It took more than 263 minutes of play but the Oilers finally had their first lead of the season when Ales Hemsky knocked home the game's first goal on the power play part way through the first period. It was a lead that the Oilers would hold onto the rest of the way on route to a 4-1 win over the visiting Avalanche. It wasn't pretty all the way, after two good periods the Oilers were under siege for most of the third period as Colorado tried to get back into the game but Devan Dubnyk held his ground and the Oilers came away with another win. And continued the win one - lose one pattern at the same time.
The story tonight was again the power play. With all four goals tonight coming on the power play, the last an empty netter by Nail Yakupov, the Oilers now have ten power play goals on the season, a number that is second only to the San Jose Sharks who have scored 12. The team still hasn't scored much at five-on-five but nobody has so far been able to keep the power play off the scoresheet yet this season and so, for now at least, the Oilers have been able to dodge a bullet and put some wins up on the board.
The First Period
- The Oilers fourth line tonight consisted of Teemu Hartikainen, Eric Belanger, and Magnus Paajarvi. It was also about as effective as I've seen the Oilers fourth line in longer than I care to remember (third period excluded when most of team looked suspect). Things got off to a good start for the group when Hartikainen drew the first penalty of the game. The Oilers power play would fail to convert but Hartikainen and the rest of the fourth line were on their way to a very productive game at the bottom of the Oilers lineup.
- Hartikainen continued a dominant first period during the Oilers second power play of the night. The Oilers second power play unit struggled initially in this attempt as the unit tried to force a number of cross crease passes. But once they started taking shots it was Hartikainen's work in front that lead to the first goal of the game. If you watch the highlights starting at the 0:47 mark you'll see Hartikainen take a couple of whacks at he puck following the Sam Gagner point shot before Hemsky swoops in to grab the loose puck and the easy goal.
- Before the end of the third period the Oilers would extend their lead when Jordan Eberle scored his third of the season with an amazing wrist shot from the slot. I saw it live and I thought it was tipped. I've watched the replay a dozen times and I honestly can't tell for sure. So because I can't find any evidence to the contrary I'm just going to say it was one hell of a shot and leave it at that. It's more fun that way anyway.
The Second Period
- Ralph Krueger stepped up with the timely decision to use his timeout at the 5:01 mark of the second period. Following another strong cycle by the fourth line Paajarvi turned the puck over at the Oilers blue line and the fourth line along with Ryan Whitney and Corey Potter got trapped on a long shift that eventually lead to the Oilers icing the puck. By using his timeout here Krueger got his players a short rest and gave them a better chance of not surrendering a goal which would have drawn the Avs within one. It's the kind of call every coach should make but that doesn't mean it always happens, and when it does it's worth pointing out that it was the right decision.
- Before the end of the period the Oilers would enxtend their lead even further when, you guessed it, they were on another power play. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins found Taylor Hall in the slot with a pass and Hall simply steered the puck in the direction of the net hoping to catch Varlamov moving the other direction. The puck would have missed the net but instead caught the skate of the captain, Shwan Horcoff, to send the Oilers into the third period with a three goal lead.
The Third Period
- The third period was, for a lack of a better term, ugly. The Oilers sat back, comfortable with a three goal lead, and just let the Avavalanche come at them. And come they did. By Michael Parkatti's numbers at Boys on the Bus (and seriously if you're not reading his blog regularly you should be) the Corsi events totaled 32-12 in favour of the Avalanche during the third period. Having sat through it I'm surprised it was even that close. A lot of this is dictated by the score but I've watched enough teams sit back with a three goal lead to know when things aren't really under control, this was one of those times.
- About the only Oilers line that looked decent during the third period was the Young Gunz trio of Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, and Eberle. As a group they were excellent tonight and the confidence that they show at the offensive end of the rink is nothing short of amazing. If I didn't sit at the end that the Oilers attack twice I would feel a little ripped off. If there is one complaint I have about them it's that their zone entries with the man advantage are fairly ineffective but that's easy enough to work on.
- Dubnyk was a difference maker in the third period. Yeah, he looked awful on the Avs only goal of the game but after that he really shut the door. Full credit for that because if he hadn't the Oilers could easily have found themselves playing a much more desperate final few minutes. Dubnyk got a little help tonight from the posts - one in the first and another in the second - but as was the case in the Oilers previous two wins this season I thought he looked calm and was consistently at the edge of his crease challenging the opposing shooter. If he keeps doing those two things I think he will be quite successful.