Predators take bite out of Oilers

Oilers forward Ryan Smyth is hit into the Predators bench by defenceman Shea Weber at Rexall Place...

Oilers forward Ryan Smyth is hit into the Predators bench by defenceman Shea Weber at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alta., Nov. 28, 2011. (AMBER BRACKEN/QMI Agency)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:31 AM ET

EDMONTON - Back in Edmonton for a six-game home-stand after playing 10 of their last 12 on the road, the Oilers laid an egg big enough to make an ostrich wince.

They didn’t get their first shot of the game until seven minutes in, didn’t get their 10th until the 38th minute mark, they were outshot 16-5 for a stretch in the second and then, beyond lucky to be tied 1-1 after 40 minutes, gassed it in the third.

Not what Tom Renney was expecting from what’s been a pretty good home team.

“We just needed to shoot the puck,” said the baffled head coach, after a 2-1 loss to the Nashville Predators. “As a team, we passed up opportunities to put pucks on net and go to rebounds and create havoc around their net. It was way too easy a night for Nashville.”

Easy for Nashville, and hard to watch. When the shots are 5-4 after 20 minutes and the game is on TV, you’re reaching for the remote. But the fans at Rexall Place had no escape.

“We’re struggling with our consistency and consistency is a huge part of the game,” said winger Jordan Eberle, who scored Edmonton’s only goal of an ill-fated night. “We played pretty well in the first and then we just handed it over to them in the second and the third.

“Khabby (Nikolai Khabibulin) played really well and kept us in it, but at the end of the night I don’t know how many shots we had but it wasn’t enough to score two goals. You have to shoot the puck.”

Edmonton didn’t get its first shot of the game until the 7:07 mark and Eberle scored on it, putting one into the top corner behind Anders Lindback.

That would be as good as it got for the rest of the night.

“I thought our compete level needed to improve and it didn’t,” said Renney. “They came after us, hemmed us in our end and we had a hard time getting out.”

The second period might have been Edmonton’s worst in weeks. They stayed on their heels the entire time, pounded with shots from start to finish and unable to even escape their own zone, much less apply pressure at the other end.

“We couldn’t get out of our own end,” said Eberle. “We got out-battled and out competed and against a big team like that you can’t let it happen.”

Khabibulin made some heroic stops, but let in Shea Weber’s weak wrister from the faceoff dot to tie it. Nick Spaling found a soft spot in the defence and ripped home the winner midway through the third.

“Sometimes we’re going to score goals and sometimes it’s going to be hard to score goals,” said Khabibulin, who faced 31 shots (Edmonton had 18 the other way), but wasn’t blaming anyone.

“The first game is usually hard after a long time and we had a couple, not to make any excuses, but over the years the first game back after a long trip is hard.

“Having said that, we had a good first period, we got the lead, but for some reason in the second period it seemed like we didn’t have much energy and they were able to take the game over.”

It has been a grind for the Oilers. They just played 12 games in 10 different cities in the last 24 days, but nobody wants to hear the F word. Fatigue is no excuse.

“It’s a long season and everyone is going to have dips,” said Renney. “The big thing is to stop them. Keep playing the game the way you have to to have success.”

After back-to-back road wins in Nashville and Minnesota, they’ve dropped two bad ones in a row — 5-2 in Denver and now this.

“We had two opportunities the last two games and it’s pretty frustrating to not even get one point out them,” said Eberle. “We have to be better, plain and simple.”

robert.tychkowski@sunmedia.ca

@SUN_TYCHKOWSKI


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