There are jerseys that tend to be as popular as Edmonton Oilers' jerseys in the stands of Rexall Place. Derek noted earlier this season that there can be an awful lot of Vancouver Canucks jerseys. You also know that there are a lot of Toronto Maple Leafs fans as well as Montreal Canadiens fans in the city of Edmonton. For this matchup, it seemed that there was more than the traditional 1/3 of the fans wearing popular visiting team's jerseys. From my television, and from my reports inside Rexall place, there was easily a 1:1 ratio of Canadiens' to Oilers' jerseys.
The Canadiens are pushing for a playoff position, the Oilers are playing for pride. Despite the different positions of both teams, there are similarities. Both teams have holes that need filling on their roster, and both are developing a number of rookies.
In the first period, Oilers fans saw just how damaging a Taylor Hall shot can be. As Hall was attempting a shot on net, James Wisniewski positioned himself to block the shot. How could he know how much air Hall could get on the puck. Hitting Wisniewski directly in the face, the Canadiens' defenseman was rushed off the ice and into the locker room. The Canadiens did not have spare defensemen for the game, and this loss would definitely hurt the team is Wisniewski did not return.
Winning faceoffs, that's something that every Oiler knows is of critical importance to the game and were shown an example of faceoff wins at their finest. Winning a faceoff, Shawn Horcoff passed to Ales Hemsky who kept his feet moving, and made his way through the obstacle course of players. Hemsky just had to release a quick snap shot to beat Carey Price and put the Oilers on the board first.
The second period began with news that Wisniewski would indeed not be returning. Other news, everyone I know who was at Rexall place was fed up with the noise from the Habs fans. I'm told it was very loud in Rexall place with cheers for the visitors.
The next thing that was noted was that the Canadiens seemed to have turned the tables, and were in controlling the direction of the game. In fact, Lars Eller scored four minutes into the period with a wrist shot from Jeff Halpern and Roman Hamrlik. After that goal, it seemed to be all Montreal, all period. Of course the Oilers had chances and shots, but the Habs were awake and in control. By the end of the second period, the Habs lead in shots, 17 to 7.
Dustin Penner took the first period of the game 13 minutes in for hooking. The Oilers held the Canadiens to only one shot and successfully killed the penalty.
Ladislav Smid was injured in the second period, in a weird play. The referees shockingly did not make an immediate call on the play when Smid was down on the ice and bleeding from his face. In fact, CBC didn't even replay the event a couple of times to give viewers a chance to figure out what happened. It looks as though Smid caught his nose on the ledge of the boards, but it's best we hope someone who knows for sure tells us.
The third period started out exactly how Oilers fans wanted. Cogliano passes to Hall who made a quick tape to tape pass to Jordan Eberle beside the net. Eberle shot the puck up and over the shoulder of Price, making it a 2-1 game for the Oilers.
Less than a minute later, the Canadiens offense collapsed through the neutral zone. Liam Reddox and Jean-Francois Jacques sped through to the net, commiting the defensemen and allowing Ryan Jones to get a shot off, which went right through Price's five hole, 3 1 Oilers.
Jeff Halprin was called for slashing. Before they could successfully kill off that penalty, Tomas Plekanec was called for hooking. The Oilers were still unable to score their 5 on 3 opportunity, and the Canadiens were able to kill off the rest of their penalty.
The next story of note started behind the Canadiens net. After the puck had been passed in front of the Canadiens net, Benoit Pouliot checked Horcoff who fell to the ice. As the camera panned, Horcoff got up and got his shots in with Pouliot. This of course ended in a full on fight. It looked as though other fights would erupt, but that didn't happen.
The penalties handed out totalled 20 mins for both Horcoff and Pouliot. 5 minute fighting majors, 10 minute misconducts, and 5 minutes for cross checking were handed down to both players. So, with less than 2 minutes remaining in the game, both players were sent to their respective locker rooms.
With Carey Price pulled, the Oilers didn't give up on the offensive. Theo Peckham passed to Dustin Penner, with the puck ending up on the tip of Ales Hemsky's stick. With the open net, Hemsky made no mistake, the Oilers won 4-1.
So, the Oilers have won their first season series in what seems like a lifetime. True, the season series against the Canadiens was short with just two games, but Oilers fans will be happy with this. The next best part of this win, this was the Oilers second win in a row. This is the second string of 2 games one, the first being the first two games of the season. There was a four game winning streak in December. That run still stands as the Oilers longest streak winning streak on the season.
This game started and ended with good Oilers puck control, and with the Oilers' dictating the speed of the game. There were stretches of time where the Canadiens were able to take over however. The shot total for the game was 37 - 28 for the Canadiens. The Oilers lead in shots through the first period, 11 -8, trailed in the second 17-8, and again in the third 12-9. So, obviously the Oilers enjoyed better shot accuracy on the evening. The Oilers were having more success creating scoring chances and finding open shooting lanes. All good things.
In terms of faceoffs for the night, the team went 45%. Most of the Oilers who took faceoffs were over 50%. The two that weren't were Liam Reddox 1-8 or 13%. Sam Gagner was 3-9 or 33%. Gagner has some good nights on the dot, but clearly has his bad games too.
Theo Peckham continued his physical play and development. He also got an assist on the night. Taylor Chorney continued to play like he wants to be in the NHL.
You know who else wants to stay in the NHL? Ryan Jones. With a goal and a couple of breakaways, Jones and his hair were flying all over the ice. Of course, not as fast as Magnus Paajarvi. Paajarvi had slightly more ice time than Tuesday's game with 12:59, but Paajarvi was still kept off of the scoring sheet.
Nikolai Khabibulin had another night where he looked like a veteran goaltender. Making important saves and keeping the Habs to one goal, Khabibulin was a big part of the Oilers win on the night.
This was the second game in a row where the entire team looked like an NHL team, and one that was pushing for the playoffs. Of course we know better, but it was exciting none the less. The best goal had to have been Jordan Eberle's goal, making him an easy choice for the third star from CBC. Ryan Jones received the second star, and Khabibulin the first star.
There were of course some other important players on the night. So although they are similar, and we could have assigned the stars differently, this is what I offer:
The Copper & Blue Three Stars:
★★★ - Ryan Jones
★★ - Ales Hemsky
★ - Nikolai Khabibulin