The Nashville Predators did not exactly flip the script against the Edmonton Oilers. They simply came up with an alternate ending.
The plot line of Tuesday’s 3-1 Nashville victory at Bridgestone Arena was basically the same as the last time the teams played in the same building. The Predators dominated the opening 20 minutes, had a little lull in the second period and then picked up their play near the end.
Feedback from the focus group — a sampling of 15,745, in this case — was much more positive this time based on the fact that it was the home team that scored first and subsequently led all the way to the finish.
“They have to chase you now,” coach Barry Trotz said. “In [the first game], we were all over them and they got one chance and it ended up in our net. … Getting the first goal [Tuesday] was a little bit of a relief because we’ve had troubles with the Edmonton Oilers this year.”
It was Martin Erat who assumed the leading role when he scored 4:08 after the curtain went up. For good measure, Patric Hornqvist added a power play goal fewer than three minutes later and at that point the outcome seemed as obvious as a standard romantic comedy.
Edmonton, after all, came into the contest with the fewest points in the league and eight players, including some of their top offensive talent, on injured reserve. Never mind that it had won two of the previous three meetings.
“I think we started the game pretty good,” Hornqvist said. “We went after them right away, had a quick start and scored two goals there.”
The fact that Nashville led 2-0 at the first intermission made perfect sense given that it also had a 15-5 edge in shots.
That was in stark contrast to the previous engagement when the Predators outshot the Oilers 16-6 over the first 20 minutes but reached the first intermission down 1-0. The mind-bending continued all the way to the finish of that one. Edmonton won 4-0 despite being outshot 37-22.
“It was a tough start,” Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk said. “They obviously came hard again, which we knew was going to happen. We got down a little bit but definitely gave a push back in the second.”
The next score, though, came from Nashville’s David Legwand, who also had an assist on Erat’s goal. The Oilers finally got on the board 2:38 later, but the remainder of their best action sequences all ended with goalie Pekka Rinne making a well-timed save. The last of those came with 2:14 to go and capped a stretch in which Edmonton tested him four times in fewer than 75 seconds.
Even with that flourish, the Predators still finished with a 30-20 edge in shots.
“It took a while for the Oilers to get it going, but I think we gave them nothing in the first period,” Rinne said. “I thought in the second and third the Oilers played pretty well, and I kind of got back into the game when I faced shots.
“But I thought all night long we handled the game pretty well. Obviously, that was pretty nice to play when we had a 3-0 lead. That made it so much easier.”
It also led to the outcome those in the stands wanted.
• With a goal and an assist, Legwand raised his season total to 38 points (14 goals, 24 assists).
That matches his total for all of 2009-10, when he played all 82 games. He has appeared in just 58 thus far this season.
“It’s good to see because he has so much ability,” Trotz said. “When he’s playing the way he is, he is a very, very good player.
“… As the games get more and more important he seems to elevate his level. [Against Edmonton], he was the best player on the ice.”
• Rinne nearly pulled off the unusual feat of scoring a goal. The Nashville netminder let rip with a chance in the closing minutes when Edmonton’s net was unprotected in favor of an extra attacker.
“I gave it a go and I gave it a try, but it hit [a player’s] arm,” Rinne said. “I thought I had a pretty good shot.”
• The Predators announced that the broadcast team, play-by-play man Pete Weber and analyst Terry Crisp, would return for the 2011-12 season. Both signed new contracts.
Weber and Crisp have been together since the franchise’s inaugural season of 1998-99.