Another night and another stop in Original Six city for the Oilers on this road trip. Last night it was Boston where the Oilers dropped a 6-3 decision, tonight the opponent was the Detroit Red Wings. Going into tonight's game the Oilers made a couple of lineup changes, putting Magnus Paajarvi back in the line-up in place of Ben Eager and Andy Sutton drew back in after his five game suspension in place of Cam Barker who returned to Edmonton with an ankle injury. Nikolai Khabibulin also returned to action after getting last night off.
The Oilers would start strong on this night but an unlucky bounce would give Detroit an early lead. From there it was the Wings who took the play to the Oilers for most of the night, winning the game by a final score of 3-0 and handing the Oilers their second loss in as many nights. As was the story last night, the Oilers were outchanced by a wide margin and looked very much like a team that is nowhere near ready to compete with the big boys of the NHL, regardless of what their early season record may have made you hope.
Head-to-Head Ice Time
In the first period the Oilers started out well, getting the puck deep and creating some problems for the Wings; but it was the Red Wings would would get on the score sheet first. Depressingly the goal came right after what was probably the OIlers best shift of the game so far; a shift that saw Ales Hemsky take control of the puck circling behind the net to keep Henrik Zetterberg at bay, followed by Ladislav Smid driving to the net looking for a very rare goal. The OIlers were controlling the puck and then on a harmless play at the other end of the rink Tom Gilbert moved the puck around the net, Patrick Eaves got to it first and threw it into the slot where it would bounce of Jeff Petry and then Gilbert before landing on Drew Miller's stick who would bang home his first goal of the season.
In the opening minutes of the second period the Wings would extend their lead when a Niklas Kronwall slap shot beat Nikolai Khabibulin high to the glove side. In Khabibulin's hot start to the season this was one of very few shots that he's seen all the way that he hasn't managed to stop. Before the puck got to Kronwall, Theo Peckham had it in the corner and rather than make the simple play up the boards to Jordan Eberle opted to move the puck into the middle in the direction of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. The safe play woud have been advisable.
After falling down two goals the Oilers would find themselves starring at a four-minute shorthanded situation less than a minute later when Lennart Petrell was assessed an instigator penalty after jumping on Justin Abdelkader after he ran over Paajarvi near the WIngs blue line. On the play Petrell got an extra two because he instigated a fight while wearing a visor. In the first period the Oilers had successfully killed off their first penalty of the night but it looked like a Wings goal with the man advantage was only a matter of time. On this kill though the Oilers were much more organized, and thanks to a Kronwall interference penalty didn't have to kill off the full four minutes.
The Oilers would get a short man advantage of their own after the Petrell penalties expired but nothing came of it. Later in the period the Oielrs would get another chance to cut into the Wings lead after the Wings were caught with too many men on the ice. With the extra man the Oilers looked less than dangerous however and registered only one shot. With the team generating very little at even strength seeing a mostly ineffective powerplay was less than encouraging.
Eric Belanger almost got the Oilers on the score board early in the third period but his shot rang off the post. Another penalty to Kronwall would give the Oilers another man advantage but the still the Oilers couldn't get the puck past Jimmy Howard. Detroit would get another extended powerplay when Gilbert was called for interference and then as the penalty was winding down Ryan Jones took a slashing penalty. The Oilers would successfully kill off both but with five and a half periods of hockey played in the last two days it was starting to look as if the Oilers were just out of gas.
Just when you're ready to count the Oilers they come back with a couple of their best shifts since the first period. The burst would generate a couple of scoring chances but wouldn't results in any goals. With the Oilers pressing for a goal Zetterberg and Valtteri Filppula would get an odd man rush that would end with Filppula tapping home a wonderful saucer pass from Zetterberg extending the Wings lead to three. From there the Oilers were just playing out the minutes knowing that a second straight loss was on the horizon.
News and Notes:
- Another tough night for the Taylor Hall / Nugent-Hopkins / Eberle line, not that most lines with a lot more experience wouldn't also struggle up against Pavel Datsyuk, Tomas Holmstrom, and Dan Cleary. At least they didn't have to consistently see Nicklas Lidstrom too.
- Speaking of Lidstrom he is just amazing. He played 23:33 tonight, tops on either team and he's 41. The way he moves the puck and keeps himself in the absolutely perfect position almost all the time, there is no reason he couldn't play another five years if he wanted to.
- Sam Gagner had one of his better games of the season tonight. Still no points of course but he, and his line mates, Belanger and Jones, seemed a little more dangerous on this night they have in recent games. As a line I'm still not sure about these three but at least they were effective tonight.
- The Oilers powerplay failed to score for the fourth time in five games on this road trip. Since leaving Edmonton the powerplay is just 1 for 16; before that the powerplay had gone 10 for 48 or 20.8%.