With the annual waste of time that is the All-Star break behind us, the Oilers were able to get back to the business of playing out the string tonight as they hosted the Avalanche. Devan Dubnyk got the call again for the Oilers tonight, his third straight start following solid outings against the San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks in the games just before the break. Dubnyk looked good for the Oilers again tonight and certainly appears to be earning himself more starts as the Oilers begin their annual run of meaningless games.
Unlike the Oilers, the Avalanche are battling for a playoff spot in the Western Conference and oming off back-to-back losses before the All-Star break were almost certainly looking at tonight as a
must should win game. But a good first period would stake the Oilers to a two goal lead that the Avalanche just couldn't seem to overcome despite controlling the play for large parts of the last two periods and dominating the home team on the shot clock. The loss drops the Avalanche to 1-3-0 against the Oilers this season, if they miss the playoffs by a couple points these losses to a lottery team will look huge in hindsight.
The game started out well for the Oilers. Anton Lander had a breakaway in the early minutes of the game that almost gave the Oilers the lead. Lander's backhand attempt would beat Semyon Varlamov but would be turned aside by the post. Shortly after that though Jordan Eberle would get the Oilers on the board when he jammed the puck past the Avalanche netminder at the side of the net. Eberle faked going behind the net and then, after geting the Avs goalie moving, changed course and snuck the puck inside the post. Phillipe Cornet would get an assist on the play, his first point in the NHL.
Ales Hemsky almost made the score 2-0 for the Oilers later in the first period when he made a great move to enter the Avalanche zone only to, like Lander before him, be defeated by the post. But the Oilers kept coming and would eventually extend their lead while on a four minute power play, the result of a T.J. Galiardi high stick on Theo Peckham. As the first minor wound down a Ryan Whitney found Eric Belanger at the faceoff circle to Varlamov and, after stopping the puck briefly, took a quick slap shot that beat the Avalanche goalie for his second goal of the season.
After the first period however, the game took a decided turn in favour of the visiting Avalanche. The Oilers held an 11-6 shot advantage after one period but were outshot 27-12 over the next two periods. The Avalanche would cut into the Oilers lead barely over a minute into the second period when Peter Mueller made Corey Potter look inept not once, but twice in less than ten seconds. First, Mueller lifted the stick of the Oilers defender allowing the puck to slide into the slot to Chuck Kobasew and then again seconds later when Potter left Mueller alone at the side of the net to score the Avs first goal of the game.
With the Avalanche looking to tie the game in the third period a rather harmless looking shot from Hemsky would get kicked into the slot by Varlamov when Taylor Hall would be waiting for the rebound, burying his 17th goal of the season, once again giving the Oilers a two goal lead. Nothing chances that result in big rebounds and goals is something Oilers fans have gotten to seeing happen the other way around over the last couple of seasons.
The Avalanche would continue to press though and would eventually be rewarded with another goal, this one coming from rookie Gabriel Landeskog who capitalized on a Devan Dubnyk rebound 14 seconds past the midway point of the period. The original shot came from Ryan O`Reilly, followed by a shot from Milan Hejduk who Andy Sutton failed to tie up, which was then followed by Landeskog who Shawn Horcoff failed to pickup. Not a great defensive play from the Oilers.
That was as close as the Avalanche would get despite Tom Renney's best efforts to force the game to extra time. Tonight the Oilers coaching staff seemed determined to avoid matching up their defence pairings at all costs, leaving Ryan "Mr. 80%" Whitney and Corey Potter to take on the Avs best while Ladislav Smid and Jeff Petry fared much better against weaker competition. And what close game would be complete without an appearance from the Oilers fourth line of Lennart Petrell, Anton Lander, and Ben Eager with five minutes left in a one-goal game. The win gives the Oilers points in three straight games two wins in the last three games, that's the team best stretch since... You know what, I don't even want to know, the Oilers won and that's good enough for me tonight.