Thursday, March 01, 2012
Game 63: Edmonton 5 St.Louis 2
In what was a very frustrating night for the fans at Rexall Place, the Edmonton Oilers did their best to simply give one of the top teams in the league two points. Led by a three point night from defenceman Kevin Shattenkirk and a two goal performance from Andy McDonald, the Blues picked up another two points beating the Oilers 5-2 and moved to within one point of the Western Conference leading Vancouver Canucks. Rookie centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored for the second consecutive game and Nick Schultz picked up an assist in his Oilers debut. Netminder Devan Dubnyk allowed three goals on seventeen shots before being replaced by backup Yann Denis, midway through the second period.
Not sure things could have started off much worse for the home-side, as McDonald potted his first of the night on a two-on-one break...all of fifty-nine seconds in. Struggling defenceman Cam Barker made an ill advised pinch at the St.Louis blueline and defensive partner Cory Potter allowed the diminutive centre to skate in and fire a shot past a stunned Dubnyk. The poor decision making from the Barker-Potter duo was, unfortunately, a sign of things to come.
The visitors would extend their lead early in the second, this time courtesy of another Barker blunder and some shotty goaltending. The blueliner was caught flat footed at the red line, which allowed David Perron to find a streaking Scott Nichol who blasted a shot past Dubnyk, that simply can't go in. The dreaded soft and untimely goal that continually haunts the young goaltender's game, reared it's ugly head again and it proved costly.
Just over five minutes later, McDonald would score his second of the night after a poor line change from newcomer Nick Schultz. Blues D-man Shattenkirk hit T.J. Oshie with a stretch pass that sprung the Blues on yet another, two-on-one, and McDonald took Oshie's feed and beat Dubnyk with a nifty little move, for his fifth of the season. That marked the end of Devan's night, as Danis made his Edmonton Oilers debut.
The move seemed to wake Edmonton up and they would finally get on the board. Cory Potter's point blast found it's way past a screened Jaroslav Halak to make it 3-1 and in the process, send a jolt of energy through what had been a muted Rexall Place. The Oilers started to press the Blues and were generating chances but were unable to beat Halak. Even when they did manage to sneak one past the former Montreal Canadien, the best Edmonton could do was to hit the post...courtesy of one Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Unfortunately, with Edmonton starting to carry the play Ryan Smyth decided to take, yet another, dumb offensive zone penalty with less then seven minutes remaining in the middle frame. The veteran forward, inexplicably sent Blues defenceman Roman Polak face first into the boards and was rightly tossed from the game and assessed a five minute major for checking from behind.
To the Oilers credit, they not only killed off the major penalty but did so without allowing a shot on goal. The kill seemed to give the team another spark and their top line manged to make it a one goal game, when RNH would score his fifteenth of the year with less then fifty seconds remaining in the second. Taylor Hall flew into the Blues zone and corralled Nick Scultz's dump in and quickly found the first year Oiler who ripped his second in as many games, into a yawning cage. Suddenly, Edmonton was back in it. Heading into the third, they had all the momentum but the Blues took it to another level.
After not testing Danis with a single shot over the final twelve and half minutes of the second period, St.Louis came out hard in the final frame and Cam Barker continued his "solid" night by taking a slashing minor at the 2:25 mark and it would prove costly. Standout defenceman Alex Pietrangelo found a streaking Shattenkirk, who slid behind a unsuspecting Ladislav Smid, with a beautiful backdoor pass for an easy tap in goal, to restore the two goal lead.
Less then five minutes later, St.Louis would make it a three goal lead when Chris Stewart scored on a penalty shot, after being hooked by Hall on a breakaway only seconds earlier. In what was arguably the most frustrating moment of the evening, seconds before the Stewart breakaway, the Hall - Nugent-Hopkins - Eberle trio were briefly reunited and buzzing in the Blues zone when Eberle decided to make a line change with Ales Hemsky. For reasons known only to himself, Ales decided to skate directly into Hall at the St.Louis line and jar the puck free and moments later, Stewart was on his away and this one was over.