The Edmonton Oilers attempted to win in Pittsburgh for the second time in 18 years, the first time in the new Consol Energy Center arena. Why the Oilers seem to have seemingly so many teams with which they have these long stretches of winnless streaks, I will never know. As we do know, the Oilers' merely extended the streak after a 5-1 loss to Pittsburgh Penguins Sunday afternoon. The injury streak may also continue, as Shawn Horcoff will have to have his foot examined upon his return to Edmonton.
The Penguins were without Sidney Crosby (who may indeed be out for the rest of the regular season) and Evgeni Malkin, but have been for quite some time. While ranked 30th, it's not a difficult feat to beat our beloved Oilers it seems.
Sadly, Linus Omark took the game's first penalty for hooking. Short handed, Andrew Cogliano and Liam Reddox has a great two on one, Cogliano passed to Reddox who got the puck caught up in his skates, getting the shot off a little late, and ended up shooting too wide on the net. As soon as the first penalty expired, Ryan Jones took a hooking penalty as well. Omark had the teams' best scoring chance when he rang a shot off the crossbar. The Oilers' are 4th in the league for shorthanded goals, but none for the first period.
The Oilers got their first power play of the game when Alex Kovalev was called for holding the stick but then the hockey gods would taunt the Oilers and their fans when Shawn Horcoff was hit from behind by Paul Martin, behind Marc-Andre Fluery sending the captain head first into the ice. The hit could have been much worse, Horcoff was alright, and the Oilers had approximately 1:46 of 5 on 3. As we all know, the Oilers have yet to score on a 5 on 3 power play this year and this is against the number one ranked penalty kill in the league. The Penguins successfully killed off both penalties, then shortly after scored the game's first goal by Chris Kunitz from Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy. Kennedy was able to beat Devan Dubnyk shooting five hole as Dubnyk was shifting across the net and had one leg slightly off the ice in his butterfly position. It was good timing on Kennedy's part.
The first period ended with trailing in shots and goals, behind 1-0 and behind 2-13 in shots. Surely the pain would continue into the second period.
The Penguins started the second period just where they left things. Max Talbot from Pascal Dupuis and Ben Lovejoy, charged the net, attempted to stop, and released the puck into the empty side of the net. The puck clearly passed the goal line before Talbot came to a stop crashing into Dubnyk and taking out the net. So, it was a 2-0 hockey game.
Chris Kunitz took a slashing penalty, just before the midpoint of the period. The Oilers couldn't get a shot on net through the two minute man advantage. The Oilers took the next penalty when Jim Vandermeer was called for cross checking. The Oilers successfully killed the penatly, and kept the Pens from getting a shot either. Unfortunately, the Oilers took another penalty, one that perhaps shouldn't have been called with Jason Strudwick was called for interference. The Oiler's killed off another one, but you knew that this has to be testing fate at this point.
With just over a minute left in the second period, Kennedy let a hard shot go from the has marks that barely got through Dubnyk, again 5 hole. The puck had slowed down to a slow trickle and looked as though it would cross the line on its' own. Staal standing on the open side of the net however didn't want to take any chances and pushed the puck across. The second period ended 3-1 Penguins with the Oilers getting 11 shots to the Penguins 10.
The third period finally started with some Oilers scoring. I'm sure making Derek spit, Ryan Jones passed Jordan Eberle for the most goals by an active roster player with 16, but put the Oilers on the scoreboard.
It didn't take the Pens long to restore their 3 goal lead. Reddox was hit in the eye by something in the faceoff circle, but it wasn't a stick. He was seemingly hit behind on the shoulder, but Reddox was cupping his face. Several watches on the DVR didn't answer for me what happened, but Reddox was slow to leave the faceoff circle and take off after defenceman Zbynek Michalek. Michalek released his shot from the hash marks, scoring on Dubnyk's right side and Penguins' fans were elated.
Jeff Petry was called for Tripping nearly five minutes into the third, but the Oilers' successfully killed these two minutes. Fleury took a delay of game penalty for sending the puck over the glass. The Penguins penalty kill of course remained perfect, keeping the Oilers from scoring a power play goal. With 40 seconds left in the Fleury penalty, Magnus Paajarvi from the point released a hard shot that hit Shawn Horcoff in the ankle, making it no where near the net. Horcoff left the ice looking to be in a huge amount of pain. 18 seconds before the penalty expired, Gilbert Brule was called for charging. The fans didn't like the Brule hit, but it did look clean. On the final Penguins power play of the game, Kunitz scored his second of the game on the open side of the net. The Oilers had all gathered on one side, leaving the playoff bound penguins with a large target on which to score. Mercifully, that would be the Pens' last goal, 5-1 was the final score.
Let's talk about injured Oilers first, just in case you noticed a couple of empty spaces on the Oilers' bench by the end of the game. Shawn Horcoff did return to the game, but likely will suffer from the shot to his ankle. The Oilers are off until Thursday, but if this is a fracture, Horcoff may be out. If it's just some bruising, hopefully he will be able to "heel" before then. You know Principe will be making those jokes before long. I just tried to beat him to it.
Gilbert Brule left the game in the third period according to Gene Pricipe because Brule felt fuzzy after smashing helmets with Kris Letang. Brule is reported to be feeling better now, but let's wait on further news.
Jean-Francois Jacques suffered a foot injury midway through the second period leaving the game, not to return. Jacques will also have to have his foot looked at upon his return to Edmonton. Thankfully, that's all I had to report on, three potential Oilers' injuries.
Omark may have had one of his best games of the season, despite his lack of scoring. Then again, which Oiler did manage to score other than that great man, Ryan Jones, right? Omark was as usual tough with the puck, making chances and taking shots. Who knows, that Omark kid may just turn into a great Oilers player, an integral part of this Oilers' team going forward. Who would have thought huh?
Devan Dubnyk let in perhaps a couple of soft goals, but faced 33 Penguins shots. The Oilers took 6 penalties, that didn't make things any easier for the netminder. Dubnyk is getting the time he needs to grow as a player, and is facing some stiff competition. Hopefully this will help with his development without hurting his confidence too much.
Jim Vandermeer played this game as if he had a personal grudge against many of the players. Vandermeer played an aggressive, physical game, or portions. It's difficult to say that anyone had the game that they would have liked.
Big guy Steve MacIntyre played only two shifts this game, but I don't think that any Penguins would have fought MacIntyre. The hits that were thrown were not vicious or over the top. The hit on Horcoff was effective without being endangering. With all of the focus on hits in the game, it's good to see clean effective hits that don't go too far. It's important to recognize them from time to time as well.
The team was back to 37% overall for faceoff wins, with Gilbert Brule and Jordan Eberle being the only players 50% or higher. Jordan Eberle went 2 for 3, there's another guy who can play hockey, he might be pretty good one day right?
Some big positives on the afternoon game were of course seeing more of Omark, the Oilers killed off 5 penalties successfully and avoided the shut-out. When asked after the game about his 16 goals on the season, Jones said that "I'd give them up to be in the playoffs." You and every Oilers fan out there Mr. Jones. This game also concludes a painful 5 game roadtrip and has the Oilers closer to finishing out this season in the coveted 30th place for the second year in a row.
The best thing about the Oilers next game is that of course it is on St. Patrick's day, this Thursday, in Edmonton against the Phoenix Coyotes. The Oilers tend to do well against the Yotes, but Hemsky is one of the players that has a lot of the success. As we all know, Hemsky is out for the rest of the season. Either way, green beer will surely flow for Oilers fans through the next game, and that's something we have to look forward to.