EDMONTON - The Edmonton Oilers seem to have solved their problems in net and have been getting some positive results because of it.
Jordan Eberle had a pair of goals and an assist and Viktor Fasth made 28 saves as the Oilers continued to put crimps in other teams' playoff plans, coming away with a 5-1 victory over the Nashville Predators on Tuesday.
Sam Gagner, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall also scored for the Oilers (25-36-9), who have won two in a row and gone 10-4-3 in their past 17 games, and at least temporarily moved past Florida into third-last in the NHL.
Much of the progress the Oilers have made of late has been since trading Devan Dubnyk and Ilya Bryzgalov away and bringing in Fasth and Ben Scrivens.
"There are no soft goals with them," Hall said. "I'm sure everyone around the room will tell you. You just play with more confidence. You aren't afraid to make that little play that could turn into a big offensive chance when you know that you have guys like Viktor and Ben back there. It is a huge boost going into games knowing that we are going to give up chances, but we have good goalies in net."
Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins said his new goaltending tandem has made an immediate impact.
"It's been perfect," he said. "The great thing is I think they have become friends right away and are helping and supporting each other, which is so important. There is competition going on at the same time. The better the one plays spurs on the other and they are just going to keep pulling each other to the top. Our goaltending has just been fabulous."
Gabriel Bourque replied for the Predators (29-30-10) who have lost two in a row and are in serious jeopardy of missing the playoffs for the second year in a row as they are nine points out of the last post-season berth in the West with just 13 games remaining on the schedule.
"It wasn't a good effort, we didn't do too many good things out there, we turned the puck over," said Nashville assistant captain Mike Fisher. "We didn't do too many good things defensively and they buried them when they got chances. They played pretty well."
Predators head coach Barry Trotz said it was not the kind of effort his team can afford to have right now.
"I just thought that we didn't have enough urgency from enough guys and we need guys to step up," he said. "I thought our best players were some of our young guys. We have to give our goalie some run support, we have to be better defensively than that and our special teams have to be at least even every night."
Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne allowed five goals on 26 shots and was pulled midway through the third period.
"It was obviously not the best game for myself," he said. "I'm disappointed for sure. It's the way it goes I guess once in a while, but it's not acceptable. It's a little bit embarrassing too, but it's over with now."
The game started on a rough note just 48 seconds in as Predators defenceman Ryan Ellis pasted Eberle into the boards on a cross-check from behind, igniting a scrum.
The Predators came close with five minutes remaining in the first period as they took a bit of a surprise shot on Oilers goalie Viktor Fasth that he got a piece of with his glove before looking like an offensive lineman and preventing Patric Hornqvist from getting to the rebound in the crease.
Edmonton broke the scoreless deadlock with 35 seconds left in the opening frame as the rebound from a Martin Marincin point shot came to Gagner in the blue paint and he hooked a backhand shot past Predators goalie Pekka Rinne. It was just Gagner's eighth goal of the season.
The Preds came close to tying the game four minutes into the second, but a Nick Spaling shot rang off the post.
Edmonton made it a 2-0 game eight minutes into the second as Eberle made a long cross-ice pass through traffic on the power play to Nugent-Hopkins, who wrested a shot that went off the tip of Rinne's glove and in. It was the 16th goal of the season for Nugent-Hopkins, breaking a 15-game scoreless drought.
The Oilers took a three-goal lead on a bit of an unusual play with five minutes left in the second period as Hall took a backhand golf swing of a shot that found the top corner and quickly exited the net. Play continued for 1:17 before the Oilers took a penalty and they were able to review the shot and determine it was a goal.
"I thought I saw the net bulge," Hall said. "The ref was standing right there with a really good vantage point and I thought if it was in that he would have seen it. It was a weird shift keeping going after that when you think you have scored and you are just hoping for a whistle to blow to see if you have a goal or not."
Nashville got on the board with 1:21 remaining in the second as Hornqvist took the puck behind the net before hooking it in front to Bourque, who sent a shot through traffic to beat Fasth.
Edmonton made it 4-1 eight-and-a-half minutes into the third period with another power-play goal. Anton Lander picked up his first point of the season on a nice feed to Eberle at the side of the net as he lifted a backhand shot that ticked off of Rinne and in.
Eberle scored his second goal of the game just 1:23 later, breaking into the Nashville zone with speed and scoring his 23rd of the season on a low backhand shot.
"We have been trying to get some confidence in little things and tonight we started to bear down and found some ways to score, especially on the power play," Eberle said. "It definitely gives you some confidence and it was nice to get out of the hole there."
Rinne was replaced by backup Carter Hutton for the remainder of the game.
The Predators play the second match of their four-game road trip in Vancouver on Wednesday night. The Oilers welcome the Buffalo Sabres for the second game of their six-game homestand on Thursday.
Notes: It was the third and final meeting of the season between Edmonton and Nashville. The Oilers also won the two previous games by a combined score of 8-1…Including the Nashville game, 10 of Edmonton's final 13 games are at home…Edmonton goalie Viktor Fasth made his home debut in net for the Oilers after being acquired the day before the trade deadline from the Anaheim Ducks…Predators defenceman Roman Josi entered the game with four assists in his previous three games. ... Nashville had no reported injuries for the game…Edmonton forward Jesse Joensuu (ankle) is likely out for the remainder of the season, as is defenceman Anton Belov (partially torn oblique)…Edmonton forward Nail Yakupov was a late scratch with an ankle problem after taking the pre-game skate. The Oilers dressed seven defencemen in his absence…Oiler forward Matt Hendricks left the game with a leg injury after blocking a Shea Weber shot and did not return.
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