by Lisa McRitchie on 02/03/12 at 04:45 AM ET
Oilers beat Blackbawks 8-4
On Thursday night in Edmonton Sam Gagner starred in the plot of what must be the movie “Rexall Time Machine.”
It was nothing but old time hockey as the Hawks outshot the Oilers 47 to 41 and Sam Gagner tied Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey for 8 points all in only 60 minutes of play. Unforgettable. Amazing. Incredible. And that doesn’t even come close to describing this game.
Surprisingly, Sam Gagner and the rest of the Oilers didn’t get off to the best start but it’s the finish the matters the most in this situation.
A first period turnover by veteran Ryan Smyth led to the first goal of the game by Jamal Mayers giving the Blackhawks the early lead, a lead that was quickly added to 40 seconds into the second period when Patrick Sharp scored his first goal of the game.
At this point, some may have changed the channel or felt the all too familiar feeling of their heart sinking. Those who stuck with the game were handsomely rewarded.
The Oilers would see goals by Taylor hall, Sam Gagner and Ryan Whitney before Patrick Sharp would score a shorthanded goal, his second of the game, closing out the second period with a game tied at three.
Despite Dave Bolland’s goal, the third period was all Edmonton. That is a phrase that is commonly thrown around, but with 4 Edmonton goals and multiple broken records surely the phrase suits the occasion.
Ryan Whitney has not been a regular on the Oilers’ roster this season due to injury, but in this game showed that he can still play and he definitely can still make an impact. Whitney’s goal was just the tip of the iceberg; it is his play making abilities and coverage of his own end that helps the Oilers the most.
Cam Barker unexpectedly made his return to the Oilers lineup Thursday night. Unexpectedly because although the former Blackhawks’ defenceman had passed coach Tom Renney’s skating test and had been declared fit to play, it was not expected that he would return to the lineup until Saturday’s game. Instead, an injury suffered by Theo Peckham would advance Barker’s timeline.
It was during a practice that Peckham took a puck to the face, cutting his nose. Unfortunately for Peckham, his nose swelled after the morning skate and caused Peckham breathing issues. And so, Barker would have to play. After all, it’s not as though the Oilers have had a lot of healthy NHL defencemen sitting in the pressbox.
The other Oiler who had definitely been living through a scoring drought, this one while remaining on the roster was Sam Gagner. Before this game Gagner had only 5 goals and 17 points through 43 games, certainly not leading the team and definitely spurring trade talk.
After the third period, Gagner had 4 goals, 4 assists and 8 points in the game. The last NHLer to score 4 goals in a single game was Daniel Alfredsson in January of 2008. With the 8 point milestone, Gagner also surpassed Sidney Crosby’s 7 point record from 2010.
But most significantly, Sam Gagner’s 8 points puts him on the same list as two players’ whose numbers hang from the rafters in Rexall Place; Paul Coffey and Wayne Gretzky.
“It seemed everything I touched was going in,” explained Gagner to a throng of eager media following Gagner’s naming as first, second and third star of the game. Gagner was thinking to himself “It’s my night; I’ve just got to keep shooting.” It was just too bad he didn’t have the legs left to finish the game on the ice, going for the ninth point.
There are only nine teams who have had a player with 8 points in a single game. After this spectacle, the Oilers become the first and only team to have three players accomplish this feat.
Whether or not this will increase the trade talk surrounding Gagner is yet to be determined but I can only imagine that this will increase the discussion. After all, it is great to see this showcase of skill and talent, but the Oilers need scoring on a regular basis. Trading away Ales Hemsky and Sam Gagner would make scoring more difficult unless they were replaced by players with the same or better scoring totals.
This performance by Gagner cemented for me the idea that he would like to stay with the Oilers. After all, Gagner was the first draft pick to be with the Oilers through all of the post Stanley Cup run suffering. While Gagner may not have been on my save or safe list, a game like this is exciting and encouraging.
A player who has yet to show a sophomore slump or scoring drought this season is of course the team leading and fan favourite Jordan Eberle. Eberle wouldn’t see the same totals that Gagner earned, but Eberle would score the game’s final goal and three assists. This is the reason Oilers fans have optimism for the future.
This was Dubnyk’s fourth start in a row, and according to Renney’s” win and you’re in” policy Dubnyk will likely see his fifth against the Red Wings in a game that should see the return of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Things were not all sunshine and lollipops for the Oilers even in this game. Ales Hemsky has four goals on the season. At this point he has fewer goals and points than Ryan Jones, a player who polarizes fans the same way Hemsky himself does. Jones nearly had his 13th goal of the year with a direct shot on net that bounced off of Gagner. If asked, I’m sure Jones would say how happy he was that Gagner got the goal instead.
things are looking worse and worse for Oilers’ captain Shawn Horcoff who even after this glorious win is -18. That atrocious total puts Horcoff at 828 and over only 5 other players in the entire NHL; James Wisniewski (Blue Jackets) -18, Derick Brassard (Blue Jackets) -19, Mark Streit (Islanders) -20, Milan Jurcina (Islanders) -20, Rick Nash (Blue Jackets) -23 and Eric Stall (Hurricaines) -25.
For the Blackhawks, there is no clear evidence why the Oilers seem to have their number this season. The Blackhawks are one of the best teams in the league, and the Oilers have been sitting in the bottom. All that Oilers’ fans know is that they wish that every game could be against the Blackhawks.
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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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