The Edmonton Oilers are about to set off for a five game road trip. Now, they must do so without their leading scorer(s). Since the Oilers have traded away Dustin Penner, Taylor Hall is now the team's leading scorer. Hall is now out with an ankle injury. The next on the list is Ales Hemsky. Hemsky is waiting on the results from his MRI scan, and being Oilers' fans, we know better than to expect him any time soon.
Part of me was expecting a big night from Linus Omark after the speculation that Omark was speaking too freely to Gene Principe after the shootout against the Nashville Predators on Tuesday. Omark served Taylor Hall's fighting and roughing penalties, but otherwise remained off of the event sheet. I don't think that his comment that he was cold coming off of the bench going into the shootout was uncalled for, but he has to impress the Oilers' coaches to get the ice time he is looking for.
Visiting Rexall Place were Mathieu Garon and Ethan Moreau, currently with the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Blue Jackets are currently 6 points behind the 8th place team in the west, and this game did not do the team any favours. The Oilers may successfully play the role of spoilers this year after all. Who said this team couldn't beat anyone?
Well, everyone get's their first something. Tonight, Richard Petiot received his first penalty as an Oiler, it was bound to happen at some point. Petiot was called for interference giving the Jackets their first power play of the night, but the Oilers successfully killed off those two minutes. Then, Jason Strudwick fought Derek Dorsett. I don't think it's just because I'm a Strudwick and Oilers fans that I say Strudwick ended up the winner after that tilt. Of course you knew it wouldn't be long before "theformercaptainethanmoreau" took a penalty, his first on the night was for interference.
Things didn't get much better for Richard Petiot, well not right away. Petiot was called as the reason behind RJ Umberger's penalty shot midway through the first period. Thankfully, Devan Dubnyk followed perfectly and kept the Jackets off of the score sheet.
Derek Dorsett found his way back to the penalty box for goaltender interference, but Oilers fans were more than OK with the call, it lead to the first goal of the game from Sam Gagner thanks to a great pass from Magnus Paajarvi. This team was on a power play goal scoring streak before I left town for a week. I get back, and they score again, I just find that an interesting coincidence.
Just as you thought you could go early to grab something from the kitchen before intermission, Taylor Hall releases his shot from the pretty much the boards at the hash marks. It looked like Steve Mason had made the stop, but he puck trickled through his legs none the less. Jason Strudwick got an assist on the play, meaning he just needed his first goal of the year to make it a Gordie Howe hat-trick.
If you were 14 seconds late coming back from the kitchen, you missed another highlight reel Jordan Eberle goal from Taylor Hall and Shawn Horcoff. Shooting over Mason's shoulder and wowing everyone who was able to watch Eberle's goal sent Mason to the bench and familiar Mathieu Garon to take his place between the pipes. The change in net minders might have spurred some energy into the Jackets, a skirmish in front of the Dubnyk ensued, and Matt Calvert scored with a wrist shot, cutting the Oilers' lead to two.
Jim Vandermeer took a high sticking penalty, which was followed minutes later by a Taylor Hall penalty for tripping which gave the rookie a Gordie Howe hat-trick for a goal, an assist and a penalty. Hall followed this up soon after with a modern Gordie Howe hat-trick when he fought who else, but Derek Dorsett. The fight was Hall's first NHL tilt, but Oilers injury lady luck was in attendance for Oilers' fan appreciation night, as Hall hurt his ankle on his way down to the ice. It was excellent that Hall stood up for himself, and he did well in the fight, but the ankle injury will truly hurt the team. Hall ended up with the 5 minute major for fighting, but also 2 minutes for roughing for what lead to the fight.
With less than 90 seconds left in the second frame, Matt Calvert took a holding penalty. The Jackets killed off the penalty that remained in the second period, and the Oilers would start the third with a man advantage.
The Oilers were unable to score another power play goal at the beginning of the third, and even during the Grant Clitsome hooking penalty. The Oilers did however manage to take a penalty, Gilbert Brule for hooking before the Clitsome penalty expired.
Scottie Upshall scored the Jacket's second goal of the night with just over four minutes left in regulation, but would score no more. In a final push to tie the game, Garon was pulled, but Andrew Cogliano scored the empty netter. The Oilers were victorious, 4-2.
As the commentators Gene Principe, Dan Tencer and Rob Daum and Rob Brown said, the Oilers really needed to stand up for Hall after his fight. The Oilers didn't need this win to get them into the playoffs, they are and were playing for pride.
Yes, the Oilers did win this game. This week, however, the Oilers have lost Dustin Penner, Ales Hemsky and now Taylor Hall. Hall is still young, but an ankle or knee injury can still keep him out for weeks or months. Hall may have played his last game in Rexall place for the season. That is the biggest shame. Until you realise that this was a 30th place team before the loss of the three leading point scorers. This team cannot possibly finish any worse than 30th, and it seems that the margin they will finish with will be the punch line to this season.
There was some physical play seen during this game, that was definitely a positive. As much as some people feel that Smid is weak, he gets angry and he will stand up for himself and at times his teammate. Smid got angry and got involved with some pushing and shoving when he felt that he was wronged. We need to see more of that from all members of the team, not the same few all of the time.
Hall had a great game, well before his injury. A goal, an assist, a penalty and a fight. If only he finished the game, but what he did play was fantastic.
Jordan Eberle continues to wow. I would like to see more scoring from the kid, especially when his goals are so spectacular. If he could score every second, third or even fourth game, and every time it was a highlight reel goal, I think that most Oilers fans could be content with the rest of the season. Wouldn't even matter if the Oilers won now would it? You would have those TSN moments and the memories.
The ex-Oilers playing for the Jackets didn't have the upper hand. Garon came in to replace Mason, but walked away with an unofficial loss. Yes Mason was on the ice for the game losing goal, but Garon didn't lead his team to a victory either. Moreau was kept off of the scoresheet, and even off of the ice when he took a penalty. So, the injury fairy showed up, but not the ex-Oiler luck one. It seems that things went better than they could have.
The Oilers were an abysmal 38% for faceoffs. Yes, the Oilers are proving that you don't only win games when you win faceoffs, but really this is kinda sad. Not a single Oiler went 50% or higher. Horcoff, Brule, Fraser, Cogliano and Gagner, all between 20 and 47%.
Jason Strudwick... if only he had scored, it would have been great to have two Oilers with the Gordie Howe hat-trick on the night.
Dubnyk looked as though he was competing for his job, which is what Oilers fans hope to see. He did let in what may have been considered a softie goal by Scottie Upshall in his second game as a Columbus Blue Jacket, but otherwise, it's good to see a goaltender playing for his position, not just knowing his next start will be the next game.
Oilers' special teams, not too bad on the night at all. With one power play goal and six successful penalty kills, things could have gone very differently. The Oilers managed to get 38 shots on net, the Jackets 28 and there were far more goals scored during the course of 60 minutes than some, including me, may have thought before the initial puck drop.
Besides Hall's injury, this was not a bad way to end a stretch of home games.
The Copper & Blue Oilers Three Stars:
★★★ - Jason Strudwick
★★ - Jordan Eberle
★ - Taylor Hall
Honourable mention to Devan Dubnyk. Strudwick gets a star for his assist and second fight in three games.