EDMONTON — Being in the Western Conference doesn’t make life easy for the Edmonton Oilers.
Craig Smith had a pair of goals as the Nashville Predators bounced back from their first regulation loss of the season, defeating the Oilers 4-1 on Wednesday.
Taylor Hall scored the lone goal for the Oilers (4-5-1), who have yet to defeat a fellow Western Conference team this season.
“We are in the west and we have to find a way to beat the western teams,’’ said Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. “A lot of the western teams play a different style than they do in the east, but we are not getting out of this conference and we don’t want to. I know we can play with them and we just have to find a way to beat them. There is no need to panic right now.’’
“It’s unfortunate we can’t beat teams in our division,’’ added Hall. “We get zero points and they get two and get a leg up on us. It’s tough. Tonight wasn’t really an effort that deserved two points, but at times during the game it was there to be taken. Unfortunately, we gave up a lead and couldn’t get it back.’’
Shea Weber and Taylor Beck also scored for the Predators (6-1-2), who started a six-game road trip off on solid footing.
“We came in here and did a pretty good job,’’ Weber said. “That’s a hot team, they had won four in a row. We knew we had to be ready. We didn’t get a call early on and we stuck with it. The second period wasn’t our best, but we got a couple of goals there and were able to get one early in the third and put them out of it.’’
Smith said his line was influenced by the return of Matt Cullen to the Predators lineup.
“I think our line played well and I think our unit was able to create some turnovers and use our speed to make plays,’’ he said.
“Cullen getting back in the lineup, I thought he was outstanding tonight, moving his feet well, I didn’t think he missed a stride. I thought we played well tonight and were able to get a win.’’
Edmonton caught a huge break just a minute-and-a-half in as Nashville had a goal waved off — the third time in the past five games an Oilers opponent has had a goal disallowed.
Nashville’s Smith poked a puck into the net from under the glove of Oilers’ goalie Ben Scrivens, but the ref was quick to call the goal off, and the decision stood up after video review.
“The reasoning I got was that in the referee’s view the goaltender had made a save and when Craig came in with the second push, he was in the process of blowing the whistle,’’ said Nashville coach Peter Laviolette. “So I think it was because in their view the original save was made and he was blowing the whistle on that. It’s not like it was loose puck.’’
Nashville also came close five minutes into the opening period when Anton Volchenkov rang a shot off the post.
The Predators controlled the bulk of the play in the first period, with 11 shots on Scrivens to Edmonton’s three on Pekka Rinne in the Nashville net.
Video review was called upon again 19 seconds into the second period when Edmonton fans thought that Nugent-Hopkins had scored from the top of the circle on Rinne, but it was quickly determined he had hit the crossbar.
Smith finally broke the scoring open for Nashville six minutes into the second period as a rebound landed on his stick and he tucked it in the net for his second of the season.
The Predators made it 2-0 a minute-and-a-half later as Colin Wilson spotted Beck get away from defender Brad Hunt and hit him on the fly for a goal into a wide-open net.
Weber’s rocket from the point added to Nashville’s lead just 24 seconds into the third period. The play was set up when a turnover in the Oilers’ zone went back to Weber.
The Oilers tried to get back into the game a couple minutes later as Justin Schultz blazed into the zone and attempted a wrap-around, but Rinne was quick to get across and make the save.
Hall ended Rinne’s shutout bid with 11 minutes left to play. A big rebound on a Nugent-Hopkins shot came to Hall, who buried his sixth of the season.
The Predators regained their three-goal cushion with just under eight minutes to play as Cullen made a perfect pass on a two-on-one to Smith for his second of the night.
The Predators win was punctuated by a monster hit on Hall by former Windsor Spitfires teammate Ryan Ellis, who caught him trying to split the defence.
“I don’t know what I was doing there,’’ Hall said. “He had probably seen me do that a bunch of times in junior. I should know better than to try that on him. I haven’t been hit like that in a long time.’’
The Predators next game is on Friday in Calgary against the Flames. The Oilers conclude their season-high seven-game homestand on Saturday against the Vancouver Canucks.