After a back-and-forth first period on Saturday afternoon between the Edmonton Oilers and Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena, the home team had a great opportunity to try and build some momentum with a strong start in the second period.
The Oilers proceeded to flood the offensive zone with shots right from the jump and tilted the ice for the first four minutes of the period. Nashville couldn’t clear the puck as the Oilers drove in with a relentless forecheck. As a result, they earned a power play and quickly capitalized thanks to a Leon Draisaitl shot at 4:14 to take a 2-0 lead early in the second period.
That five-minute session of pure domination by Edmonton set the tone for the rest of the game, and the Oilers came away with a 5-3 victory despite a furious last-minute push by the Predators.
This chart of the balance of shot attempts (via Natural Stat Trick) demonstrates the impact of those opening few minutes. Note the precipitous drop towards Edmonton’s side right in the middle at the start of the second period.
All in all, the Oilers took 14 shot attempts in the opening moments of the second period before Draisaitl scored the goal at 4:14 of the period.
“Well, they got a first shift of the second period and that line probably stayed out on the ice for a minute and a half or minute-40, so it gave that momentum and feel to Edmonton,” head coach Peter Laviolette said. “It’s a pretty good line that they’re playing against, and we ended up getting caught out there. We couldn’t get a change, we couldn’t get guys off the ice. They were able to get a partial change and throw new players on the ice, and we’re still defending with the same five probably until 1:45 in. I think we did go a little bit flat there at a point in the second period.
While the Predators were able to battle back and keep the game close later in the period on a goal from Filip Forsberg, Edmonton’s Connor McDavid put the Oilers back in front by two seven seconds later with a backhanded laser over the shoulder of goaltender Juuse Saros.
Laviolette liked his team’s effort after the opening onslaught by the Oilers, and the Natural Stat Trick chart showed that Nashville was able to even up the shot balance towards the end of the second period. However, as Laviolette said, the third goal was a complete buzzkill for the team.
On top of the volume of shots for the Oilers in those opening minutes of the second period, the quality of the players taking those shots gave Nashville some trouble in their own zone. Players like Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Kailer Yamamoto and McDavid were all getting their chances at the start of the period. It was a lot to deal with for any defensive unit.
“I mean, they have good players,” defenseman Mattias Ekholm said. “I don’t know what to say. They’re a good team and they got a shift on us where they were able to get a change, and we had tired players out there. So they were out there for a bit, but I thought we had some swings of that in the third too. It was two good hockey teams going at it and it was a one goal game until almost the end, so we’ll look at it. For sure we could have been better today, but they’re a good team and got the win. They deserved it.”
Over the next week, there could be a whole lot more shifts like that as the Predators take on powerhouse teams such as the Vegas Golden Knights, Tampa Bay Lightning. Despite some bleak moments, Ekholm thinks his team is still doing the right things to compete with the best of the best in the NHL.
“I think we’re playing good hockey even though we lost tonight,” he said. “It was a hard-fought game. I think we had our moments where we played good, and moments where we can play a lot better. There’s a tough schedule coming up with three really good teams and that brings a challenge. I think everyone knows it.”
The Predators return to Bridgestone Arena on Tuesday for a matchup with the defending Western Conference Champions in the Golden Knights.