wednesday night because I am sure his leash is very short.
The five minute major penalty that was given to Ryan Jones in the second period was an absolute joke and to make matters worse, the two makeup calls against Nashville, were arguably worse. The referees were terrible last night and that display in the second period, may have been the worst bit of reffing I have ever seen. I understand that they want to make the game safer but it is now at the point of stupidity. The league has put their referees in a pretty tough spot and because of it, we see the display that we did tonight.