Following a short two game home stand that included the glorious 9-2 win over the Blackhawks on Saturday night, the Oilers headed back out on the road for a four game trip that started tonight in Dallas against the Stars. The Oilers record in Dallas isn't what anyone would call great. The Oilers last regulation win was in December 2006 and since then they have one shootout win and one overtime loss in nine games. And if you go back a little further the Oilers are 7-30-1-2 since Todd Marchant sent the Oilers into the second round of the 1997 playoffs.
But tonight wasn't just about the Oilers playing in a city where they almost never win because this was also the first time that the Oilers and Sheldon Souray would face each other since the two parted ways after he was banished to the AHL last season and then bought out over the summer. In his short time in Dallas Souray has been very good, scoring four goals to go along with nine assists making a few people who proclaimed him to be washed up look a little foolish.
In the end Souray wouldn't exact any revenge against his former team on the scoresheet but the Stars would still come away with a 4-1 win regardless. Of they did. The Stars always beat the Oilers in Dallas. Always.
The Stars came out of the gate looking to hit anything that moved. Not surprising for the NHL's leader in hits but it's something the Oilers haven't seen much of this season. The Oilers didn't shy away from contact and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins even gave a little back when he stood up to a hit from Brendan Morrow, knocking Morrow down in the process. Nugent-Hopkins also took some liberties with some crosschecks against Morrow later in the period that went uncalled.
The first goal of the game would go to the Stars courtesy of Toby Petersen. Instead of Souray it was another ex-Oiler that did the early damage. On the goal Petersen was able to force a Taylor Chorney turnover behind the net, Tom Wandell grabbed the loose puck and found Petersen in front and he beat Khabibulin with a quick shot. On the next shift Sam Gagner was called for slashing giving the Stars a great chance to extend their lead. On the powerplay the stars would get two shots on net but wouldn't score.
In the first period most of the offense came from the Stars but the Oilers did have a couple of scoring chances; the best being an Ales Hemsky one-timer off a pass from Gagner. The Hemsky shot got past Kari Lehtonen but rang off the crossbar. The Oilers would have a powerplay opportunity of their own late in the period but the best chance on that powerplay would belong to the Stars who had a two-on-one in the dying seconds of the period.
The Stars would go up by a couple of goals in the second period after Ryan Smyth had a great chance to tie the game. Coming out from behind the net Smyth had an open net and tried to score on a wrap around but the puck slid right through the crease. At the other end of the rink Mike Ribeiro would find Steve Ott in front of the Oilers net for the second goal of the game. Jordan Eberle was skating beside Ott from the blueline in but went to the other side of the net as they approached the Oilers goal; he either needed to stay with his man or make sure Jeff Petry knew Ott was there, doing neither wasn't a good option as it turned out.
The Oilers would get back to within a goal later in the period when Nugent-Hopkins stuck with a bouncing puck in the slot and was able to get off a quick wrist shot that beat Lehtonen. But within a minute the Stars would again take a two goal lead after Theo Peckham went looking for a big hit at the Dallas blueline. Peckham got his man but the pass out of the zone was made and because Peckham took himself way out of position the Stars had a three-on-one and Michael Ryder made no mistake converting his chance from the Oilers slot.
Down two goals in the third period the Oilers would do very little to get themselves back in the game registering only four shots. In terms of scoring chances the Oilers had their best period of the game with five chances and the held the Stars to three but they couldn't get even one shot past Lehtonen let alone the two they needed to tie the game up. These lackluster third periods when down a goal or two are starting to feel a little commonplace with the Oilers.
With the Oilers on their sixth powerplay of the night and the game winding down Renney chose to pull Khabibulin to put the Oilers up two men. A decent idea, and certainly worth a chance, but the Oilers were unable to score and Radek Dvorak would put the game away with a shorthanded goal with 1:24 left to play. Before the game Souray was the story but it was goals by two other ex-Oilers that would start and finish another Oilers loss in Dallas.
News and Notes:
- The Oilers miss Ryan Whitney in a lot of way but it tends to be especially noticeable on the powerplay. Setting up the one timer to Eric Belanger just doesn't seem the same. Whitney won't be back before Saturday in Colorado, at the earliest.
- In his return to the Oilers' lineup Darcy Hordichuk played eight shift, only one in the third period, totalling 5:33 of ice time and went -1. In the grit category where Hordichuk supposedly has value, he threw three hits. Thanks for coming out.
- Gagner played a better game tonight, still not great but better. He had three shots on goal and was the only Oilers with a positive Corsi. He seemed to be working fairly well alongside Hemsky so hopefully this game was a sign of things to come.
- Mark Fistric was a hitting machine for the Stars tonight, getting credit for seven. Of note was a hit he threw on Anton Lander as he entered the zone and another on Ales Hemsky in the corner that had a few fans, including myself, saying please not the shoulder.
- On the topic of hits, if you watched the game on Sportsnet you heard the announcers repeatedly mention that the Stars lead the league in hits. The game total of 80 hits seemed a little high so I looked at the numbers from the NHL and the Stars average 35.7 hits per game at home and just 24.2 on the road. As a team they hit a lot but there might be a counting issue in the numbers as well.
- Souray might not have gotten on the scoresheet tonight but he played a solid game for the Stars. According to Dennis King's scoring chance data Souray was on the ice for 11 of the Stars 19 scoring chances and only four against.
- More from Dennis King. After ten road games the Oilers have been outchanced 97-143 at even strength. Ugly.