Tonight the Oilers wrapped up a very successful October with a 4-2 win over the St. Louis Blues in front of the home town fans. With tonight's win the Oilers ran their winning streak to five games (only the Senators are hotter with a six game winning streak) and retook first place in the Western Conference. Most fans know that it's still very early and the wheels could come off at any time but for a fanbase that has suffered through some tough years of late, the winning is a welcome change.
The Oilers were led tonight by another strong performance in net by Nikolai Khabibulin who allowed more than a single goal for just the second time this season and is still without a regulation loss in seven starts. At the other end of the rink it was a familiar story as the team's top two lines provided all four goals for the Oilers who outchanced the Blues by a wide margin and controlled the play for most of the game en route to the win.
The Oilers took the lead early in the first period when they converted 24 seconds into a Matt D'Agostini penalty. On the goal, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins made a great cross-ice pass to Shawn Horcoff in the slot who made no mistake in converting the chance. Corey Potter was awarded the second assist on the play as he continues to rack up points. Following the Oilers goal the two teams would trade two more powerplay chances each before the period ended, but neither team was able to make use of their opportunities. The Oilers were outshot in the first period by a count of 8-5 but had the better scoring chances, out-chancing the Blues by a 4-1 tally in what was a relatively low event period. The Blues came out physical throwing 11 hits in the first period to the Oilers six, but the physical play in the early going didn't seem to faze any of the Oilers, especially some of the younger players, which was nice to see.
Before the four-minute mark of the second period the Blues would draw even thanks to a terrific shot from David Backes who shot the puck through Jeff Petry's legs and over Khabibulin's right shoulder. I'm not sure he could make that shot again if he wanted to but it was still one hell of a shot regardless. The tie game wouldn't last long though with the Oilers reclaiming the lead minutes later when Ryan Smyth corralled a rebound resulting from an Alex Plante point shot and found space under the pad of Jaroslav Halak. Later in the period Jordan Eberle would score his third goal in four games when a Taylor Hall pass deflected off his skate and past Halak. The goal wasn't the prettiest of Eberle's career and it was reviewed for quite a while, but at the end of the day, they all count the same. Not to be outdone by youth, Smyth would score again before the period ended, this time on the powerplay when he knocked home a Tom Gilbert rebound giving the Oilers a comanding 4-1 lead after two periods.
The Blues would cut the Oiler lead to two with an Alex Pietrangelo powerplay goal in the early part of the third period. The Blues found themselves on the powerplay after Eric Belanger was called for boarding, a debateable call at best, and according to Louie DeBrusk a terrible call that left him almost speechless. Considering the beating Belanger took on this night some would think he deserved a free pass, apparently the referees thought not. The Blues continued to come on strong in the final period, putting 14 shots on the Oilers net but were unable to get any more pucks behind Khabibulin who continues to impress this year. I didn't hear "Khabby" chants on the broadcast like there were against the Capitals on Thursday but I doubt that means any fans went home unhappy with his play on this night. Or, for that matter, the play of the Oilers who just keep on rolling as if they don't know that they're not supposed to be winning all these games.
News and Notes:
- Petry had a phenomenal game in his return to Edmonton from Oklahoma City playing almost 23 minutes (only Ladislav Smid and Gilbert played more), registering an assist on Smyth's second goal of the night, taking three shots, attempting four more, blocking two, and registering the team's best Corsi of the night with a +10.
- Speaking of great games on the Oilers blueline, Smid had another fantastic effort tonight playing almost 21 minutes at even strength and another 2:23 on the penalty kill. In all that time the Blues generated just one scoring chance. And of course Smid was blocking shots again, four more on this night, increasing his season total to 40, which leads the NHL.
- With two more points Nugent-Hopkins reclaimed sole possession of first place in the rookie scoring race. He now has 11 points on the season, two ahead of Buffalo's Luke Adam.
- The Belanger, Magnus Paajarvi, Sam Gagner line had their best game together and could have had a couple of goals easily if not for some great saves from Halak. Paajarvi had a great game, probably his best of the season, registering three shots and creating a number of scoring opportunities. Goals are going to come very soon for these guys, they're owed a couple bounces for sure.
- Late in the second period Anton Lander forced a turnover near the top of the circles in the St. Louis end, passed the puck quickly to Ben Eager at the side of the net who then moved the puck back into the slot for a Lennart Petrell shot. Unfortunately Petrell missed the net but the sequence is worth mentioning just because the passing was crisp and tape to tape, not something you typically expect of a fourth line.