While the Edmonton Oilers always would prefer the security that comes from an early lead, falling behind will not deter the NHL's new comeback kids when they face the host Nashville Predators on Thursday.
The Oilers' 3-2 overtime victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday secured their secondconsecutive victory while rallying from a two-goal deficit. Edmonton trailed the Calgary Flames 2-0 through 25 minutes Saturday before putting together a 5-3 victory.
The situation was far more dire against the Canucks, since the Oilers were scoreless until Ryan McLeod delivered 6:33 into the third period. Leon Draisaitl followed with the equalizer midway through the period, and Connor McDavid scored the OT winner with 24 seconds remaining in the extra period.
The Oilers hope the gritty victories will be part of a larger comeback story. Prior to the current two-game win streak, Edmonton was 2-11-2 going back to Dec. 3, leaving the team with ground to make up in the Pacific Division playoff race.
Playing from behind has been a theme of Edmonton's season. The Oilers are a perfect 10-0-0 when scoring first in a game, but they've also scored first the fewest times of any team in the league.
"That's not a recipe for success but we can't find a way to seem to score the first goal," McDavid said. "So, if you can't score the first goal, you've got to be able to come back in games. We've done that two (games) in a row and the focus is on a good start on Thursday."
By contrast, the Predators are among the NHL's best in gaining early leads, scoring first 26 times this season and posting a 21-4-1 record in those games.
However, the Predators had to play some catch-up in Tuesday's 4-2 win over the Seattle Kraken. Nashville twice trailed in the game before Filip Forsberg and Mattias Ekholm each scored within a 76-second span near the end of the second period to put the Predators ahead.
"It doesn't matter how many goals we're down with or up with, we still fight," Ekholm said. "We're in there battling. ... Obviously, we'd like to just jump up early, get a good lead and hold on to it, but sometimes it's really good for your group to go through different scenarios in the game and emotions."
Nashville is on a three-game winning streak. The Predators are in second place in both the Central Division and the Western Conference as a whole, trailing only the Colorado Avalanche.
Forsberg has recorded a goal and an assist in each of his last two games.
Juuse Saros is likely to receive another start in goal for Nashville on Thursday. Saros has been a workhorse in starting 36 of Nashville's 44 games, with an excellent 2.37 goals-against average and .926 save percentage.
Oilers goalie Mikko Koskinen stopped 25 of 27 shots on Tuesday. With Mike Smith again placed on the long-term injured reserve, Koskinen will continue to get the bulk of starts in Edmonton's net.
Edmonton's Zach Hyman and Nashville's Eeli Tolvanen are on the COVID-19 protocol list and are questionable for Thursday's game. Hyman has missed three games in protocol, while Tolvanen has missed the Predators' last two games.
This is the second of three regular-season meetings between the teams. The Oilers recorded a 5-2 win over the Predators in Edmonton on Nov. 3.
--Field Level Media