Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Game 38: Edmonton 4 Chicago 3

The Edmonton Oilers finally won a game on their current seven game road trip with a gritty performance against the best team in the league. While last night’s 4-3 victory could possibly be a huge step towards trying to relocate their game, it came at a hefty price. Rookie sensation Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was lost to the club early in the first period to an apparent shoulder injury and to make matters worse, Tom Gilbert left the game in the second courtesy of another cheap play from Blackhawks forward Dan Carcillo.

The Oilers came out playing a solid road period against the league leading Hawks but found themselves trailing, courtesy of another soft goal from surprise starter Devan Dubnyk. Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews opened the scoring on a harmless looking wrist shot that somehow managed to elude the Oiler netminder. While the shot took a slight deflection off defenceman Jeff Petry, it’s a shot Dubnyk has to have.

Late in the first, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins would hit a rut and tumble awkwardly into the boards. The rookie quickly got to his feet and made his way to the Oilers bench but was clearly in some discomfort and favouring his shoulder. He would not return and was seen leaving the arena with his arm in a sling, at the end of the game. No word on how severe the injury is but he will definitely not be in the lineup on Tuesday evening, when Edmonton take on the Buffalo Sabres.

To Edmonton’s credit, they entered the first intermission trailing and having lost their star centre but they still continued playing their game. The visitors would be given a ray of hope, when Carcillo decided to put his team behind the eight-ball with his running of Gilbert into the end boards. On what should have been nothing play, the Hawks forwarded decided to shove the Oilers blueliner in to the boards. At first Gilbert appeared to be favouring his shoulder but it was later determined that he had injured his knee and he would not return.

Carcillo who was also injured on the play, was assessed a five minute major for boarding and a game misconduct, which should result in the forward having a discussion with Brendan Shanahan. Edmonton would make Chicago pay for Carcillo poor decision by scoring twice on the man advantage.

Ryan Smyth would even things up, just sixteen seconds into the man advantage when he managed to bang a loose puck past Hawks goalie Corey Crawford. Smyth had taken Nugent-Hopkins spot on the top power play unit and promptly took his usual position in front of the opposing teams netminder.

Just over three minutes later, Taylor Hall would put Edmonton in front when his bad angle wrist shot managed to squeak between Crawford's pads and over the goal line. Moments earlier, Hall had inadvertently high-sticked defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson but the infraction was missed by the referees and the Oilers were suddenly in front by a score of 2-1. The lead didn't last long, as Andrew Brunette deflected home Hjalmarsson's point shot, just over a minute and half after Hall's go ahead marker.

With under four minutes remaining in the middle frame, Jordan Eberle found a streaking Andy Sutton with a beautiful no-look pass and the hulking defenceman made no mistake and buried his second of the campaign, giving the visitors a 3-2 lead heading into the final frame.

With the Hawks carrying much of the play in the third period, it was forward Ben Eager who would give the Oilers some breathing room. Eager took a pass from Jeff Petry and with a full head of steam, carried the puck into the Chicago zone and fired a nifty backend from the faceoff circle past Crawford. Eager was coming off a less then stellar performance on Long Island and he rewarded his coach for sticking with the rugged winger against his former teammates. Just like that, Edmonton had a two goal lead and were in good shape to hand the Hawks their second loss of the season, at the hands of the Oilers

With under nine minutes to go, Eric Belanger would pick up a double minor for high-sticking Toews but Edmonton would kill off the penalty without much trouble. Dubnyk was called upon to make a great pad save in front off a wide open Marian Hossa but outside of that, the penalty killers were fantastic in killing off the Chicago man advantage.

Unfortunately for the Oilers, only moments after killing off the double minor Chicago would cut the lead to one when rookie Jimmy Hayes scored his first NHL goal. After Dubnyk made a save in tight, the netminder lost sight of the puck and before he could relocate the puck, Hayes had fired a bad angled shot past the surprised Oiler goaltender. The Hawks fired the puck from everywhere in the third period but managed to beat Dubnyk only once, despite firing twenty-three shots at the Edmonton starter. Chicago game hard in the final minute looking for the equalizer but they were unable to find the answer to beat the big netminder.

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