After being all but left for dead 10 days ago, the Edmonton Oilers are back in the playoff race.
They extended their points streak to four games (3-0-1) and closed the gap on eighth place to two points Sunday with a 3-2 victory over the Nashville Predators.
"It's amazing how things can change," said Oilers winger Jordan Eberle. "Five games ago it looked like we were out of the playoff picture and now we're right back in it. Two points back? We're right back in it."
It's as close as they've been in a long time.
"After those two horrible games against Nashville and Detroit we had a lot of meetings and a lot of talk about how we played and really simplified it and it really paid off," said Magnus Paajarvi.
Nashville seemed like an easy touch with just three wins in its last 11 games and playing without its leading scorer (Colin Wilson). But it's not like the Oilers, with four wins in their last 11, were running hot, either.
This was one both sides thought they should win.
It didn't seem like either side wanted to win it very much, however, given the slow, cautious pace.
"They're a team that doesn't give up much, for sure," said Eberle. "You have to play a disciplined game, a waiting game to see who makes the first mistake."
It was Nashville. After a scoreless and rather uneventful first period, the Oilers went ahead 1-0 on a power-play goal from Paajarvi at 8:11. The Swedish winger, who had just two goals in his first 15 games, now has four in his last eight after banging home a rebound.
It seemed like a important goal, given that the Preds were 10-0-5 when scoring first and 1-11-1 when the other team scored first.
Nashville's Shea Weber tied it on a power-play goal of his own at 16:37, ripping a point shot into the top corner behind Oilers goaltender Devan Dubnyk. The goal tied it 1-1 and brought another rather dramatic stat into play: The Oilers were 0-6-1 when tied after 40 minutes.
So it was still very much up for grabs in the final 20 minutes -- at least until Nashville winger Sergei Kostitsyn quit on the Oilers go-ahead goal.
After the puck hopped over his stick to Sam Gagner in the Oilers end, Kostitsyn made a half-hearted back-check attempt. Then, while just half a step behind Gagner at center, Kostitsyn turned off to the Nashville bench for a change, giving Edmonton a shorthanded 2-on-1 that Lennart Petrell converted with a one-timer.
Moments later Eberle made it 3-1.
"I can't give you a logical explanation for an illogical event," said Nashville coach Barry Trotz. "(Sergei) didn't recognize the situation.
"That's a painful goal for us."
Meanwhile, the rest of the Western Conference is gaining on the 10th place Predators.
"We haven't had a lot of good karma in terms of puck luck," said Trotz. "We hit a couple posts ... they're not going in. We've got to get some points. We should have at least had one.
"Playing good team defense takes all five guys on the ice. It's not the goaltender and two defensemen. It takes all five guys. We need a little more purpose in what we're doing here because guys are cheating and when guys cheat that just ends up in the net."
Roman Josi made it 3-2 with 8.4 seconds to go.
NOTES: Preds forward Gabriel Bourque has a team-leading ninth goals and has already surpassed his rookie total of seven in 43 games. He has five goals in his last seven games... Nashville captain Shea Weber has 15 points (5 goals, 10 assists) in his last 15 games and ranks in the NHL's top five in minutes played, shots, hits and blocked shots... Nashville is now 7-for-20 on the power play in its last five games after going 1-for-14 in the six games prior... Oilers defenseman Mark Fistric, who missed six games after a cut on his elbow became infected, returned to the lineup Sunday and was plus 2. Edmonton center Eric Belanger is a game or two away from returning from a groin injury.