Wednesday, March 19, 2014
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Loss to Oilers potentially fatal to Predators' playoff hopes

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[March 19, 2014]  EDMONTON, Alberta  Watching your slim playoff hopes suffer a near fatal blow is bad enough, but watching it happen at the hands of the last place team in your conference was almost too much to bear for the Nashville Predators.

After a 5-1 loss to the 29th place Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday that all but ended their season, the stunned Predators were struggling for answers.

They could not come up with any. At least not any good ones.

"We had a lot of no-shows, guys who didn't play to their capabilities and that's not good enough for us," said Nashville coach Barry Trotz. "I just thought that we didn't have enough urgency from enough guys and we need guys to step up."

The Predators, who began the day in 12th place, nine points out the final playoff spot, desperately needed this win, but it was the Oilers who played like they wanted it more. Despite the worst home record in the NHL, Edmonton jumped out to a 3-0 lead after 40 minutes and then piled on in the third.

"We had some confidence," said Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. "We've been playing a lot better of late on the defensive side of things, not giving teams too much. We knew these guys would be a good test for us because they play a good defensive game. I thought we did a good job of staying patient and working for our opportunities."


The Oilers have been on a surge of late, going 10-4-3 in their last 17 games for one of the best records in the NHL over that stretch.

"I think it's pretty awesome to see this team fighting its way through the games here, getting points," said goalie Viktor Fasth, who made 28 saves in the win. "Guys have been playing really good. Since I've been here I've seen nothing but good things."

Though they don't have much to play for themselves, it hasn't stopped the Oilers from playing hard down the stretch.

"It's a lot of fun when you're out there winning games and you have confidence in each other, that you're going to get the job done," said Nugent Hopkins. "We definitely have that in here right now."

The Predators don't, in falling to 29-30-10.

"It wasn't a good effort, we didn't do too many good things out there, we turned the puck over," said Nashville center Mike Fisher. "We didn't do too many good things defensively and they buried them when they got chances. They played pretty well."

Nashville gave up two power-play goals and went 0-for-5 with the man advantage themselves.

"Our power play wasn't good tonight, they did some things on their PK and we didn't capitalize," said Fisher. "We didn't do many good things out there at all. They fed off that and capitalized on that for sure."

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The Oilers scored first for the second straight game, waiting until the final minute of the first period when center Sam Gagner went to the slot to collect defenseman Martin Marincin's rebound after some nice work by winger Taylor Hall to set everything up in the zone.

Gagner's goal gives him eight points in eight games since March 1.

Edmonton blew it open in the second period, scoring twice more to take a 3-0 lead.

Nugent-Hopkins, who had not scored in 15 games, finally connected, on the slumping power play, no less, after a nice pass from winger Jordan Eberle at 8:18.

Then Hall scored to give the Oilers the three-goal cushion, eventually. The referees missed the goal, allowing play to continue for nearly two minutes. When it did, they changed the clock from 16:05 back to 14:48 and made it 3-0 Oilers.

Nashville made it interesting late in the second period, when winger Gabriel Bourque cut it to 3-1 at 18:49. Edmonton put out the fire in the third period when Eberle scored on yet another power play to make it 4-1 Oilers at 8:39, and then added another goal to make it 5-1 just 1:17 later.

"Tonight we started to bear down and find some ways to score, especially on the power play," said Eberle. "It's nice to kind of get out of the hole there. The biggest thing with our offence is we haven't been contributing the way we want to, so to get a couple tonight definitely helps."

NOTES: Oilers RW Nail Yakupov, who is mired in a two-goals-in-20-games slump, sat out with an ankle injury. He took the pregame skate and came up lame. ... LW Jesse Joensuu will be lost to the Oilers for the rest of the season because of a high ankle sprain. ... Predators D Ryan Ellis and Michael Del Zotto were both minus-3. Ellis escaped an early shower when he hit Oilers RW Jordan Eberle from behind, face-first into the boards 48 seconds into the game. He escaped with a boarding minor. ... Nashville does not have a player out of the lineup with an injury. ...Predators G Pekka Rinne got the hook 10:01 into the third period after giving up five goals on 26 shots.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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