The Oilers came into tonight’s game after losing three straight, including a tough overtime loss last night in Detroit. They hoped to bounce back against a Penguins team looking to do the same, after losing to the Bluejackets the night before in extra time.
The Oilers started the game well. And quickly. Less than two minutes in, the Oilers turned the puck up ice with numbers, and Teddy Purcell found Taylor Hall with a seeing-eye seam pass that led to a shot on goal. In the ensuing scramble, Hall threw the puck back into the paint, and the rebound fell favorably (for a change) to Leon Draisaitl. The Oilers sophomore slotted home to put the good guys in front 1-0.
Both teams traded half-chances for the next couple of minutes, with one particular odd-man rush for the Penguins proving quite dangerous. Thank god for Anders Nilsson. The big Swede was up to the task, and Evgeni Malkin would have to wait to get on the score sheet. Probably.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins found himself the victim of a rule breaking Penguin and the Oilers would enjoy their first powerplay just under eight minutes in. Five whole human seconds later, the Oilers would extend their lead via a Lauri Korpikoski tip from an Andrej Sekera point shot. Excellent.
Up until this point, the Oilers were playing well enough. Unfortunately, after conceding a second goal, the Penguins remembered how to Penguin. Outshooting the Penguins early, the Oilers seemed to disappear from the game after going up by two. The Penguins would throw 21 pucks at the Oilers’ net throughout the remainder of the period, while the Oilers could only muster a discouraging 8 of their own.
The Oilers were lucky to escape with their two-goal lead, but hey, so what?
The second period started with a bang. Before the clock struck 19:00, some Penguin did the dirty on Oscar Klefbom, before doing the dirtier on Mark Fayne and roofing a spinning backhand over a helpless, but probably impressed, Anders Nilsson.
The Oilers were rattled at this point. A strong shift by the Penguins deep in Oilers territory led to a Mark Fayne penalty for cheating, and the Penguins went on the man advantage. On the ensuing faceoff, the puck found the same Penguin who scored earlier, and he patiently waited at the top of the circle before hammering home past Nilsson. Tie game. Damnit.
The Oilers didn’t generate a shot attempt until around the four minute mark. In that time, the Penguins generated 7, and scored twice. Sweet. It’s happening again, isn’t it?
Just past the halfway point of the period, some nice work by Jordan Eberle led to another Oilers powerplay. Todd McLellan opted to roll with the Nugent-Hopkins unit to start, and they created a few nice opportunities, but couldn’t capitalize. The best chance fell to Benoit Pouliot, who wasn’t able to work the Penguins goalie from just outside the crease off of a Nugent-Hopkins rebound.
The game started to level out after the powerplay expired, and both teams would trade chances. Taylor Hall took a penalty for high sticking with under three minutes remaining, but the home team couldn’t take advantage. Justin Schultz, returning from a back injury, did his best to help his opponents out with a delay of game penalty with about a minute left in the Hall penalty, but the Penguins still couldn’t find one.
After forty minutes, the Oilers managed to drag ass into the dressing room tied at 2-2. Something’s different tonight.
The Penguins started the third period still on the power play. Anders Nilsson had to be sharp to deny the Penguins’ goal scorer, but he stood tall and kept the scores level.
The Oilers started to play (a bit – like a very bit) better and generate a few chances of their own, with Benoit Pouliot again going close on a partial breakaway before being hauled down by the Penguins’ defenseman. He would earn a penalty shot for his trouble, but Peter Forsberg he is not. He tried the Swedish legend’s patented deke but couldn’t put it past the Pens’ goalie.
Pouliot had a pretty strong game by my eye. Just before the midpoint of the period, the Oilers’ forward drew another penalty as he tried to burst up the ice with speed. Unfortunately, the Oilers couldn’t generate much on the man advantage. In fact, Pittsburgh had the better of the chances during the powerplay. That’s never good.
With just over five minutes left in regulation, a Penguin fired a very dangerous wrist shot from just outside the circles that tested the Oilers’ keeper again. Again, Nilsson prevailed.
The Oilers managed to come close themselves with about X remaining. The Penguins netminder tried to be all fancy and make a puck fake behind the net, but ended up faking out his own man. Mark Letestu turned the puck over and tried to hit a lurking Iiro Pakarinen but the two couldn’t connect, and the Penguins managed to avoid going full Oilers.
The rest of the game wasn’t especially eventful, and the game would end with both teams tied at 2.
The NHL’s new 3-on-3 OT is something else.
Almost immediately, the best player of our generation had a great opportunity after blowing past Draisaitl down low, but he couldn’t beat the Oilers’ goaltender. Shortly after, Nilsson had to be sharp – and a bit lucky – to keep out a puck amid the chaos created by two dangerous Penguin forwards.
The Oilers would follow that up with an odd-man rush of their own, but a timely intervention by the home side’s defender minimized the danger.
The Pens responded with a rush of their own, but again, Nilsson was there to save the day.
Shortly after, Oscar Klefbom did some nice work to turn the puck over at the Oilers’ blue line and raced off on a partial breakaway. The Penguins’ forward who coughed up the puck harassed him for 140 feet, but for some reason the refs decided not to call a penalty shot. Because who cares about the rules, right?
The Oilers did get a powerplay out of it though, and Taylor Hall came close when his wrister hit a body in front and dribbled past the far post. The Oilers created a few chances near the end of the frame, but couldn’t find the winner. This game would need a shootout to decide the points.
Noted sniper Matt Hendricks went first for the visitors. In true Hendricksian fashion, the offensive genius scored. Because that’s what he does.
The Penguins responded with some former Oiler that everybody was happy to trade something for, but also equally happy to punt for nothing later because why not? He missed though, so the masses were right.
The Oilers went with Jordan Eberle next, who is a shootout savant. He scored, as he often does, and the Oilers were 2/2.
The Penguins answered with their Connor McDavid Beta but he fired wide. Oilers win! Oilers win!
Well, the Oilers have managed to turn efforts worth no points into three points in the standings in their last two games. This is a nice change of pace from the usual post-games I have to write where the Oilers actually deserve to win and end up losing in regulation. All it took was losing two of their better forwards and getting a solid 0.951% effort from their goaltender. Hm. It appears like these goalie guys are pretty important.
Up next, the Oilers head to the centre of the known universe and take on the equally bad Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre. Set your PVRs accordingly. To something else.