Though the word "playoff" has had its meaning hollowed out by the Oilers' performance in recent years, last night's 2-1 victory by the Edmonton Oilers over the visiting Calgary Flames provided a taste of that atmosphere. An uptempo performance by both teams with tight checking and a clogged neutral zone, the significance of the game was that it was in fact so significant, and midway through January the Oilers find themselves right in the thick of a playoff race they've been shut out of in countless years past.
It took a shootout to decide the victor of the game last night, as the two teams were relatively even in both shots (27-25 for the Oilers) and shot attempts (even at 52-52). Leon Draisaitl and Mark Letestu scored on the Oilers' first two attempts while Cam Talbot shut the door on both Flames shooters to seal the 2-1 victory for the home team, who improved to 23-15-17 and overtook San Jose for second place in the Pacific Division, three points ahead of Calgary and four ahead of Los Angeles, who also won last night. The win also put the Oilers up 3-0 against the Flames in their season series.
Last night's game provided a preview of what will hopefully be the return of an electric playoff atmosphere to a very thirsty fanbase. Watching a game where every puck battle along the boards was fought with fiery determination, breathing became suspended with even the most innocuous-looking of shots, and even Jordan Eberle was throwing hits like the second coming of Dustin Byfuglien reminded us all of the fraught nerves and tension of games that matter, and how beautiful it is to be an emotional wreck.
"That was a playoff game tonight," said Patrick Maroon, who tapped home his 18th goal of the season in the second period to open the scoring. "That was literally a playoff atmosphere, just how the neutral zone was clogged up and no one could get anywhere and that's how games will be the last two month and we've gotta find ways to play through it and battle."
"The first couple of games in the season were kind of pond hockey, and that was more of a playoff atmosphere," said Cam Talbot after the game, who stopped 24 of 25 shots, as well as both shootout attempts. He also emphasized the growth of the team in its increasing ability to eke out wins in close games against divisional opponents.
"You can tell with this group we're growing as a team, and these tough games we believe that we're going to come out on top. As opposed to last year where maybe we found ways to lose, this year we're finding ways to win these games, and that's a good character win for us."
After an electric but scoreless period, Patrick Maroon finally opened the scoring at 16:24 in the second, tapping in the rebound from Drake Caggiula's shot to put the Oilers up 1-0 on the power play with his team-leading 18th of the season. Just 26 seconds later, however, the Flames evened the score as Sean Monohan streaked in and tapped in the rebound off of his initial shot for his 12th of the season. The 1-1 score held for the rest of the game, and despite an overtime in which the Oielrs dominated possession and had a couple of great chances, Brian Elliott made a couple of fantastic saves, including one on Patrick Maroon in the dying seconds of overtime, to send the game to a shootout.
Leon Draisaitl, the first shooter, coldly snapped the puck past Elliott and reacted with the most stoic celebration in history, to give the Oilers Mark Letestu followed by beating Elliott glove side to put the Oilers up by two, an d Talbot stoned Johnny Gaudreau to grab the extra point.
- The first and second lines were both clicking last night-- finally, we seem to be also seeing some stability in line combinations. The second line of Pouliot - Nugent-Hopkins - Eberle is finally showing signs of life, all three above 54%CF
- The defence stepped up big-time in the absence of Adam Larsson (whose safe recovery we chant for), with both Sekera and Klefbom eating upwards of 25 minutes of ice time, and Matt Benning leading the team with a 70.37% CF%. Klefbom registered five shots, and made a great play in overtime to prevent a breakway in overtime, a nice reach with his stick to instead guide the puck back into the Flames zone for a shot.
- Cam Talbot was simply awesome, making some great saves, including one on Sean Monohan early in the game, to keep the Oilers in a tight game. We are blessed to have a goalie to make these exciting close games possible.
- Milan Lucic is looking rather meh and has really cooled off of late, showing visible signs of frustration last night and slamming the bench door.
- Jordan Eberle was hiking in the forest one day when he was bitten by a snake slithering along the trail. To this date, the curse remains and as fans it is our duty to search for this snake to rescue Eberle. Had so many great chances, especially in overtime, but just could not find the back of the net.
Game in a Haiku
Where is the snake that
bit Jordan? Can we catch it
and end this, please? Hiss.