The Edmonton Oilers should be featured in those hockey love hurts commercials, but maybe that just seemed too easy. Maybe the fine people at Visa were trying to think of the fans' feelings. Or, maybe Morgan Freeman after narrating the Katz video promoting a new arena has become an Oilers fan and thought that it would be too tasteless so insisted the Oilers be left out.
After stringing together three wins, this eastern road trip came along. This is exactly what the losing strategy needed. After a 4-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, a game the next day against the Washington Capitals could have been an absolute disaster. A 5-0 loss, well I'm not sure that that is exactly a disaster; that's still single digit scoring. This game could have seen hat-tricks by both Ovechkin and Semin, and well, any of the other Capitals players. The Oilers needed to bring their defencive game to a whole other level for this one, and ultimately they had varying levels of success.
There were scoring chances for each team early on in the first period. No, seriously! Ladislav Smid made a great defencive play against Alexander Ovechkin, Jim Vandermeer was able to keep up with Alexander Semin, and even Alex Plante stood up to Ovechkin. There are an awful lot of Alexs in this game. Tom Gilbert took the game's first penalty for slashing. The Washington Capitals power play has been suffering lately, currently ranked 24th, and the Caps were held to only 2 shots against the Oilers through 2 minutes of man advantage.
Scott Hannan took the next penalty for interference. The Oilers only managed a single shot on net during their power play, but on the dying seconds of the first period, Jason Arnott took a hooking call giving the Oilers a chance to start on the power play for the second period. Shots were fairly even by the end of the first period, the Caps had 12, the Oil 10.
The Oilers were unable to capitalise on the power play that started the period, and the Caps were the next to get a man advantage when Ryan Jones was called for kneeing. Andrew Cogliano had a great short handed opportunity but was denied by Caps' netminder Braden Holtby. Ovechkin made no mistake however, scoring his 3rd power play goal at home the last being nearly a year ago against the Calgary Flames according to TSN. Ovechkin's goal was made possible thanks to a perfect pass from ex-Oiler Arnott on the point.
Continuing to tempt fate, the Alexander Giroux (see? Another Alex) served Nikolai Khabibulin's delay of game penalty. Second power play opportunity of the period for the capitals, second power play goal and with 6 shots total in three opportunities. The second power play goal came from Eric Fehr from John Carlson and Ovechkin. This goal was made possible for a couple of reasons, one being the two Captials players in front of the net, screening and there to deflect or shoot the puck in.
Alex Plante took the next penalty for tripping, but the Oilers successfully killed the penalty. The second period finished with the Oilers trailing in shots, just 7 on the period to the Capitals 15.
The third period's scoring started with a definite TSN highlight reel goal by Ovechkin from Marcus Johansson. Each player kept passing the puck to the other, quickly, on easily the third pass to Ovechkin he fired the puck high on Khabibulin, hitting the crossbar and the puck fell down and back into the net. It was a 3 - 0 Washington game. Where was the Oilers D on that goal is the most unfortunate part, it was just Johansson and Ovechkin against Khabibulin.
Many were saying that Khabibulin was having a good night. Some were adding only when Khabby was staying in his net, and the next goal was further evidence of that. Coming all of the way out beyond the hash marks trying to match Jason Chimera, leaving the net open and Ladislav Smid alone to protect it, Ferh wristed his second of the night. 4-0 Capitals.
The Oilers received their third power play of the night on Matt Hendricks' interference call. The Oilers struggled to maintain puck control but a slashing on Giroux by Semin gave the Oilers a brief, 7 second, 2 man advantage. Again, the Oilers struggled to keep the puck out of their own end during the power play and Magnus Paajarvi ended up taking a holding penalty one minute in.
The hurt continued for Oilers fans. Marco Sturm and Alexander Semin broke out of their zone with speed, passed the puck back and forth, even over Kurtis Foster who dove down onto the ice to block the shot before Semin released the puck and made no mistake putting it through Khabibulin. It was a 5-0 all Capitals game, and mercifully, that's how it would end.
The Oilers were in the first period of the game, they even looked alright. Then, it was as if they had burned off all of their energy and felt deflated for the rest of the game. It did also look as though the Captials turned it up after seeing what the Oilers would do. Sometimes those teams on the bottom are the least predictable, the Capitals also rarely play the Oilers/ Video is a very effective tool but doing is different than seeing, I'm sure the Captials saw more than enough holes and opportunities to take advantage.
Alex Plante and Alex Giroux, the most recent call-ups from the Oklahoma City Barons were two of the players that seemed to be struggling a little bit more than others. Plante looks as though he needs to work more on his speed in the coming months, and offseason. Although Plante may look out of place from time to time at present, chances are he will develop into an effective NHL defenceman and could be a vital part of the Oilers' rebuild, he's still young and just out of the WHL. Plante has great physical size and is showing that he can be mean, he can be physical on plays, something the Oilers are lacking in every position.
Giroux is another player that is hard to describe. Why Giroux is so effective in the AHL, but at times looks so slow in the NHL is the big question. It was extremely kind of Renney and Tambellini to keep Giroux up for the game against the Capitals, an organization that Giroux had a history with. The NHL experience will hopefully help Giroux in the offseason, determining his next move or, giving him more options in terms of teams to play for.
Sam Gagner received a cut on the wrist in the first period, and had to leave the bench to be stitched up. Gagner did return to the bench and played 15:12 on the game. According to many reports, Gagner will be remaining in Washington to have a hand specialist open up the stitches and inspect the damage from the blade. The Oilers' next game is in Detroit on Friday, depending on the verdict for Gagner, he may not be in the lineup. This would mean that the next leading scorer on the Oilers roster is removed this week.
Khabibulin didn't have a terrible game in net when he was in net. In fact Khabibulin was pretty good. His mistakes came when he left the net taking a delay of game penalty and of course leaving the net wide open.
Faceoffs for the night, the Oilers were actually 46% as a team, not that bad except for Andrew Cogliano who had a horrendous night on the dot going 1 for 13, 8%. While short handed, the Oilers only won 1 of 10, which can only make things more difficult.
Two highlight reel goals on the night was exciting, it's just too bad that neither were Oilers' goals, it would be nice to put the exciting back in the last place hockey hunt. Thankfully the Oilers now have a day to lick their wounds and try to recuperate before their Friday night game in Detroit. The TSN panel believes that this will be a 30th place team once again, will this road trip help to secure that positioning? Just two games left my friends, the Red Wings and the Penguins, the single digit scoring against may not last.
The last note of the game, Oilers fans look forward to TSN broadcasts I've found, but it was disappointing that there was no Craig MacTavish and no Ray Ferraro, but a whole lot of Pierre Maguire. There is always the next broadcast to look forward to.
The Copper & Blue Oilers Three Stars:
★★★ - Nikolai Khabibulin
★★ - Tom Gilbert
★ - Ladislav Smid