by Lisa McRitchie on 02/05/12 at 06:00 AM ET
Oilers beat Red Wings 5-4 in a shootout
It was a classic third period collapse that nearly led to the Oilers demise on a Hockey Night in Canada game against the league leading Detroit Red Wings. What started as another “Gagner is God game” soon became further evidence that the Oilers need to find scoring depth. Not even the return of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to the line-up seemed to be enough to spur the Oilers onto their third consecutive win. But, a buzzer beater of a third period goal by the other clutch player, Jordan Eberle once again turned the game around.
Sam Gagner got the Oilers’ off to a great start with two first period power play goals, but this of course meant that the Red Wings got themselves into penalty problems. A shorthanded goal by Valtteri Filppula was the only saving grace the Red Wings had since the Oilers also added a Jordan Eberle goal in the first twenty minutes.
Gagner’s involvement on all three goals meant that he had 11 points on 11 straight goals. Yet another record for Gagner, who is still only 22 years old.
“I knew I wouldn’t get another eight point night,” admitted Gagner “but I wanted to make sure that I was getting to the net; just trying to continue to create chances.”
Ex-Oiler Ty Conklin started the game for the Red Wings in net, but after the Oilers’ 3 first period goals, recent AHL call-up Joey MacDonald would start the second and finish the game.
A scoreless second period led to the fierce Red Wings’ third period comeback. Todd “Bubblegum” Bertuzzi netted two quick goals along with one from Drew Miller.
“I think if anything that that happened to the goaltender who was started.” Said Bertuzzi of his team’s mindset as the team came from two goals behind to take a one goal lead. “I think that everyone took it on themselves and tried to get them out of the hole.”
The Red Wings lead didn’t last long enough for their liking however. With 39 seconds left in regulation, another clutch goal by Jordan Eberle ensured each team would walk away with at least one point. While talk has focussed on Gagner, and rightly so, Eberle’s 9 points in 6 games has received less attention. The same goes for Taylor Hall’s first four point game of his career Thursday night against the Blackhawks.
“I thought that we stood around and watched them play in the third.” Said Oilers’ head coach Tom Renney, but the team came to life in the overtime period. While neither team had many shots on net the Oilers held the Red Wings to only a lone shot while taking four for themselves.
Still, it would come down to a shootout that would last 6 rounds. There were the usual suspects who had chances at winning the game for both teams, but Sam Gagner and Todd Bertuzzi would each score earning unofficial hat-tricks each. The true game winning shootout goal came from rookie sensation Ryan Nugent-Hopkins after a surprising Eric Belanger attempt. Belanger’s shot didn’t make it on net as planned, thus further confusing fans as to why Belanger was selected.
Nugent-Hopkins was kept off of the scoresheet during his return to the lineup following his shoulder injury, but made an impact in the shootout despite the expect case of nerves. “I think every time you get the chance to be in the shootout you get a little nervous but you’ve got to calm those down” the young centreman explained. Nerves or not, Nugent-Hopkins still made important and game impacting plays.
The age differences between the team’s star players in this instance seemed extreme, but the talent at time seemed matched. Not always, because there is still much to be learned by the young Oilers’ team.
“I feel way better.” Gagner says of his new lease on life, or at least the second half of the season. “I want the puck and that’s a big thing for me is skating with the puck and wanting to be that guy. I think that confidence is a huge thing for me. I just want to keep going. My linemantes have been great and helping me out. Our team is playing really well, that’s a huge part of it. Hopefully we can keep it going.”
Devan Dubnyk certainly has been stringing along an impressive set of wins, and five consecutive starts. According to the “win and you’re in” policy, Dubnyk will once again be starting in net on Monday night as the Oilers take on the Leafs.
The Red Wings showed why they are on top of the league, especially through the third period. “They hardly got in our end in the third period at all.” Reflected Wing’s head coach Mike Babcock. “We did a real good job of crawling our way back. I thought that our worst period was our second period; we didn’t have much energy in the second. We had a pretty good first; the puck just went in our net.”
And so it was the Edmonton Oilers to hand the Red Wings their first shootout loss of the season. Still, a record of 6 and 1 is incredible.
The Oilers continue to show their struggles and needs, but as the injured reserve list has shrunk to only Tom Gilbert, the wins have been building. This game showed that the Oilers need to find scoring on more than just one line, but they certainly have the talent and the players that should be able to accomplish that.
Special teams for the Oilers, are still somehow not a looming issue. The power play is still remarkably third in the league and the penalty kill is now in the top half, 13th overall. And this team is only just starting to take shape.
The biggest struggle for the Oilers will be to put together a consistent battle level and effort through 60 minutes, and avoid letting their opponents make such successful comebacks. Once the team manages that, there will be many more exciting wins for the team to look forward to.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
Oil Patch focuses on the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Oil Kings, The Oklahoma City Barons and Team Canada Hockey with game coverage, news updates, speculation and interviews.
Although the Oilers have had a difficult past decade… or three, here at Oil Patch, the future looks bright.
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