The Oilers played game 79 tonight. For those counting that means there are only three games left in what has been another miserable and disappointing season for the Oilers. Sure there have been good times this season and there are a few things worth being excited about but the rebuild still looks to be a long way away from anything more than selling hope. There are still far more losses than wins and plenty of nights where the team simply doesn't look like and NHL team, tonight in Anaheim was one of those nights.
The Oilers had luck on their side early with bounces leading to two goals but that was all the scoring the team would do. There wouldn't be many more scoring chances either, or even shots for that matter. Throughout the game the Ducks were the dominant team and looked many times to be on the verge of scoring but Devan Dubnyk was excellent in the Oilers net holding to the Ducks to just a single goal. If not for Dubnyk the Oilers, who were outshot 33-15, would have lost this game in an ugly way.
The Oilers first lucky bounce came just seconds after the opening face-off when the Sheldon Brookbank pass that had gone through Luca Sbisa's legs took a strange bounce off the side boards getting past Sbisa and onto Jordan Eberle's stick. Eberle found his newest line mate Teemu Hartikainen in the slot whose wrist shot beat Jonas Hiller to give the Oilers a 1-0 lead 15 seconds into the game. Six minutes later the Oilers would again be on the receiving end of a lucky bounce when Ryan Whitney's wrist shot deflected first off an Anaheim defender and then off Hartikainen's stick extending the Oilers lead to two goals.
Continuing the Teemu theme of the first period Teemu Selanne scored a tap in from the side of the Oilers net after Niklas Hagman found him with a great cross crease pass that Whitney was unable to breakup. Tonight was the Duck's final home game of the season and as such might also be the last time Selanne, who turns 42 in July plays in Anaheim. If this was his farewell game scoring one last goal in front of the home town crowd was certainly a nice way to leave.
Despite meaning nothing in the standings the game did have a physical element to it that got it's start when Bobby Ryan hit Corey Potter in the Oilers end of the rink. Ryan caught Potter with his head down but the hit itself was certainly a head shot. Andy Sutton came to his team mates defence but Ryan wanted nothing to do with Sutton who was then promptly bowled over by Devante Smith-Pelley who, like Sutton, was coming to the aid of a team mate. The resulting scrum saw both teams receive two minors but the Ryan hit went unpenalized. Still, I would assume the NHL will take a second look at the hit.
In the second period Cam Barker, who was playing in his first game since February 29, had his most useful sequence as an Oiler. First he threw a solid hit on Jason Blake and then stepped up to fight Ryan Getzlaf. Think about it, not only was Barker not available to hurt the OIlers with his play for more than five minutes but he took Getzlaf with him as well. That's as good as it gets with Barker.
Aside from the two early goals, the Oilers never tested Hiller on this night. Four shots in the first period followed by six in the second and five more in the third period for the total of 15. At the other end of the rink Devan Dubnyk had another excellent night turning away 32 of the 33 shots that came his way including a number from point blank range and 15 in the final period as the Ducks tried desperately to tie the score. The win tonight was the 20th of the season for Dubnyk, the first time he's reached that mark.