It took a full-team effort from the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday to halt a six-game losing streak.
Five players had a multi-point performance and goaltender Ben Scrivens made 34 saves as Edmonton avoided a seventh straight loss by defeating the visiting Nashville Predators 5-1.
“It was a good team win, all four lines and all six defence were rolling pretty good,” said Edmonton defenceman Justin Schultz. “We got contributions from everyone tonight. Whether they were on the score sheet or not, everyone played well. It was nice to get a win.”
Ryan Smyth, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Schultz had a goal and an assist apiece for the Oilers (16-32-7), who captured just their fifth win in the last 22 games, while Taylor Hall chipped in with two assists. Nail Yakupov added a single goal.
“It was nice to get out to an early lead and I thought we carried momentum shift after shift in the first period,” Smyth said. “We desperately needed a win, to build some confidence. Now we have confidence that we can win. We can come from behind if we need to, but it was nice to play with the lead.”
The Oilers have had five losing streaks reach five games or more this season, with six being their longest.
David Legwand responded for the Predators (23-23-8), who have lost two in a row against a pair of Alberta teams that are both in the bottom three spots in the standings, blowing a lead in a 5-4 shootout loss in Calgary on Friday.
“I’m quite disappointed,” said Nashville head coach Barry Trotz. “We had a game in Calgary the other day and let a point slip away and tonight we had it 1-1 late in the first and I thought we would be in good shape. We gave up a poor goal in terms of our structure, it was bad coverage by us. When they got the third goal it took a lot of steam out of our bench.”
Veteran Predators forward Paul Gaustad said the last two losses have hurt for a team trying to claw its way into the playoff picture.
“It’s obviously not the result we wanted,” he said. “Every team in this league is a really good team, no matter what the standings always say. We need to find ways to get two points. We have to start making a move up, we can’t go down in the standings right now. These last two games, we needed to find a way to get more points. It’s something we’re not happy with.”
Edmonton started the scoring three minutes into the game as Jesse Joensuu saw Schultz streaking in from the point and hooked a pass to the defender for a hard shot that beat Predators starter Carter Hutton.
Nashville tied the game up with four-and-a-half minutes to play in the opening period as Legwand elected to shoot it himself on a two-on-one break and picked the top corner past Scrivens.
The Oilers went into the dressing rooms on a positive note after a goal with 12 seconds left in the first period as Hall sent a great pass through the legs of defender Roman Josi to give Eberle an easy redirection into the net from the doorstep.
It was a significant goal, as the Predators came into the game with a 1-16-2 record when trailing after the first period.
Nashville thought it had clawed even just 48 seconds in to the second period, but Taylor Beck was called for goalie interference for running over Scrivens as he chipped the puck in and the goal was disallowed.
Edmonton went up by two goals midway through the second as Smyth picked up a rebound in the crease and hooked it past Hutton. It was Smyth’s 125th power-play goal as an Oiler, tying him for second spot on the team’s all-time list with Wayne Gretzky and putting him one back of leader Glenn Anderson.
“For Ryan, that was a special thing to do,” said Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins. “Hopefully he can keep moving up the charts. Anything that has Mr. Gretzky’s name on it and you can match it, it’s a great, great accomplishment.”
Smyth is also one goal back of hitting the top 100 list of all-time NHL scorers.
Edmonton made it 4-1 with three minutes left in the second frame as Sam Gagner hit a trailing Yakupov on an odd-man rush and the 2012 first overall NHL draft pick sent home his 10th of the season.
The Predators turned the third period into something of a shooting gallery at the Edmonton net and thought they had finally been rewarded on what looked to have been a Craig Smith goal, but once again Beck was called for goaltender interference as he was actually lying on top of Scrivens when the puck trickled across the line.
“I’ve never seen anything like that,” Beck said. “On the first one I was just taking the puck hard to the net and my momentum kind of ran the goalie a little bit. I think the puck would have gone into the net regardless, but the ref called it no goal. On the second one I was getting hacked and whacked and ended up falling on the goalie and again it was disallowed. Those things happen, I guess. Hopefully next time it is called the other way.”
Edmonton put the game away for good with four-and-a-half minutes left to play after some quick passing on the power play led to Nugent-Hopkins’ 15th goal of the season.
Scrivens was peppered with 35 shots on the night, 17 of which came in the third period.
“Scrivens did an unbelievable job tonight, he was barking and talking and he was conducting the orchestra back there,” Eakins said. “Ben was excellent directing traffic.”
The Oilers return to action on Monday night with a quick trip to Vancouver. The predators conclude a four-game trip in Winnipeg on Tuesday.