Whether the emotion elicited was the desire to repeatedly kick a brick wall, punch watermelons, or simply cry yourself to sleep, there will be a variety of coping methods for frustrated fans tonight as the visiting Edmonton Oilers fell to the Ottawa Senators 5-3, playing the second of back-to-back games this weekend. Well-deserved losses are met with disappointment, but the frustration and utter lack of contingency that is felt when the loss seems undeserved is even more maddening.
The Edmonton Oilers outshot the Ottawa Senators 38-18. They soundly beat the home team in shot attempts 72-37. Only two players finished below 50% in CF. But when your backup goalie saves only 13 of 17 shots faced and puts up a 0.722 save percentage on the night, victories are hard to come by, no matter how well the rest of the team plays. If a netminder underperforms, it perhaps carries an unfairly heavy influence on the overall result, but in the end, the goaltender is still a part of the team.
"We win as a team, we lose as a team. That's how it is," said Coach McLellan when asked about Gustavsson's performance.
"Four is too many; you don't win in this league giving up four," he added. "I didn't think we played that poor[ly], so mixed emotions, gotta review the game a little bit. Again, I didn't think we gave up a lot, but we gave up enough to lose the game, and some of the opportunites that we had… I thought their goaltender played extremely well, and we've got to find a way to put those in. But if we're trusting and relying on our offense to give us five or six a night, that's going to be a tough task."
There will likely be a few Jonas Gustavsson-themed voodoo dolls created in Edmonton tonight, as he was the difference-maker tonight in the worst way possible. The steady play of Cam Talbot has rendered unnecessary any substantial commentary on goaltending, aside from pointing out that he, as expected, put up a great performance in net. Tonight's game made us realize what an absolute luxury it is to have a netminder that doesn't give you extreme anxiety each time the puck comes within a few feet of the net. By the end of this game, I had a raging headache as bad memories from my days as a Leafs fan growing up flooded my consciousness.
Gustavsson arrived in North America from Sweden in 2009 as the top goaltender from the Swedish Hockey League, and it was the Toronto Maple Leafs who were "lucky" enough to win his services. The nickname "The Monster" quickly took on a more literal meaning, and it was with a mild degree of horror that I received the news of his signing with Edmonton this offseason. While Gustavsson seems like a great teammate and it would make everyone happy to see him do well, tonight's game unfortunately highlighted the reality that if Cam Talbot were to ever be injured, the Oilers would find themselves in an incredibly dark place.
It was the Senators who initially dominated in the opening period of this game, as the Oilers had trouble making any clean zone exits with a big glob of fumbled passes. A bad giveaway by Nuge in front led to a plethora of shots from the Senators, and eventually they opened the scoring at 3:36 into the first when a wrist shot by Zack Smith beat Gustavsson for his ninth of the year. The sloppy play continued, and Mike Hoffman's snap shot on the power play quickly made it 2-0 14:53 into the first, capitalizing on the Oilers' inability to clear the puck, even with Dion Phaneuf missing their stick and having to leave the ice. All in all, arriving in town at 2am and playing an overtime game the night before showed, with little of the intensity and polish of the Devils game present just 24 hours later.
The Oilers woke up just before the second period, and began the period by outshooting the Senators 5-0 in the first five minutes. It was the Oilers' leading goal scorer Patrick Maroon who finally broke through at 5:58 into the second to cut the lead to 2-1, showing great patience with Letestu driving to the net and unexpectedly taking the shot himself to take sole possession of the team lead in goals. Anton Lander and Adam Larsson, Swedish humans with the same initials, picked up the assists on that goal.
Patrick Maroon wasn't even done. Just a minute and thirty seconds later, after missing with his shot on a clear breakaway, McDavid corralled the puck and got it over to Maroon, whose shot hit Ceci and trickled past Condon to tie the game at 2-2. With that goal, Patrick Maroon now had sixteen goals on the season, and Connor McDavid picked up his league-leading 33rd assist.
Not content with being overtaken so suddenly in the goals category, Leon Draisaitl's casual backhand pass from behind the net took a lucky bounce off of Mike Condon at 12:59 into the second to put the Oilers up 3-2 with his 15th of the season.
Just 34 seconds later, however, Mark Stone responded to tie the game at 3-3, streaking down the wing and fighting off a backchecking Zack Kassian to get a slapshot past Gustavsson. Ceci would help the Senators reclaim the lead with 1:46 left in the second as Taylor Pyatt's tip-in also beat Gustavsson to make it a 4-3 game, courtesy of a nice play by Ceci and some sloppy coverage by Russell and Gryba. The Oilers were down a goal despite outshooting the Senators 21-15, and the difference may very well have been goaltending-- after two goals on five shots in the second, the sight of Cam Talbot's face was sorely missed.
The Oilers definitely came out with more jump in the third, outshooting the Senators 17-3 in the final period, with play unfolding almost solely in the Senators zone. A number of great saves by Condon on McDavid and Draisaitl denied the Oilers of the equalizer despite a flurry of pressure, and the stellar play of the Senators' goalie rubbed some coarse sea salt into the wound that was the Oilers' goaltending situation tonight. Gustavsson was pulled with 1:30 left when the Oilers did not have possession, and the Senators immediately capitalized with an empty-netter from Kyle Turris with 1:22 left to seal and steal the 5-3 victory for the home team.
- My personal highlight of the game was definitely seeing the Oilers' hidden goon Matt Benning getting into his first career NHL fight with Chris Wideman, who upended and cross-checked Lander at center ice. No one was expecting to see #83, whose appearance is more reminiscent of a happy-to-lucky elementary school kid, as the one involved in a fight, but it brought a tear to me eye to see him not only stick up for his teammate, but destroy his opponent, as well.
- The top line is still buzzing, and it was apparent tonight, especially in the third period. They scored all three goals tonight, and all three players on that line finished with a CF% above 80%, combining for 14 shots on net. Patrick Maroon chipped in five hits on top of his two goals, Draisaitl made an insane between-the-legs pass in the third period, and McDavid's two assists tonight padded his lead atop the NHL scoring race with 46 points, two ahead of Sidney Crosby.
- Oscar Klefbom continues to show good confidence offensively, finishing with six shots tonight after getting nine yesterday, at one point taking the puck end-to-end on his stick and registering a shot on net late in the third period.
- Not a great effort by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins tonight, finishing -3 and one of only two forwards with a negative CF%. Looked rather invisible out there.
- Boy, I’m not sure Bob Cole was familiar at all with any of the Oilers players, referring to everybody as McDavid, interchanging all the defensemen to the point where everyone was Larsson.
Game in a Haiku
Porous as a sponge.
More holes than fishnet stockings.