Oilers lost in a lull-a-bye

Edmonton Oilers' rookie Taylor Hall scores on Nashville Predators' Pekka Rinne during the third...

Edmonton Oilers' rookie Taylor Hall scores on Nashville Predators' Pekka Rinne during the third period at Rexall Place on Sunday. The goal forced overtime, but the Oilers lost 3-2 in the ensuing shootout. (Amber Bracken/QMI Agency)

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:19 AM ET

EDMONTON - They knew coming in, it was going to be a structured affair.

The Nashville Predators’ success this season is predicated on their ability to frustrate teams, wait out the opposition, and make the most of their opportunities.

On Sunday, the visitors stuck to their game plan, forcing the Edmonton Oilers to alter theirs.

“You have to be careful how you judge your own team because of how Nashville plays,” said Oilers head coach Tom Renney. “They just don’t give you very much. What you don’t want to do is beat yourselves. It’s not so much what you take, but what you leave with against teams like this. I think the shot totals reflected that through the first couple of periods.”

The Predators dictated the contest, not by taking the game to the Oilers, but by sitting back waiting for something to happen.

The Oilers did a good job of not trying to force the issue, which would have played into the visitor’s hand. Instead they took a cautious approach as well, looking to pick their spots.

The strategy made for a slow, plodding affair with few chances over the first 40 minutes, but it did earn the Oilers a point in a 3-2 shootout loss, where were it not for an abandoned goal stick would have been an overtime win.

“They just wait for you to make mistakes and score on turnovers, score on your mistakes,” said Oilers centre Andrew Cogliano. “I thought we did a pretty good job of not giving them the opportunity to transition.

“I thought we played well defensively against them and at the end of the day, we felt we deserved a better fate.”

The Oilers are a team built on youth, speed and skill, which takes them out of their comfort zone having to try and wait out the opposition.

Yet despite the loss, they proved they were capable of shutting things down with the best of them. The teams had just 10 shots between them in the first period, and 16 combined in the second period.

“They’re an extremely patient team and the play a real good system,” said Oilers forward Liam Reddox. “All five guys on the ice execute the game plan perfectly. They kind of lull you to sleep, and it’s sometimes tough to play against, but I thought we stuck to our game plan for a lot of the game and took over in some points.

“It’s a tough loss, especially giving up that power-play goal. I thought we had taken control of the game at that point and then we were forced to battle back.”

Taylor Hall scored his team-leading 15th goal of the season in the third period.

The Oilers then had a golden opportunity to win it in overtime, but Shawn Horcoff’s diving effort in front bounced off Pekka Rinne’s stick on the goal line, which the Predators goaltender had dropped during a scramble.

“So many things can happen there, even if the puck is wobbling a bit it can roll over it,” said Horcoff. “When I saw the replay, it was pretty frustrating.”

Regardless, the Oilers showed a different side to their game, which will prove useful going forward.

Hopefully for Oilers fans who had to fight to stay awake, they won’t have to employ it too often in the future.

“I thought we tried to play within our game plan for Nashville,” Renney said. “We had a few turnovers, but it wasn’t as easy for them as perhaps they thought it might have been. You can’t beat yourselves and that’s the big thing for us right now. As much as most of the opponents are ahead of us in the standings, we’re beating ourselves right now. It’s tough, it certainly tests your patience.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/DerekVanDiest


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