On paper it was a mismatch, the Edmonton Oilers had won three straight, the Philadelphia Flyers had lost four in a row and were coming off a 7-0 beating at the hands of the New York Rangers. On top of that the Oilers hadn’t lost to the Flyers since the 2000/01season going 6-0-0-1 during that stretch. All signs pointed to an Oilers victory. Unless of course you’re one of the pessimists that like to look at the standings, in which case you might have thought the league’s second best team would make easy work of the second worst (by the end of the game the worst).
Early on that exactly is what it looked like as the Flyers dominated the Oilers throughout the first period grabbing a 2-0 lead and outshooting the Oilers by a wide margin in the games first twenty minutes. The Oilers only hope was that the Flyers would grow tired of toying with them and maybe they'd have a chance to keep this one close. The Flyers didn't but in the following 40 minutes the Oilers played much better and actually gave themselves a decent chance to come away with a fourth straight victory. In the end though the 2-0 lead was more than they were able to overcome, dropping the game by a final score of 4-1.
In the early minutes of the game the teams would trade powerplay chances. The Oilers went on the man advantage first as a result of a holding call on Chris Pronger. Watching the replay I didn’t really see a penalty on the play but Pronger is a sneaky bastard so I’m sure it was there. The Oil wouldn’t generate anything with their chance and the penalty would be cut short when Linus Omark got whistled for interference with 23 seconds left in the penalty.
Omark was essentially forced to take the penalty after his point shot hit Darroll Powe square in the shin pads and bounced past him into the slot. If Omark doesn’t knock Powe’s stick out of his hands he’d have been off to the races. It's and understandable penalty but Omark just can't hit the player right in front of him like that. Unlike the Oilers, the Flyers were able to get a couple shots on goal during the power play but couldn’t get the puck past Devan Dubnyk.
A strange bounce off the glass in the Oilers end of the rink led to the first good scoring chance of the game. On a harmless looking dump in went right off the glass went Kurtis Foster thought it’d go left and Ville Leino was there to capitalize. Dubnyk was equal to the task though. Dubnyk could only keep the Flyers at bay for so long and a minute later the Flyers would beat the Oilers goalie when Danny Briere was sent in on a breakaway. A tape-to-tape pass from Matt Carle from the top of the left faceoff circle in the Flyers end to Briere at the Oilers blueline would get him in behind the Oilers defence, his shot high to Dubnyk’s glove side would give the Flyers a 1-0 lead.
The Oilers would again find themselves shorthanded, this time for five minutes, after Ladislav Smid was called for boarding. The hit was an ugly one with Smid hitting Powe right in the numbers and putting him head first into the boards. Smid looked surprised after the play, almost as if he hadn’t meant to hit him so hard. Regardless of intent, the Oilers still had to kill off the resulting major. And they almost did it. Thanks to a good pressure penalty kill and some solid goaltending the Oilers kept the Flyers off the score sheet for the first 4:43 of the penalty before Carter jammed the puck through Dubnyk’s legs to increase the Flyer lead to two.
Dubnyk was a busy man in the first period, facing seventeen shots in all. Sergei Bobrovsky was just a little less busy. All right, significantly less busy. In fact had the Oilers scored on all their shots in the first period they’d have still trailed 2-1. The Oilers registered their only shot during a Sean O’Donnell penalty that would carry over into the second period.
Carter would find the score sheet again before the midway point of the second period increasing the Flyers lead to 3-0. For Carter the goal was essentially a tap in thanks to beautiful passes from James van Riemsdyk and Kimmo Timonen on what appeared to be a set play right off the draw.
At this point I started to think about a blowout and funny article headlines only to have the Oilers get that goal back 55 seconds later. Smid just threw the puck on net and JF Jacques deflected the shot past Bobrovsky. Significantly less pretty than the Carter goal a minute earlier but they all count the same at the end of the day.
The Jacques goal would spark the Oilers and the team started to look like they at least belonged on the same ice as the Flyers. They Oilers couldn’t cut into the Flyers lead before the end of the period but they had a number of good scoring chances and outshot the Flyers 6-2 over the remainder of the second period. Considering their play through the first period it was a marked improvement even if the results weren’t there.
In the third period the Oilers battled hard and kept the Flyers trapped in their own end for good stretches of time. The Alexandre Giroux - Andrew Cogliano – Liam Reddox line played especially well and had some excellent chances to score the Oilers second goal of the game. Try as they might though, the Oilers just couldn’t solve Bobrovsky.
Scott Hartnell had a great chance to extend the Flyers lead only to be turned aside by Dubnyk’s right pad. Carter had a chance for his third of the game but was unable to bury the puck. Eventually though the Flyers would get that fourth goal, an empty netter from Blair Betts with less than a minute left to play.
If you take away the first period the Oilers played a solid game against a team significantly better than themselves. If not for Bobrovsky they might have actually had a chance to win this one. Unfortunately for them that period actually counts. Last place teams just can’t spot one of the NHLs best teams three goals. I guess they can, but if they want to win they probably shouldn’t.
- The Giroux – Cogliano – Reddox line was excellent tonight and had the highest Corsi ratings on the team: 10, 11, and 13 respectively and outchanced their opponents by a combined 14-0 at even strength.
- Cogliano also lead all Oilers forwards in ice time with 19:42 on the night including 3:51 on the penalty kill. He had one of his best nights in a long time tonight.
- Compared to Tom Gilbert though, Cogliano barely played at all. Gilbert played a total of 27:32. He was credited with two of the Oilers ten giveaways but considering the time-on-ice I think we can let that slide.
- The Magnus Paajarvi – Shawn Horcoff – Jordan Eberle line was a combined -8 for the night. Horcoff was also on the ice for the Carter power play goal. Not the best night for the Oilers top line.
- With the loss tonight that leaves the Montreal Canadiens as the only team the Oilers are undefeated against in the post-lockout era. In the eight games since the lockout the Oilers are 5-0-0-3.