The Edmonton Oilers’ veterans showed they can be just as dangerous as the young guys.
Ryan Smyth scored the winning goal and added an assist as the Oilers rallied with three goals in the third period to beat the Nashville Predators 3-1 on Monday night.
With the spotlight on young Oilers sensations Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, Edmonton coach Tom Renney said it is vital for the team’s older players to pick up their games and set an example.
”They led us, no question,” he said. ”That gives the kids a chance to go out there and play the exuberant game they do. The veteran players really have to step up and play games like this.”
Hall and Ryan Jones also scored and captain Shawn Horcoff had three assists for the Oilers, who are 2-1-1 after finishing last in the NHL for two straight seasons.
Smyth credited Horcoff for being the catalyst in this comeback.
”He’s a true leader,” Smyth said. ”He works hard and pays the price and leads by example. That was an excellent effort by Horc from start to finish.”
Sergei Kostitsyn had the lone goal for the Predators (2-2-1), who have lost three in a row following two wins to open the season. Nashville recorded only 12 shots, and yielded 25 to Edmonton.
”That was one of the worst losses I’ve ever been part of,” Predators defenseman Shea Weber said.
Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne said the team is going through a tough stretch, and it showed against the Oilers.
”It was bad,” he said. ”It comes down to effort and work ethic and playing desperate hockey. It’s the simple things like fighting for your teammates. Right now we are not doing that and this is the result. Three games in a row now and it is not good. We never really got it going tonight.”
The Oilers had the bulk of the good scoring opportunities in the scoreless first period as their young stars buzzed the net. Rinne was particularly sharp, making a quick glove save at the side of the net before Hall could bat the puck out of the air. Eberle also missed the net on a couple of quality chances.
The Predators took a 1-0 lead two minutes into the second period. Kostitsyn elected to shoot on a 2-on-1 rush, and Oilers goalie Nikolai Khabibulin got only a piece of the puck before he turned and watched it trickle into the net.
Edmonton rallied in the third and outshot Nashville 19-9 in the final two periods.
The Oilers were rewarded for their pressure five minutes into the third when Nugent-Hopkins earned his first NHL assist by making a nice feed to Hall on the power play.
Nugent-Hopkins, taken No. 1 overall in this year’s NHL draft, scored four goals in his first three games, including a hat trick on Saturday in a loss to Vancouver.
Just two minutes after Hall’s goal, Edmonton grabbed a 2-1 lead when Horcoff made a perfect pass to Smyth, who beat Rinne with a backhand move.
Jones scored into an empty net with 40 seconds remaining.
”I was impressed with the effort we came out with in the third,” Horcoff said. ”We really took it to them. The power-play goal got us the momentum and we were able to go from there. It was a really good win for us, and hopefully a momentum builder going forward.”
NOTES: F Ben Eager played his first game with the Oilers after sustaining a concussion during training camp. … Edmonton RW Ales Hemsky is expected to be out for another couple of weeks because of a shoulder injury, but D Ryan Whitney and C Sam Gagner are likely to return to the lineup this week. … Predators F Mike Fisher (shoulder) didn’t travel with the team for its three-game trip. D Francis Bouillon (concussion) is with the team but was scratched from the lineup.