The 2010-11 Edmonton Oilers have done the impossible. No, they haven't acquired a number one center. No, they haven't found a trading partner who wants to take on Sheldon Souray, his ego, and his salary. They haven't come to an agreement with the City of Edmonton on an arena either. I guess there are just too many impossibilities for this team this year. Going into game 26, the Oilers had the second longest winning streak in the league behind only Pittsburgh and their 10-game run. You know what else is happening for the Oilers? Ryan Jones was rumoured to be in a position to receive more minutes due to his high goals-per-minute ratio. Of everyone on the team, Jones has scored more goals with fewer minutes than anyone. You know what else, he's been showing he has the speed needed to keep up with the young, fast rookies. I like this Jones for Grebeshkov pseudo-trade more and more with every game.
Joffrey Lupul was also playing his second NHL game in almost a year due to back surgery and blood infections; with a story like that, I of course figured that he was sure to score a hat trick in tonight's game. And if he didn't, there were a couple of other ex-Oilers who could have been up for the challenge in Todd Marchant and Lubomir Visnovsky. Then there's the magic mustache, George Parros, who's had some offensive luck when playing against the Oilers, so he was another possible threat.
What the first period lacked in goals, it made up for with injuries. About seven minutes into the game, Shawn Horcoff limped to the locker room after a collision with Corey Perry. Ten minutes later, in what should have been a tripping call on Lubomir Visnovsky for upending Dustin Penner, Visnovsky ended up on the ice after taking a skate to the face - the worst part was waiting through the commercial break to see if there was a gory mess depending on where the blade hit. Fortunately, we were soon able to see that it was in fact the back of the skate that hit Lubo, so there was no cut, and Visnovksy was ready for his next shift. The same can't be said for Horcoff, who didn't return for the rest of the game and is currently listed as day-to-day.
Both goalies were called to action in the first period, but is was Hiller - who was wearing a rather odd all-black mask - who was called upon at the beginning of the period, while Khabibulin kept the Oilers tied late. Magnus Paajarvi seemed bound and determined to score jamming the puck to the net out of the corner; Jim Vandermeer took his time, and made some... interesting... plays behind the Oilers net; and Kurtis Foster missed the net by what seemed like fifty feet. The best scoring chance all period was on the Oilers' power play. Naturally, that means the chance itself actually belonged to the Ducks when Nikolai Khabibulin made a horrendous giveaway to Corey Perry who found nothing but the post.
In the second period, Saku Koivu scored the first goal of the game, breaking the Ducks 146:15 (2 straight games shut out) goal drought after a nifty play by rookie Cam Fowler created a three-on-three. Sam Gagner was the only forward back, but he seemed content to just watch the play develop rather than actually taking a man. The Oilers had a couple of PP chances, although calling their time on the power play "chances" is being somewhat generous. Shortly after failing to score on the PP (shocker), Jim Vandermeer hit Bobby Ryan from behind, which put the Oilers on the PK. There was a brief moment of hope when Gagner showed some offence and made an attempt to break away shorthanded, but that was of course stopped. Later in the PK, Ryan Jones had cleared the zone, which caused the crowd to erupt non-sarcastically - fans are really getting behind this guy. It seems the PK may have turned a corner, as the Oilers were able to keep the Ducks at bay, and disrupt all of their shooting opportunities. Eberle thought he scored with a wraparound attempt, he lifted his hands to celebrate but the refs weren't biting. The most questionable call of the period was whether or not Ryan Jones should have received a penalty shot for his shorthanded effort. Minutes later, Cogliano had yet another break, but passed to Whitney (still looking for his first of the season) who quickly shot to Hiller's top right side as the buzzer blew.
Bruce McCurdy was not impressed with many Ducks' players through the second period; he felt that they were better actors than skaters. His take was that they were diving all over the place and I really can't blame him for feeling that way. Teams do what they need to do to get by I guess.
Going into the third, Koivu's goal was the one and only. Dustin Penner had an early chance, out-muscling the unsuspecting Visnovsky, but in the end, he was denied. The next goal scored was came off the stick of Teemu Selanne. But do you know who scored next? Ryan Jones. That's right, three straight games with a goal for the man with the hockey hair. This goal would not have been made possible if not for the assist from my favourite Oilers' roster Swede Paajarvi. Shortly after that, Hall had a chance to entertain the crowd and tie the game after rushing through a couple of Ducks' defenders and getting a quick shot on net, but it was calmly knocked into the corner by Hiller. Jones then had another breakaway and decided to go five-hole, but Hiller shut the door. But do you know who was able to pull off a tying goal, and on the powerplay no less? Dustin Penner, that's who. Now the Oilers were in the game, and so were the fans with a resounding "Hill-er" goalie chant.
With only a few minutes left in the third period, the Oilers looked to be in control. Sam Gagner had another great chance, but another missed penalty called against the Ducks occurred when a hook on Gagner went unpunished. In some weird cosmic fate, Tom Gilbert sent the puck over the glass just a few moments later to give the Ducks one last chance to burn the league's worst PK. But that wasn't going to be the story tonight. Whether it's the Ducks being poor, or the Oilers having turned the corner, the boys were once again able to keep the Ducks from scoring, although Khabibulin was required to make a couple of excellent stops on ths one.
Off to overtime once again, and it was all Gagner to start: first it was a quick wrister, and then another from the ensuing rebound - it seemed Gagner wanted to end this game early and kept the pressure on the Ducks' blueline. The five minute 4 on 4 passed quickly with some low-level chances at both ends, but it was pretty obvious a shoot-out out would be needed.
- Sam Gagner tries to be fancy and loses the puck.
- Joffrey Lupul gets Khabi to commit to his left and pulls the puck back to score on the other side.
- Jordan Eberle skates in and shoots right down the middle, but it just didn't have enough to get through.
- Teemu Selanne slows down trying to fake out Khabibulin and was denied.
- Taylor Hall comes in for his second career shoot-out attempt, and wouldn't you know it, the kid is 2 for 2. Tie game.
- Corey Perry with his ultra-wide attempt, but he's denied by a desperation leg-lift from a sprawling Khabibulin.
- Gilbert Brule didn't see much ice time this game, but was the Oilers' first extra shooter - his backhand attempt was too low and easily brushed aside by Hiller.
- Ryan Getzlaf also went for the backhand, but also didn't get the shot high enough.
- Dustin Penner swings wide of the net and shot about four feet wide too.
- Saku Koivu up next, and he was the next to be denied.
- Magnificient Magnus Paajarvi comes in with some very fancy stick work a la Peter Forsberg, but was stopped by Hiller despite the cheers from my living room.
- Jason Blake is next for the Ducks, but Khabi stands tall for the Oilers with the glove stop.
- The crowd went insane for Ryan Jones who went blocker side, but was denied.
- Bobby Ryan (how is he still available this deep?) hits the side of the net with his shot... and then falls down (that's how).
- Kurtis Foster with a slapshot from the slot, but no dice.
- Lubomir Visnovsky up next, and he was the next to be denied.
- Andrew Cogliano has enough to make the goal horn sound, but the shot was off the post.
Toni Lydman for the Ducks, and the result is pretty much what you'd expect.
- Colin Fraser is next up for the Oilers, which should tell you that this shoot-out is taking a while. You probably don't need me to tell you that he didn't score.
- Cam Fowler ends this marathon by beating Khabi high on his glove hand off the iron and earns the Ducks the extra point to a chorus of boos.
You can watch the shootout in its' entirety this morning.
There were many, many positives to take away from this game, even if the Oilers walked away with only one point. The rookies were out there taking and making chances. The team was able to find their offensive side without Hemsky, and were able to score twice in the third to force overtime without Hemsky and Horcoff. Khabibulin is looking better after his injury than he was before, which makes you wonder if he didn't just need a little breather. If that's the case, we need to see a bit more of Dubnyk, now don't we? Another positive? Look at how many players were able to gain some more experience on the shout-out! Simply amazing! With two injuries, I'm definitely expecting at least one call-up tomorrow. Will it be Linus Omark? I sure hope so.