EDMONTON — Filip Forsberg was playing a video game on a frosty Tuesday in Edmonton, scoring a lacrosse-style goal and firing two pucks at Mike Smith from between his legs, a la Marek Malik.
Edmonton Oilers head coach Dave Tippett, meanwhile, wanted no frills — just a steady-Eddie effort from his squad on a minus-32 C night where the Oilers had plenty of excuses to come up cold versus a Nashville Predators team that had won 14 of the past 15 matchups: First game home after a five-game road trip and coming off an emotional game in Calgary.
Nashville came to this freezing berg four points back of the Oilers in the wild-card race, and left six points in arrears after a tidy, 4-2 Oilers win. The only thing pretty about this win was Forsberg’s trickery — the rest was solid, professional work by an Oilers team that led 3-2 after two and gave the Predators almost nothing.
“The second half of the season, the points matter more,” said goalie Smith, who made 30 saves. “Everything gets amplified, and as you creep towards playoffs you want to be playing your best hockey.
“I love the second part of the season, playing big games and helping the team get big wins.”
The highlight of the evening was Forsberg’s goal, which you’ve likely seen on television by now. He circled behind Smith’s net, and at game speed, he got his blade under the puck, lifted it up, turned the stick over and tossed it high-corner on Smith.
To the goalie’s credit, he just about made the save.
“I thought I had it. I think it hit my glove first, then it went down (off his side and into the net),” Smith said. “I need to eat a couple more hamburgers so I can gain a little fat. I would’ve had it. He got lucky.”
“I just tried to get it up and off quick, and it worked,” said Forsberg, who may have been more loquacious had his team won. “At the time, it was a big goal. They were up and it tied the game. It’s something that I’ve tried a couple of times. It’s cool that it went in and it would have been a lot better if we would have won.”
Forsberg would later fire off two separate shots from between his legs, a show of trick shots we haven’t seen since ABC’s Wide World of Sports used to show Minnesota Fats playing pool, back in the ’70s.
It’s a thing now, the lacrosse goal, along with all these crazy moves. They are the kind of plays that would have earned you a paddle across the back, had you tried it on Billy Smith in the ’70s, or Ron Hextall in the ’80s.
“Today’s players, it is amazing what they can do,” said Tippett. “I was more upset about our coverage on that, because our defencemen should have been on that way before he gets the chance to do that. It was a great goal, a fancy goal, but I was more concerned about what we did to stop it.”
The only guy who liked it less than the coach was the goalie, who is almost helpless against a player who is doing all his work below the goal line and behind Smith’s back.
“It’s fun to watch when it’s not you in net,” Smith chuckled. “When it ends up being you, you feel like more of an idiot than when you’re watching guys do it.”
In the end, the Oilers, whose home ice record (15-10-2) has been a bit of an issue, won their second straight at home for the first time since mid-November. They’re starting to roll, with a 4-1-1 record in their past six, and even though the standings look great with Arizona coming in for a big game Saturday, what Tippett likes is the way his club is coming together.
This was a professional win. The kind of game a coach likes.
“We went with the mindset that we wanted to check for our success today,” Tippett said. “We said after the second (period) to go check and get the next one. To check hard and play well to see if we could get that next one. We wanted to stay on our toes and keep moving, and we checked well and it ended up in the right spot for us.”
The right spot being Rogers Place.
If these Oilers can figure out how to win consistently here, they’ll be hosting games in April.