With Nikolai Khabibulin carrying the load the past ten days, goaltender Devan Dubnyk had been forced to sit and patiently await his next opportunity. That chance came Friday night against the Colorado Avalanche and the big netminder did not disappoint. Dubnyk stopped 40 of 41 shots, in leading the Edmonton Oilers to their fourth consecutive victory, this time by a score of 4 - 1. Ryan Smyth led the way up front with a goal and two assists and defenceman Cam Barker chipped in with his first goal in an Oilers uniform.
The victory moved Edmonton to 6-2-2 on the season and has the young Oilers sitting a top the Western Conference with 14 points. The win was even more impressive, when you consider the team arrived at their hotel around 4 am, after beating the Washington Capitals Thursday evening at Rexall Place. The players sucked it up and did what they had to do, in order to get the job done. They gave up a ton of shots but did manage to keep the majority to the outside while giving the Avs very few second chances on the Oiler goal. They sacrificed their bodies all night long, blocking 23 shots, 12 of which, came from the clubs top pairing of Tom Gilbert and Ladislav Smid. The pair blocked six shots a piece and Smid now leads the league with 36 blocks on the season.
Barker opened the scoring, just before the eight minute mark of the second period on the power play. The former Minnesota Wild took a slick feed from Sam Gagner and cut to the front of the Avs net and beat Semyon Varlamov with a nifty backhand from in tight. They pushed the lead to 2-0, on a broken play in the Colorado end that found defenceman Andy Sutton in front of the home teams goal. Good thing he was, as the huge defender managed to deflect the point shot from Lennart Petrell past a surprised Varlamov. The helper was the first point of the hard working Petrell's career, who has been a big part of the Oilers much improved penalty kill. The teams headed into the second intermission with the Avalanche holding a 25-14 edge in shots but staring at a two goal deficit on the scoreboard.
Ryan O'Reilly cut the lead in half when he scored on the power play just before the six minute mark of the third. It was the first goal Edmonton had allowed on the penalty kill in seven games. The Oilers responded just 27 seconds later, as Smyth banged in his third of the season to restore the two goal lead after some hard work from captain Shawn Horcoff to get the puck deep into the Avs end right off the faceoff.. Dubnyk did the rest, making some timely saves down the stretch in securing Edmonton's first road win on the season. The team flew back home right after the game, where they will enjoy a much needed day off before taking on the St.Louis Blues on Sunday night at Rexall Place.
- Considering he sat for the last nine days, Dubnyk was solid in between the pipes. While he did look a little uncomfortable early in the first period, he still managed to make the saves until he found his game. This was a big start for 25 year old netminder as he will be needed on the Oilers upcoming six game road trip, which starts November 3rd in Los Angeles.
- The pairing of Tom Gilbert and Ladislav Smid were simply outstanding. Not only did they block a ton of shots but the pair logged major minutes for the weary Oilers. With Ryan Whitney being injured for much of the season, the duo have been asked to do all the heavy lifting on the back end and they have been nothing short of brilliant.
- This team finally got some secondary scoring and it came just in time. With the top line being held off the score sheet, it was up to the other guys to find a way to chip in. While it was far from pretty, it got the job done and I am sure it took a bit of pressure off the kids.
- Coach Tom Renney must have been thrilled with the effort he saw from his players. With the club clearly tired and not having their usual jump, they still managed to grab the two points. Thanks to a workman like performance from the entire squad the club heads home a top the Western Conference.
- When you consider the ridiculous travel this team endured in such a short time period, I can't find a negative thing to say. It wasn't their best effort of the season but it was arguably their grittiest.
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