Admit it. In the first period, with the Oilers trailing by a pair of goal, you were thinking up a snarky response to my theory regarding what really drives the success of the Oilers. It's okay, when challenged with a groundbreaking idea like this, skepticism is reasonable. But after watching a depleted Oilers roster battle back from a two goal deficit on the road in front of a big and very loud crowd in Montreal, I hope that I've converted a few of our good readers.
The Opposition's View
For the first 15 minutes of the first period the Oilers held their own against the Canadiens. I suspected that this was the game plan. On the road, with more than a few key players out of the lineup, keep it close in the early going and see if you don't catch a break later in the game. Plenty of teams go this route, and like I said for 15 minutes it looked good, until the Oilers had their worst shift of the season.
Following a neutral zone faceoff win by the Canadiens, the Oilers managed to turn the puck over or have it taken away (I've never figured out how you can tell the difference) five time and allowed seven attempted shots in 1:14. Somehow the puck didn't end up in the back of the Oielrs net during that sequence, but when the whistle finally blew it was to call a penalty on the OIlers - Luke Gazdic for tripping. And where they got very lucky during the previous minute and a bit, there would be no repeat on the powerplay as the Candiens scored six seconds into their man advantage; Tomas Plekanec's fourth goal of the season.
Then less than a minute and a half later Brendan Gallagher would extend Montreal's lead to two goals. At the Oilers blue line Gallagher intercepted a brutal cross ice pass from Ryan Jones, and then went around the Oilers defenders, before beating Devan Dubnyk on the glove side. With two quick goals it seemed as if the wheels were about to come off for the Oilers, but the fourth line was sent out to get the momentum back. It must have worked since the Canadiens wouldn't score again until the final seconds of the game.
Actually what happened following the Canadiens second goal was a little interesting. Travis Moen and Gazdic dropped their gloves, both ready to alter the course of the game by punching each other, but when they took off their helmets before throwing a punch the linesmen stepped in and stopped the fight before it could start. And so it became a fight that never was, and both players got two spend two minutes in the box for their trouble.
In the second period the Oilers played a much better game, out shooting the Canadiens by a total of 15-11 and were rewarded with two goals. The first came off the stick of Ales Hemsky who made a great move to get around the Montreal defenceman after picking up a drop pass from Mark Arcobello just inside the blue line. Shortly after that the Oilers would even the score when Ladislav Smid surprised everyone by not only recording a shot on goal, but actually scoring a goal. Smid picked up the rebound resulting from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins' shot and buried his first goal of the season on just his third shot.
The pattern of quick goals continued in the third period with the Oilers scoring their third and fourth goals of the evening 1:58 apart. First, Jeff Petry and Nugent-Hopkins teamed up on a beautiful give-and-go. Petry makes a great first pass to Nugent-Hopkins through Plekanec's legs, but it's the way Nugent-Hopkins sells the shot that gets Price and Raphael Diaz to commit to the shot that really makes the play happen, leaving Petry open for the go ahead goal.
Following Petry's second goal of the season, Jones would atone for his earlier mistake by banging home his first his first of the season from millimetres outside of Price's crease. David Perron and Arcobello would record assists on the play. For Arcobello it was his tenth assist of the season; and if you had Arcobello tied for the Oilers scoring lead after 10 games you deserve a prize.
The Canadiens would add one more goal, courtesy of Brian Gionta, with three seconds left to play, which really serves no purpose other than to count as a goal allowed for Dubnyk who played another strong game for the Oilers. Tonight might have been his best performance of the season even though he ended up allowing three goals. At no point did he look to be fighting the puck which is something we've seen occasionally even in his recent string of good starts.
This was actually a pretty solid performance from the Oilers. If you ignore a small part of the first period. A smart, good looking man told you to expect this.
The Copper & Blue Three Stars
★★★ - Ales Hemsky - Another great game for the Oilers winger. He was absolutely flying in the first period, and as a result created some of the Oilers best scoring chances and added a goal in the second period. Almost added another goal on an empty net in the final minute of play.
★★ - Jeff Petry - It's starting to get old, but night in, night out, Petry is one of, if not the best Oilers defenceman. Tonight he wasn't the best, but when you play over 22 minutes at even strength against the other team's top forwards and score a goal you get a star.
★ - Ladislav Smid - Easily his his best game of the year and not just because of the very rare contribution he made on the scoresheet. To go along with the goal he was defensively sound for a change, threw four hits and added another four blocked shots. Hopefully this is just the start for him.