Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Game 62: Edmonton 5 Winnipeg 3

The Edmonton Oilers always found ways to defeat the Winnipeg Jets, no matter how well or poor they were playing at any given time. At times, it seemed like they were toying with the Jets and their fans, before coming from behind to defeat their Smyth Division rivals. Fast forward to the present day and it was just like the old days. Edmonton stormed back to score four third period goals and continue to play the role of spoiler in defeating Winnipeg 5-3, with a come from behind victory. Taylor Hall led the way with two points, including the winner, and Devan Dubnyk was rock solid in stopping twenty-nine shots. The win was the Oilers third consecutive on the road and moved them within two points of the Montreal Canadiens for twenty-eighth in the overall league standings.

Last night's game marked the first time Edmonton had played the Jets in Winnipeg since a 9-4 loss way back on December 15th, 1995. In true 80's fashion, both sides game out flying in what was a frantic opening period. Their were turnovers all over the ice but much like the Oilers two earlier games against the Toronto Maple Leafs, it was fire wagon hockey at its best. Both teams had glorious opportunities early on but the netminders shut the door and kept this one scoreless through the opening twenty minutes. Dubnyk's best stop came off the stick of Kyle Wellwood, while Jets starter Ondrei Pavelec made a beautiful pad stack/glove save off Ales Hemsky in the opening minutes to keep the Oilers from drawing first blood.

It was much of the same in period number two, as the goaltending clinic continued with Dubnyk's brilliant pad stop off Evander Kane being the best of the bunch. The game would finally get it's first goal, after Hall was assessed a two minute minor on a phantom hooking call at the fourteen minute mark. The jets had Edmonton pinned in their end for much of the man advantage and were finally rewarded when Wellwood banged in a lovely cross crease pass from Nik Antropov for his thirteenth on the season.

Edmonton would get that one back in short order, courtesy of a bonehead penalty from Kane. The talented forward made a nice play behind the Oiler goal to cut off defencman Cory Potter but instead of rubbing the defender out, Kane decided to plaster him face first into the end boards. It took the visitors all of twenty-two seconds to even things up, when Ryan Whitney's point shot found it's way past a screened Pavelec for only his second of the season.

With just over a minute remaining in the period, Hall fired a shot in the direction of the Jets netminder after an offside call and a scrum ensued. The second year Oiler was assessed a two minute minor for unsportsman like conduct and  Bryan Little two for roughing. The play seemed to spark the Jets as they pressed the Oilers on the four-on-four and a poor decision from defenceman Jeff Petry would give the home side the lead heading into the final period. With the puck on his stick and plenty of time and space to move it up ice, Petry decided to hold on to the puck and was promptly run over by Dustin Byfuglien just inside the Edmonton blueline to create the turnover. Seconds later, the puck was in the Oilers net and Alex Burmistrov had his thirteenth of the season. Not exactly the way you want to end a period.

Perhaps it was the call on Hall or maybe they just decided to step it up a notch in third, but the Oilers brought in the final frame. After Blake Wheeler took a high-sticking minor just thirty-four seconds into the period, Edmonton would go back to the power play and connect for the second time on the evening. Ryan Jones knocked in his own rebound for his fourteenth of the season after receiving a seeing eye pass from Nugent-Hopkins to tie things up at two. The play started with Hemsky finding RNH with a ridiculous cross ice pass and the youngster wasted little time finding the gritty Jones in front of the Winnipeg goal.

Thirty-six seconds later, Edmonton jumped in front when feisty winger Lennart Petrell's harmless looking wrister somehow found its way through Pavelec, who would love to have it back. With the Oilers riding the momentum of the two early goals, they continued to press the Jets and would extend their lead seven minutes later.

On what was a broken play, Taylor Hall picked up a loose puck at the Jets line and fired a quick shot past a screened Pavelec to make it 4-2. The second year winger was buzzing all night long and was finally rewarded with his twenty-third of the season. With Hall continuing to dominate on the score sheet, the young winger still has a legitimate shot at reaching the thirty-five goal mark, despite missing ten games
due to injury.

Edmonton would extend to a three goal lead with just under two and a half minutes to play, when Jordan Eberle was sent in on a breakaway and Mr. Automatic made no mistake, roofing his twenty-eighth of the year   over the helpless Jets netminder. Veteran forward Ryan Smyth found Eberle with the breakout pass and collected his 800th career point on the goal.

Winnipeg would make the score line look better, when Antropov would poke a loose puck past Dubnyk with just over a minute remaining but they would get no closer. The win moves the Oilers road record to 9-20-2 for the season, while the loss could prove costly to the eighth place Jets. While they hold the slimmest of leads over the Washington Capitals of one point and are only three points in front of the Maple Leafs, both teams have three games in hand on Winnipeg.

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