Ilya Bryzgalov is feeling comfortable and very welcome in the Edmonton Oilers’ locker room, and the 33-year-old goaltender just proved he still knows how to shut opponents down.
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Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall scored 51 seconds apart in the second period, and Bryzgalov got a shutout in his first start for Edmonton as the Oilers beat the Nashville Predators 3-0 Thursday night.
"Always like it when they don’t score," Oilers coach Dallas Eakins said. "And he picked up right where he left off last game. I thought he was solid. He looked big in the net, everything. Check marks right across the page for him."
Bryzgalov, signed by the Oilers on Nov. 8, made 33 saves in his first NHL start since April 25 when he was in net for Philadelphia. Jordan Eberle added an empty-netter in the final minute off an assist from Hall, and the Oilers have won four of five.
"So far so good," Bryzgalov said.
Predators captain Shea Weber was hit by a puck near his right eye at 15:24 of the second, dropped to the ice and immediately skated to the locker room. He did not return with what team officials called an upper-body injury and is day-to-day.
Nashville, which had won two straight, lost for the second time in seven games.
Predators coach Barry Trotz noted they have used four goaltenders themselves this season.
"The guys are going to bear down and play hard for the new guy that’s in net," Trotz said. "The new guy for them is Bryzgalov, and we talked before the game that we needed to get in the hard areas and throw some pucks. He hasn’t played for a while. He may be a little rusty. The game might not be tight. .. But obviously we didn’t play hard enough in those hard areas."
The Predators hosted one of the NHL’s two games and were the only American team in action Thursday, wanting to start a holiday tradition in Nashville pairing hockey with turkey. It was just their 11th home game this season, fewer than all but Dallas and the Rangers.
Nashville outshot Edmonton 13-9 in a sluggish first period with the Predators playing the second game of a back-to-back after winning 4-0 in Columbus on Wednesday night. This is the Oilers’ only visit to Nashville this season and the start of a three-game road trip.
Eakins said he thought both teams were checking hard, which can lead to a dull or sluggish game.
"But when you’re coaching and you need your team to get better defensively, that’s a ray of bright light coming in when the game looks sluggish but your team’s checking very well," Eakins said.
The Oilers opened the second by taking the first five shots, and Predators forward Paul Gaustad and Oilers left wing David Perron each went to the penalty box for unsportsmanlike conduct at 5:07. Nugent-Hopkins tipped in a shot by Jeff Petry 25 seconds later during the 4-on-4, and Hall scored on a backhander from Sam Gagner at 6:23 for a 2-0 lead.
"We’re a fast, skilled team," Nugent-Hopkins said. "We have to take opportunities when we get them. Four-on-four is a situation that when we play our game, we can get a couple goals."
Bryzgalov, who signed a one-year deal with the Oilers for $1.7 million, debuted Monday in Edmonton, replacing Devan Dubnyk in a 5-1 loss to Chicago. Bryzgalov stopped four shots from Weber in the first period, but Weber had only one shot in the second before the puck hit him in the face.
"Obviously if we lose our captain, it’s always hard and we hope he’s OK and hopefully he gets back soon," Predators defenseman Roman Josi said.
Bryzgalov had a nice pad save on Predators forward Mike Fisher in the final minutes to finish off his 31st career shutout and second against the Predators.
NOTES: The Oilers are 4-5-2 when scoring first. Nashville dropped to 2-10-0 when the opponent scores first. … Bryzgalov improved to 10-6-3 against the Predators. … The Oilers are 5-1-0 when leading after two periods, and Nashville is 0-11-0 when trailing after two. … Nugent-Hopkins has seven points in the last four games. … It was Nashville’s fourth game on Thanksgiving and first since 2007. The Predators won the first three on their own ice. … Nashville is 2-2-0 in the second of back-to-back games this season.