In the pregame thread Scott hinted that with a team like the Sharks in town that the Oilers could be looking at a loss tonight. And Scott was right, the Sharks are who we thought they were, a much better team than the Oilers. They outshot, outchanced, and outplayed the home team by a wide margin but somehow all of that didn't add up to another tally in the loss column for the Oilers. No, instead of a well deserved loss the Oilers managed a shootout win tonight proving even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes.
Make no mistake, in no way did the Oilers deserve to win this game. And if not for Devan Dubnyk playing what might have been his best game of the season they wouldn't have won, in fact the result likely wouldn't have even been close. But the Oilers have had so many unlucky breaks lately with injuries of late and with only five wins in the previous 25 games it was nice to see things fall their way for a change. I know that the fans at Rexall Place certainly appreciated the win.
Right from the opening faceoff the Sharks were in control of the game. In the first period the majority of the play was in the Oilers end of the rink. By the end of the period the shot clock read 13-5 in favour of the Sharks. The scoring chances tell a similar story with the visitors leading by a count of 7-2. Still the game stayed scoreless through 20 minutes thanks to excellent goaltending from Dubnyk.
The second period would go much the same way that the first period had, with the Sharks dominating the play, but the Oilers would take the lead in the seventh minute of the period when Jordan Eberle scored his eighteenth goal of the season. The goal resulted from the deflection of a Jeff Petry shot of Douglas Murray and onto Eberle's stick in the slot. Eberle didn't hesitate when he receiveed the puck, getting a shot off immediately that was just out of the reach of Thomas Greiss.
With the Sharks outshooting the Oilers by a count of 26-12 through two periods there was a feeling in the building that it was only a matter of time before the Sharks scored at least a goal, and maybe more. When Ales Hemsky was given a major for kneeing Brent Burns it seemed as if that time had come. The Sharks wouldn't waste any time making that feeling a reality when, less than a minute into the powerplay, Logan Couture tipped Dan Boyle's point shot past Dubnyk. Having tied the game and with more than four minutes left in the powerplay it looked as if this would be the point of the game where the Oilers luck would run out but it just didn't happen. The Sharks had a couple more scoring chances with the man advantage but couldn't manage to score the go ahead goal.
The remaining time in regulation and overtime would play out much like the rest of the game had but would result in no more goals forcing the game to a shootout. The Oilers chose to send Eberle, Sam Gagner, and Anton Lander getting a goal from Gagner. The Sharks answered with Michal Handzus, Boyle and Joe Pavelski who scored on his attempt forcing the shootout into an extra round. Taylor Hall was up next up for the Oilers; Greiss would get a piece of Hall's backhand attempt but not enough to keep it out of the net. Couture, needing to match the goal from Hall, was the Sharks last hope. Considering that Dubnyk was the sole reason the Oilers had avoided a lopsided loss it was fitting that he made the games final save to give them the win.
News and Notes:
- Having watched a replay of the knee-on-knee collision between Hemsky and Burns I don't think it was intentional on Hemsky's part and a minor penalty would have been the correct penalty to assess rather than a major. Regardless of the correct call that was the last shift of Burns night and he left the game shortly after the incident. There is no word yet on the extent of the injury.
- Ladislav Smid was the Oilers best defenseman by a pretty wide margin. His 25:28 of ice time was more than any other player and he played most of those minutes against the Sharks top line of Pavelski, Joe Thornton, and Andrew Desjardins. Not an easy assignment but Smid held his own against that level of competition.
- Andy Sutton jumped up into the play on a few occasions tonight and he picked his spots well. He doesn't really possess offensive skills that would make him a scoring threat but it was a dimension of his game I wasn't familiar with. Sutton also threw a hit on Jamie McGinn that proves he can be physical without getting suspended for it.
- With the Oilers playing again tomorrow night in Vancouver it's likely that the plan was to start Khabibulin against the Canucks. But Khabibulin was anything but good on Saturday night versus Calgary and with a week off after tomorrow thanks to the All-Star break I wonder if Renney doesn't roll the dice with Dubnyk again tomorrow. If for no other reason than to try and build some confidence.
- Before the game the WHA co-founder Dennis Murphy and Al Hamilton, who was announced as a member of the Alberta Oilers, participated in a ceremonial puck drop complete with a red puck. Then between the first and second period a video was shown giving fans some background on the WHA. This video included the statement "without the WHA there would be no Oilers today," for a team that has seemingly ignored its WHA history this was strange. Nice, but strange, and hopefully a sign of things to come.