The Oilers wrapped up their pre season with a loss to the Canucks last night in Vancouver. These teams had played each other once before in the preseason, in a game that saw the Canucks ice a glorified AHL team and the Oilers looked flat and out of sync in losing to said glorified AHL team. Tonight the Canucks iced a line-up much closer to what they might use on opening night and while the result was the same for the Oilers the game was a lot more fun to watch and closer than the 4-1 score might lead you to believe.
The Oilers came out of the gate strong for a change. Magnus Paajarvi had a good early scoring chance for the Oilers on a two-on-one with Tom Gilbert. Paajarvi made another strong play on his next shift when he passed the puck off the boards to Shawn Horcoff resulting in another two-on-one for the Oilers. Early in the game the Oilers skated well, moved the puck quickly, and held their own against a much more talented Canucks team.
The Canucks scored first however when Cody Hodgson deflected a Dan Hammuis shot past Nikolai Khabibulin. The goal was scored on the powerplay and was a great example of how not to kill a penalty. In this case the Oiler forwards - Ryan O`Marra and Lennart Petrell - seemed unclear as to who should take the point and then both decided to lay down and block the point shot when neither was in a good position to do so. Against a team that had the best powerplay in the NHL last season those types of mistakes tend to kill you.
The Oilers drew even in the second period with a powerplay goal of their own. The goal came at the end of a ten second scramble in front of Roberto Luongo with Horcoff, Ryan Smyth, Gilbert, and Paajarvi all trying to bury the puck before Paajarvi finally managed to squeak it through the Canucks netminder. If Luongo doesn't try to sell a bump from Paajarvi as a penalty he would have been in a better position and might have been able to make the save. But this is Luongo we're talking about so he had to sell the penalty.
Later in the second period Victor Oreskovich was whistled for a charging penalty when he ran over Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Not happy with their young star taking a hit like that the Oilers came to his defence and out of the ensuing scrum Theo Peckham and Maxim Lapierre squared off in the game's only fight. For his part, Lapierre wanted nothing to do with fighting Peckham but the Oilers defenseman didn't give him a choice throwing several punches with Lapierre on his knees. Giving Peckham an instigator penalty might not have been unreasonable but the referees instead decided on a fighting major and a double minor for roughing.
From there the game continued back and forth tied at one until the Canucks again took the lead five minutes into the thrid period on a Jannik Hansen shot from the slot. The wrist shot got between Khabulin's body and his arm, it's a shot he should probably have stopped even from close in. Mikael Samuelsson and Hodgson would round out the scoring in the final minute of the game, the Hodgson goal being scored into an empty net.
News and notes:
- Alexander Edler and Marco Sturm were both called for a hit to the head. I thought the Edler hit on Taylor Hall was the worse of the two but both probably should be suspensions based on what we've seen in the preseason so far.
- The Oilers were given 19 minutes in penalties last night, of which 17 were assessed to a defenseman. With a blueline significantly depleted by injuries it'll be important that the defense spend less time in the penalty box when the season starts.
- The Oilers struggled on faceoffs wining only 38%. Horcoff lead the team with a six and eight record.
- Twice Hall took exception to a hit from the Canucks and got right up and in the players face about it. The first was an Edler hit from behind (he was called for boarding) and later on a Kevin Bieksa hit Hall felt was close to a knee-on-knee. I like that he's showing he won't be walked over but I really hope he just leaves it at that and doesn't decide to fight again any time soon.