The Oilers road trip through four of the Original Six cities continued tonight in Boston. Coming off a win in Montreal on Tuesday night the Oilers decided to make no changes to the roster or line combinations for tonight's game against the Bruins. The only change in the line-up was the swapping out the red hot Nikolai Khabibulin for Devan Dubnyk. After back-to-back poor performances, playing the defending Stanley Cup Champions (thanks again for that Game 7 win), on the road in a city where, as Derek pointed out earlier today, the Oilers have, historically, had a tough time winning during the regular season and the Oilers have a current losing streak dating back to November of 1997, all signs pointed to an Oiler loss.
Surprising start or not, it remains a fact that the Bruins are a much better hockey club than the Oilers right now. And on this night they made sure everyone knew it with a convincing 6-3 win. The Oilers had their moments but they never had a lead, were rarely tied, and spent most of the game trailing the home team. The Oilers held a narrow shot advantage - 30-28 - over the Bruins but they were badly outchanced, both overall and at even strength. Before the game started all signs pointed to a loss and as it turned out that is exactly what happened.
Head-to-Head Ice Time
The Oilers almost took the lead in the games first 30 seconds when Ryan Smyth beat Tuukka Rask but couldn't beat the post. For the next few minutes it looked as if that might be the closest the Oilers would get on this night as the Bruins started to take over. Benoit Pouliot had a great chance to Dubnyk's right but failed to get all of the puck on his shot attempt. On that same shift he had another chance in close but couldn't bang the puck past Dubnyk. Adam McQuaid had another great chance off a pass from Tyler Seguin. Eventually Johnny Boychuk would get the Bruins on the board when his point shot beat a screened Dubnyk. And then a lazy turnover by Tom Gilbert led to a Jordan Caron goal less than two minutes later. It was starting to look like a very long night for the Oilers.
But the Oilers didn't back down. Shawn Horcoff had a great chance on a one-timer on the first shift after the Caron goal. And on the Smyth / Horcoff / Ales Hemsky lines next shift, Smyth would tip a Peckham point shot past Rask cutting the Bruins lead in half. It didn't end there though. 29 seconds after Smyth's goal Ryan Nugent-Hopkins would tie the game with a wrist shot from the slot. The passes that led to the goal were fantastic; first Nugent-Hopkins' pass out of the zone to Taylor Hall, and the Hall's pass back to Nugent-Hopkins in the slot. It's not always pretty with these kids but they can be a lot of fun to watch.
The second period would start with the Oilers killing off the remaining seconds of a Peckham penalty that carried over from the first period. The Oilers would be successful on this penalty kill but when Jeff Petry was called for hooking Seguin later in the period the result would not be so good. On the Bruins third goal Brad Marchand would tip a waste high wrist shot from Joe Corvo, putting the Bruins back ahead by a goal.
The Bruins would once again go up by two goals minutes later when a Seguin wrist shot found its way into the Oiler net. And when I say found its way in, I mean found its way in. Seguins wrist shot went off Corey Potter's stick and deflected wide, bounced off the boards into the back of Dubnyk's leg; Gilbert would keep the puck from crossing the goal line but his clearing attempt would hit Potter in the foot (possibly both feet) and defelcted into the net. I've watched a lot of hockey and I don't know that I've ever seen the puck touch three opposition players after the player credited with the goal last touched it.
The Oilers had a chance to cut into the Bruins lead later in the second period when Shawn Thornton got called for hooking Hall giving the Oilers thier first powerplay opportunity of the night. On the powerplay the Oilers attempted a number of shots, getting two through to Rask, had Smyth looking for the Smyth classic garbage goal, and generated some good pressure but couldn't beat the Bruins netminder. In the third period, on another powerplay, the Oilers would cut into the Boston lead though when Smyth, standing in Rask's crease, deflected home a pass from Eric Belanger giving the Oilers life with less than five minutes to play.
Cam Barker would kill any potential Oiler comeback minutes later with a stupid interference penalty. As usual Barker struggled tonight and this penalty was just icing on the cake. Of course the Bruins would score on the penalty, a Milan Lucic goal from the slot, effectively ending the game with just under three minutes left to play. Seconds later Marchand would score his second goal of the night, beating Dubnyk up high, to erase any doubt as to how this game would end.
And so the streak continues.
News and Notes:
- The Oilers have allowed two or fewer goals in 12 of 15 games this season. In the three games they've given up more Dubnyk has been in net each time allowing four goals against the Canucks and Coyotes and of course six tonight. Tonight Dubnyk had no chance on four of the Bruins goals and if not for some very good saves early on this game could have been over before the ten minute mark.
- With two goals tonight Smyth extended his point streak to six games, during which time he's scored seven goals and added four assists. Even if Smyth had gone pointless in his first nine games that would still be more than every Oiler not named Nugent-Hopkins or Jordan Eberle. Who knew that when the Oilers traded for Smyth they were getting the 2002/03 version?
- The Ladislav Smid / Gilbert pairing didn't have a bad night but each was on the ice for four Boston goals. Marchand's second goal was the only Bruin goal of the evening where neither was on the ice. On the second goal Gilbert was at fault for the turnover but generally speaking I thought they played well, just didn't get the bounces.
- Barker led the Oiler defenders tonight in ice time, thanks in large part to almost five minutes of powerplay time. The problem is the nearly 16 minutes of even strength time. It's not good. Barker is slow and often finds himself hooking and holding as a result. On this night he wasn't called for that but decided to take a stupid penalty anyway, one that effectively ended any comeback attempt. I'm going to avoid the Christmas rush and start really disliking him now.
- Turnovers were a problem for the Oilers tonight. It's doesn't seem to show up in the turnover stats (I don't know why) but the Oilers consistently needed multiple tries to clear their zone. Against weaker teams you can get away with that but against a team as good as the Bruins it will kill you and on this night that's exactly what happened.