Just before 5PM Edmonton time, and for the second time in as many nights, I hopped in my car and headed to St. Albert for a Thanksgiving dinner. As a rule, I don't enjoy driving to St. Albert. Once I get there I'm fine, I'm with family and there's food, but getting myself out the door is never easy. Part of that is because I'm lazy. Another much larger part is that the traffic signals in St. Albert seem to have been designed with the primary goal being to drive me insane. You can't go three blocks without hitting a red light, and just for fun every intersection that could be signalized is.
A hidden benefit of these signals is that I can take the time while stopped at so many red lights along the way to explain to my wife how I would fix every intersection. I'm sure that on a normal night she loves this, but having made the trip last night I didn't think she would want to hear all my wonderful ideas for a second night in a row. So that was a big strike against this trip before we even got out the door. And to make things worse the Oilers were playing in Washington tonight, so I'd have to miss the game.
Or at least I would have had to miss the game were it not for a very smart person who invented the PVR, which as you may know allows a person to record live television and watch it later. Modern technology is just amazing. But it isn't always good. Thanks to Twitter mentions which were being pushed to my phone I had a bad feeling about the game before I'd even left my in-laws' house. And then, for some reason, I tweeted about that apprehension. Your responses did little to help. In fact, they made things worse.
As suggested by a couple of people on Twitter, things went pretty well for the Oilers in the first period. They held the Caps without a shot on goal until the seventh minute of play. And won the first period Corsi battle 17-13. They also scored the first goal of the game when Justin Schultz knocked down (only one replay was shown but it sure looked close to a high stick to me) Mike Green's pass across the neutral zone to Nicklas Backstrom, then turned the puck up ice creating an odd man rush before passing off to Boyd Gordon who put the puck in off the post.
The Capitals would draw even before the period ended when Brooks Laich scored. Leading up to the goal Ryan Nugent-Hopkins passed the puck to Ales Hemsky who was nearly straight in front of him, making it a tough pass to receive. Looking at the play a few times it almost seems as if Hemsky was surprised by the pass and was expecting Nugent-Hopkins to move the puck to Taylor Hall on the boards. Either way, Hemsky was unable to handle the pass turning the puck over to Steve Oleksy at the Oilers blue line. The turnover in itself probably isn't automatically a problem, but because J. Schultz had left Laich behind to join a rush that didn't materialize, Oleksy was able to simply toss the puck to Laich who beat Jason Labarbera with a wrist shot. Schultz needs to do a better job of picking his spots to be an offensive threat.
In the second period the Caps would score three times in less than four minutes to all but end the game. First Joel Ward scored on a cross crease pass from Backstrom 19 seconds into the Capitals first power play of the night. The goal was technically scored at 5-on-4, but coincidental minors had just expired so the goal was more or less scored during a 4-on-3 situation. Then after a long shift where the Caps top line of Alex Ovechkin - Marcus Johansson - Backstrom kept the Oilers top line skating in circles, Ovechkin finally ended the misery scoring his sixth of the season. And then Troy Brouwer put the game out of reach 14 seconds into the Capitals second power play of the evening. And just like that, the game was pretty close to over.
The Oilers responded by sending out the fourth line following the Caps fourth goal. And Gazdic tried to get the momentum machine working for the Oilers by dropping his gloves with Laich. But it takes two to tango, and Laich had no intention of getting involved with Gazdic at this point of the game with his team up three goals. The fourth line also started the third period for the Oilers which is a very strange choice given the fact that the Capitals had the last change. Gazdic and his running mate, Mike Brown, would eventually get into a bit of a stir after Ovechkin hit Brown in the back sending him into boards. Nothing more than minors came out of the scrum that followed though.
Will Acton would score the last goal of the evening with 1:42 remaining. The goal - the first of Acton's career - was a tap in from the side of the net. Following the goal the Oilers played the rest of the game with Labarbera watching from the bench, but were unable to score one more to at least make the last few seconds interesting.
Final score: Washington 4 - Oilers 2. And with that the Oilers fall to 1-4-1. I wouldn't say that the team played terribly tonight, but they weren't very good either, and once again suspect goaltending and defensive breakdowns were big problem. Labarbera had no chance on Ward's goal but could have stopped any (or all of) the other three that got past him. In front of him Ladislav Smid, J. Schultz, Nick Schultz, and Anton Belov all had bad nights. The Oilers need to play a lot better than they did tonight if they hope to win games with any kind of regularity.