Predators look for season sweep of Oilers

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — No team in the NHL scores goals in the second period like the Nashville Predators. Their opponent Sunday knows that all too well.

In 3-2 and 2-0 victories over the Edmonton Oilers on Jan. 20 and Feb. 2, Nashville scored its first goal in the second and tallied both markers in the second period of the rematch.

With Edmonton coach Todd McLellan looking on from the press box Saturday at sold-out Bridgestone Arena, the Predators pumped three goals past Washington goalie Philipp Grubauer in the second period to erase a 1-0 deficit and went on to a 5-2 victory.

So when the Oilers take their third and final crack at beating Nashville this season, they might want to be on guard during the middle 20 minutes, in which the Predators tallied a league-high 78 goals.

Or to put it another way, Nashville (30-22-9) is plus-31 in the second period, and minus 22 in the first and third periods combined.

“I have no idea honestly, but it’s been good to us,” Predators defenseman Roman Josi said of his team’s second period dominance. “Even today, we weren’t happy with our start. We could have played better in the first period, but the second period is definitely good to us this year.”

Every period has been good for Josi lately. Since returning from a concussion Feb. 4, he leads all NHL defensemen with six goals and six assists. Josi potted two goals Saturday, giving him 11 for the season despite missing nine games.

The return of Josi to top form enabled the Nashville defense corps to trend more toward its billing as one of the league’s best. P.K. Subban has 10 points in his last eight games, Ryan Ellis chipped in two assists Saturday and Mattias Ekholm supplied steady play as Subban’s partner.

Thanks to the backline and Filip Forsberg’s otherworldly tear — seven goals and two assists in three games this week — the Predators scored at least four goals in six straight home contests.

“Since the day I’ve been here we’ve always had a really, really good D-core,” Forsberg said. “They’re playing really well defensively but adding to the offense as well. I think obviously, that’s still the case.”

Sunday’s game finishes a grueling stretch of six games in nine days since a league-mandated five-day break. It won’t be easy by any means as the Oilers (33-21-8) are threatening to take the Pacific Division title after a decade of being mostly terrible.

While Edmonton lost 2-1 on Friday night in Washington, it showed again that it can skate with the league’s best teams. It ended the Capitals’ streak of 11 straight home games with at least five goals, and was tied in the third period before a Justin Williams’ goal made the difference.

“We played a pretty solid defensive game even though they have so much firepower,” Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl said. “I think we had our chances. I think we could have definitely scored a few more.”

Cam Talbot (31-17-7) is expected to make his league-high 56th start in net for Edmonton. Pekka Rinne (23-15-6), who has won eight straight starts against the Oilers, should get the call for Nashville.