After playing like hot steaming piles of feces in their respective previous games, redemption was the highly sought after prize for both the Edmonton Oilers and Carolina Hurricanes tonight, two teams playing to prove to their coaches, their fans, and themselves that their embarrassing showings on Sunday do not represent who they really are. The Oilers, coming off a 6-2 pounding at the hands of the Sabres at home, matched up against a Carolina Hurricanes team who had let a 3-0 lead slip en route to a deflating 3-4 OT loss to the Canucks.
Redemption doesn't come easily, but the Oilers got just a bit more of it tonight en route to a nerve-wracking 3-2 win over the Hurricanes. It was overall a fairly good game for the Oilers, despite a near collapse in the third period, and soon-to-be-new-dad Cam Talbot bailed out his team to preserve the win against a strong Carolina team. Also importantly, this game was actually enjoyable to watch, unlike the lethargic, depressing performance put up by the team on Sunday. Tonight, the Oilers offense put up a solid performance across four lines, the defense held down the fort (just barely enough) against a Carolina team that had scored seven goals in their first two games, and Cam Talbot was the impenetrable wall Donald Trump wishes he could build. Let's recap the night.
After speaking at length about stemming the recent trend of early goals given up in the first period, the Oilers began the game by almost doing that again, with a Jordan Staal shot coming *this close* to going in within the first 15 seconds of the game, saved by Mr. Patrick Post. It's fortuitous that this shot missed because the complexion of the game changed drastically from then on-- Anton Slepyshev, getting the start in place of Jesse Puljujarvi tonight, sniped his first NHL goal at 1:51 to give the Oilers an early lead for once.
Here's to many more, Anton! pic.twitter.com/RW3UxSBQek— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) October 19, 2016
The Oilers then got a powerplay, during which it seemed like there were more rushes going the other way-- in fact, during the first period, Cam Talbot faced a number of odd-man rushes and seemingly point-blank shots, bailing the team out on several occasions to preserve the lead. It was an extremely positive bounceback after a bizarre, erratic game in Buffalo.
The Oilers made it 2-0 as Jordan Eberle got a lucky bounce for his third of the season, coming on the heels of a great shift by the first line during which a number of players, including Cap'n Connor and Mark Fayne, made excellent plays to keep the puck in the Carolina zone. Fayne also got a nice assist on the play in his first game of the season, drawing in for Eric Gryba (but not for long...). Larsson also made a great play on Jeff Skinner late in the first period to prevent a clean shot in what was a great scoring chance, and without drawing a penalty.
Exiting the period with a 2-0 lead, it was both reassuring and necessary after the Beating in Buffalo™-- it seemed the gentle teachings of Todd Sempai paid off, as the Oilers played better on all fronts. The only very Oilers thing that happened this period was yet another injury, as Mark Fayne left the game late in the period and did not return. I cannot even feign surprise at this point (and we're only four games into the season).
Apparent in the first period was the improved play of the secondary lines, and this continued quickly in the second period as Tyler Pitlick got his second goal of the season at 2:25 off a faceoff win by Anton Lander. This is a very positive start for a winger who's shown great flashes of potential but was continually deterred by injuries, and we are all pulling for a full season of Pitlick action.
That was it in terms of the offense this period, as the Oilers maintained the comfortable 3-0 lead for the remainder of the second, but also significant were a couple of great defensive plays that maintained the lead. I've continually noticed Kris Russell on the ice for the best of reasons, as he overcame all the pride and prejudice from fans critical of the signing, jumping right into action despite not having a training camp to become one of the steadiest blueliners on the team. He made a great play on Jeff Skinner to prevent a shot on what would have been a prime scoring chance, another great play to break up a play behind the net six minutes in, and followed with an excellent shot block which led to a counterrush later on in the period.
Cam Talbot continued his robbery, particularly with a save on Jeff Skinner from an insane angle (Jeff Skinner was a repeat burglary victim tonight). Lander's line had some excellent shifts in this period, showing some great speed and ability to keep the puck in the Carolina zone with sustained pressure.
In the third period, everyone watching found reason to clench each and every muscle of their body as the Oilers decided they just could not let us relax for an entire game. It seems the foot came off the pedal as the third period began, with two quick goals by Lee Stempniak less than a minute apart, 3:18 and 4:14 in. Suddenly, that cushy 3-0 lead was looking quite vulnerable and the Oilers seemed to be at risk of being Carolina Hurricaned by the Carolina Hurricanes themselves. The rest of the game was a blur of screaming obscenities at the TV, a lot of praying to the deities and likely high blood pressure as Carolina was relentless with the offensive pressure. Cam Talbot once again came up huge as the Oilers were outshot 13-8 in the third period, robbing Jeff Skinner, in particular, on a number of occasions, with a few sensational stops.
Skinner is one of my favourite non-Oilers players, and he was incredibly active tonight, with a number of great chances created by his relentless speed, effort and creativity, only to be stymied again and again by Cam Talbot, the man he will see in his nightmares tonight. He also bumped into Milan Lucic and seemed to get tangled up slightly with Patrick Maroon at various points throughout the third period, two blindly courageous but slightly stupid acts. Meanwhile, Cam Talbot, his archnemesis and kryptonite, was quickly building up the dad cred so he could tell his newborn twins tomorrow what their dad did yesterday and gain some instant street points.
There were a number of heart attack-inducing moments late in this game. First, we were greeted by the familiar sight of another Edmonton Oiler going down on the ice as Kris Russell was hit in the head by a shot-- miraculously, against all odds, he did not seem to be actually injured on the play, and this was extremely fortunate because the blueline was already extremely taxed with Mark Fayne going down early in the game. The fatigue seemed to wear particularly on Adam Larsson, who finished the night with 23:34 in ice time, and provided the next heart attack-inducing moment with a very grotesque giveaway right in front of his own net late in the game, leading to a point blank scoring opportunity with the game on the line. Cam Talbot once again saved the day with his newfound future daddy powers, and though what all Oilers fans wanted to see at that point was an empty netter to soothe their dangerously high heart rates, Nugent-Hopkins hit the post on an attempt while McDavid and Letestu both came so, so tantalizingly close but could not capitalize.
The final heart attack-inducing moment came in the final few seconds, when Jeff Skinner made a final attempt upon his nemesis Cam Talbot and was robbed by another sensational save, the emotional impact of which seemed to also make his nose very runny.
LOVE THAT GLOVE! pic.twitter.com/fv12FoV8dB— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) October 19, 2016
After a few more seconds of absolute anxiety, the Jenga tower that seemed on the brink of tottering all period long somehow held up until the final second and the Oilers escaped with a 3-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes.
Despite the Hurricanes coming into tonight's game with a 0-0-2 record, it's important to note that they had not played that terribly in their previous two games, and never actually trailed during a hockey game until tonight. By many measures, they played well tonight, as well, and outshot the Oilers 33-28 on a night when Cam Talbot truly salvaged the two points for his team. The offensive production was well distributed throughout the lines, and the defense did just enough to hold own the fort while short-staffed again.
- Cam Talbot- It is not an exaggeration at all to say that without Cam Talbot, the Oilers probably do not leave the game with two points. Cam was so good, making a number of highlight reel saves and continually exasperating the sprightly Jeff Skinner, who is likely stitching together a Cam Talbot voodoo doll out of fabric he hastily picked up from a Fabricland as we speak.
- Kris Russell- Despite a giveaway that led to one of the Carolina goals in the third period, Russell made a number of great defensive plays throughout the game, continually proving himself to be an shrewd pickup by Chiarelli at the eleventh hour.
- Anton Slepyshev - Major props to the kid for getting his first NHL goal tonight, and he continually showed great speed and determination throughout the night, creating space and opportunities for himself (with some shades of McDavid) and finishing with a CF% of 58% despite a 40% Zone Start Percentage.
- Tyler Pitlick- Also showed great speed all night and looked dangerous on a number of occasions. It was a great game overall for the younger players looking to establish themselves at the NHL level.
- Connor McDavid-- I am still so blown away by this boy's speed and hands; every time he touches the puck, my jaw drops and I can only stare dumbly ahead in appreciation of his Mario Kart Super Star-like boost. One on one, one vs two, one vs 14,688, it doesn’t matter-- it feels like he can take on any number of players in front of him, mere pylons to work around in this young man's quest to put the puck in the net. What a visual splendour he is to watch, this gift to the world. His zone entries are just pure rocketship fuel, and he made a great defensive play in the third, as well. He finished a team-best 50% in the faceoff circle, which appears to be an area he's worked hard to improve on since last season.
- Darnell Nurse also stepped up his game, landing a great hit on Jordan Staal and showing flashes of offensive brilliance, creating some great scoring opportunities with a couple of rushes down the wing and quick shots on net, particularly in the second period. He finished the night with five hits and two shots on net.
- I thought Oscar Klebom had a good game. He bailed out Eberle after a bad giveaway in the first period, finished with three shots on net, and was the only defender with no giveaways.
- Benoit Pouliot did not take any penalties. Hooray.
- The powerplay had a disappointing night, as the team went 0/3 tonight-- the first powerplay, in particular, seemed to actually result in more dangerous scoring opportunities for the opponent. The second powerplay was better in that there were no shorthanded threats and the team was able to establish some sustained pressure, but ultimately failed to convert on any of their powerplays tonight.
- Adam Larsson had an up and down game, making one really great play but also one glaringly terrible one-- I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt since he was likely gassed at the end of game in which the defense was one man short for the majority of the game. But please, don't do that again because my blood pressure says no, no more.
- The Curse of the Edmonton Oilers and Their Piling Bodies continued tonight, with Mark Fayne the latest injury victim in the first period of the first game he has played this season (after just two and half minutes of ice time, to be exact). It would be unbelievable, but it really is so believable by this point. Current status is undisclosed, day-to-day. He was on a 79-point pace, too. Sigh.
Game in a Haiku
Cam Talbot. Robber.
Baby daddy stole the win.
Mark Fayne died for this.