COLUMBUS, OH - JANUARY 17: Anton Lander #57 of the Edmonton Oilers beats goalie Curtis Sanford #30 of the Columbus Blue Jackets for a first-period goal during their game at Nationwide Arena on January 17, 2012 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)
If you're a fan of the Oilers you've likely grown tired of seeing yet another player go down with an injury on what seems like an almost nightly basis. For a team already missing Ryan Whitney the losses of Tom Gilbert, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Jordan Eberle have seriously depleted an already thin Oilers roster over the last two weeks. But even with all the injuries, the hockey gods seem unwilling to give the Oilers a break and tonight took Taylor Hall away from us after a scary incident in the warmup where Hall slipped on a puck and ended up taking a Corey Potter skate to the face. The cut above Hall's eye took 30 stitches to close. If it wasn't for bad luck the Oilers wouldn't have any luck at all.
Despite losing the player that makes this team run, the Oilers came out strong tonight going ahead by two goals before the midway point of the first period. Unfortunately that would be all the scoring the Oilers would do and a combination of bad goaltending, unlucky bounces, and shoddy defense would allow the Blue Jackets to come back and defeat the Oilers by a final score 4-2. As a result of the win, in what was a four point game between a couple of the NHL's bottom feeders, the Jackets are now only seven points behind the Oilers in the race for last place. Closer to last and the Hall injury isn't as bad as it could have been, maybe the hockey gods are giving us a break after all.
Anton Lander started the scoring for the Oilers with an impressive move around Derick Brassard where he was able establish position and used his left arm to keep Brassard off the puck before avoiding a Curtis Sanford poke check and sliding the puck into the open net. It was a flash of offensive skill that we haven't seen much of from Lander this season.
Ben Eager would increase the Oilers lead minutes later when Jeff Petry found him open for a pass in front of the Jacket net. Besides the goal Eager had a solid opening period using his speed to his advantage; when he focuses on playing hockey he can be a useful player. The good play was rewarded and Eager later found himself replacing Hall alongside Ales Hemsky and Sam Gagner on the Oilers defacto top line.
The Blue Jackets would cut into the Oilers lead when a Ryan Johansen wrist shot from the slot beat Devan Dubnyk under the right pad. If you watch the Blue Jackets cross the blue line it looks as if Gagner and Ladislav Smid miscommunicate allowing Johansen a clear path to the slot. There's a breakdown in the defence but the goal was a classic example of the one bad goal a game that we've unfortunately become accustomed to with Dubnyk.
Where Dubnyk can be blamed on the first goal, it would be a lot harded to blame him on the Jackets second goal of the night, a goal scored with 0.8 seconds remaining in the second period. On the goal Dubnyk saved the first shot from Rick Nash and Brassard's rebound attempt. But the rebound off the second shot hit Petry, who was trailing Brassard, in the leg and then went off Dubnyk before crossing the line.
After tying the game in the last minute of the first, the Blue Jackets took the lead in the first minute of the third period. Because of an intermission the Jackets second and third goals were separated by about 20 minutes, in game time they were separated by 33 seconds. Josh Green skated beside the Jackets goal scorer, Derek MacKenzie, but didn't do anything to tie up his stick allowing him to convert the Colton Gillies pass for the Jackets third goal of the night.
Although being down a goal the Oilers didn't create many scoring chances over the last 19 minutes. Perhaps being down their top line (at least in terms of offensive production) and two top defensemen was too much to overcome. As the game neared it's end the Oilers pulled Dubnyk and promptly turned over the puck before the goalie could even reach the bench forcing Dubnyk to touch the puck and take a too many men on the ice penalty. It was a play oddly appropriate for a season like this one.
News and Notes:
- Twice tonight an Oilers defenseman went awkwardly into the end board after a reckless play by the trailing Blue Jackets player. Petry was tripped by Johansen in a play similar to the one that saw Taylor Fedun break his leg during the preseason and Tomas Kubalik helped Smid into the end boards in the third period. In both cases the Oilers player is vulnerable and the Jackets player make contact, why the players can't grasp how dangerous these plays are is beyond me.
- Tonight might have been the most offensive night that I've seen from Petry. Repeatedly he jumped up to join the rush, a decision that lead to the Oilers second goal of the night. With the Oilers just playing out the string at this point I'd love to see him keep playing like this to try and get a better idea of when to take these types of risks.
- In what is becoming a nice pattern, Hemsky looked good again tonight. He recorded an assist on Eager's goal, his third point in four games, and he seems to be working well with Gagner as his centre. He also took a couple of hits that left me holding my breath and hoping that his shoulder would be fine, each time it appeared to be.
- The Oilers haven't said much about the Hall injury but all the signs appear to be good and he may even be back on the ice tomorrow morning. Considering how much worse the injury could have been I think that is better could have been hoped for.
- The Hall injury will certainly have some people questioning why he wasn't wearing his helmet during the warmup. It's not something I'd ever thought about before tonight but I can't come up with a single good reason not to make it league wide policy, the benefits are obvious and there is zero downside.