Tonight the Oilers took on the Canucks for the second time this season. A lot has been made recently about the Oilers inability to win games in their division and this was a chance to right the ship so to speak. In the previous meeting between these two teams the Oilers were unable to win, losing by a score of 4-3, but all anyone in Edmonton could talk about that night, or in the days that followed, was the hat trick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (might have) scored.
Despite lacking another Nugent-Hopkins hat trick on this night, the Oilers were somehow still able to come away with a 3-2 win, against a divisional opponent no less. If you're not familiar with recent Oiler history this is a big deal. Simply put, the Oilers have struggled something fierce to win against teams in their own division and any win should be cause for celebration. A win against a team that was the runner-up for the Stanley Cup last season should be special cause for celebration if it at least quiets some Canuck fans for a night.
Head-to-Head Ice Time
The first period saw the two teams go back and forth, little bit by little, almost as if they were feeling each other out. The Oilers would register the chance advantage in the period but each team had their share of chances. The Oilers best scoring chances came on the powerplay after Jannik Hansen was called for delay of game when he crashed into the net. On the ensuing powerplay the Oilers had two scoring chances but couldn't get a puck past Canucks netminder Roberto Luongo who stood tall, which meant that Oiler fans had to listen to Canuck fans yell Luooooooooooo throughout the first period, a chant I personally believe is the most annoying in the NHL.
In the second period the game opened up significantly. Driven by Oiler goals from Jordan Eberle, Shawn Horcoff, and Taylor Hall, the Oilers would find themselves with a three-goal lead. For a team that hasn't scored many goals a three goal lead must have felt strange. Going into tonight the Oilers were averaging just 1.71 goals per game so scoring three in a period certainly bucks that trend. Th offensive outburst led to Luongo getting pulled and Cory Schneider being called in as a replacement before the game's midway point.
Following the third goal the Oilers did their best to lose this game. After Hall was hit hard by Alexander Edler with a clean check at the Oilers blueline, Ladislav Smid and then Ben Eager challenged Edler to a fight. Edler, to his credit, declined both options but Eager still felt the need to take a penalty, presumably to stick up for Hall despite the fact that he wasn't on the ice when the hit was thrown and there was nothing wrong with the hit.
In the third period the Oilers went into defense mode looking to to not lose the game. If you're familiar with this strategy you know that it very infrequently works for the Oilers despite being a reasonable option employed by a great number of NHL coaches. But in this case it worked out for the home team. The Canucks would get within a goal early on thanks to Alexandre Burrows who tapped home an easy goal after passes from Henrik Sedin and Sami Salo. After this goal the Canucks had their chances to score the equalizer but just could not make it happen and the Oilers came away with the win.
News and Notes:
- Ryan Whitney left the game early with what appeared to be an ankle injury. After falling awkwardly Whitney played just one more shift. I don't need to tell you that losing your best defenseman is a blow.
- The Hall, Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins line combines for a 28-8 chances score. Hard to argue that they aren't doing a good job or making the Oilers better.
- Gagner also left early with what looked like a bad ankle. This team's depth is non-existent, injuries simply can't be accommodated.
- Every Oiler had a minus Corsi number tonight. Smid "leads" the way with a -24 but he wasn't alone in the ugly number department.
- Corey Potter's 27:37 led the team. Still a long way from a sure thing but Potter looks good.