The best thing about tonight's game was the power play. Other than that, it was a case of a team without enough talent, without enough real NHL players, without enough defense, barely hanging on against one of the best teams in the league. Without some generous referee help, this one may have been ugly.
The first period was all St. Louis. The Blues put fourteen shots on goal, the Oilers only three. But the Oilers hit a crossbar, and the Blues first period goal came off of an HUA by Devan Dubnyk, who somehow got out of his shock collar and wandered to the side boards like a lost puppy in search of a toy. Disaster ensued (watch the highlights for the comedy) and St. Louis had a deserved, at least by effort, 1-0 lead.
From the opening draw, the two teams were at each other's throats. It started with Ryan Smyth and David Backes, but soon everyone was involved. The post-whistle scrums from the first period spilled over into the second period and with the help of some shoddy officiating, led to eight minutes of power play time for Edmonton in the second period. Edmonton capitalized with goals from Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle sandwiched around an even strength goal from Ben Eager and went to the locker room with a 3-1 lead. Hall's goal was a thing of beauty, a 60-foot wrist shot from the point, absolutely wired top corner by a screened Jaroslav Halak. Eberle's goal came off of an outstanding feed from Sam Gagner, who himself was stoned repeatedly by Halak in the minutes prior.
Edmonton came out in the third as flat as they were in the first. Corey Potter took a bad delay of game penalty seconds into the third and Alex Pietrangelo scored on a blast three second after the puck was dropped. Taylor Hall took a roughing penalty thirty second later and a minute later the game was tied on a David Backes tip. Matt D'agostini put the game away with a wrister with just over eleven minutes to go.
It seems like it was just a bad first period, but they righted the ship. in reality, they were lucky the refs were so charitable. The even strength shot charts show how that St. Louis controlled play.
St. Louis deserved this one.
He was under siege all night, but Ladislav Smid hung on. He was credited with four hits and three blocked shots, but it seemed like he had more of both. He was paired with Corey "Oh no" Potter throughout, matched against Chris Stewart, David Backes and David Perron for half of his even strength minutes and somehow managed to hold the Blues off of the scoresheet at even strength. He played a great game, but he and Oh no aren't going to be able to do that often enough to save many games.
Josh Green and Teemu Hartikainen had a quietly effective game tonight. They played all but one of their six minutes against the Blues third and fourth lines and handled it. They put three shots on goal (all by Green) and gave up four. Tom Renney did a great job of matching them to avoid the Blues top lines.
Devan Dubnyk's HUA was ridiculous, even for the Oilers, who have a goaltender that handles pucks like they're red hot and greased. There's no reason for him to be over on those boards. It's unfortunate, because other than the HUA, Dubnyk had a very good game, but when an NHL player pulls something like that, they deserve the loss.
The refereeing was terrible. The refs let a scrum break out after every whistle and by the time they tried to take control it was too late. When they did finally crack down, the Oilers were rather fortunate that they were trying hard to control the situation and only seeing blue notes when they raised their arms.
Sam Gagner was 6/18 in the faceoff circle, including 1/9 in the offensive zone. He was 2/4 in the defensive zone and 3/5 in the neutral zone, however, which doesn't make much sense. Aside from his offensive zone woes, Gagner played an excellent game matched against David Backes and Patrik Berglund 85% of the time.
The Oilers penalty kill was abysmal. They gave up two power play goals on six opportunities and weren't scored on during their worst kill of the evening, a kill in which two veterans, Eric Belanger and Andy Sutton failed to clear the zone three times on mostly open attempts.
The Copper & Blue Three:
★★★ - Sam Gagner