Friday, March 23, 2012

Game 74: Tampa Bay 3 Edmonton 2 (SO)

In recent years, the Edmonton Oilers have made a habit of dropping games to teams that have former Oilers on their roster. The most recent example being last Sunday night, when the trio of Ray Whitney, Raffi Torres and Gilbert Brule came into Rexall Place and found a way to steal two points from their former club. You can now add Dwayne Roloson to that growing list of ex-Oilers that have done in their former organization. The veteran netminder stole the show, stopping thirty-four shots in earning Tampa Bay a 3-2 shootout victory, over former Lightning standout Nikolai Khabibulin.

As much as this one had the potential of being an entertaining affair, the game lacked any sort of jump in the opening twenty minutes but both goalies still made keys stops, to keep things scoreless after the first period. Roloson stoned his former teammate Ales Hemsky in the early stages, after the talented Czech undressed Victor Hedman to break in all alone but was unable to beat the Tampa netminder. Edmonton carried the play in the opening half of the period but the Bolts came on late and Khabibulin made a couple of timely stops, including one off the stick of fifty goal man Steven Stamkos.

The Bolts picked up right where the left off in the first, as Stamkos was sent in all alone in the opening moments of period two, courtesy of a rare but still brutal giveaway by Jordan Eberle at the Tampa blueline. The league's leading goal scorer broke in untouched but Khabibulin made a brilliant blocker stop to keep this one scoreless.

The Lightning would finally open the scoring just past the three minute mark, with veteran Ryan Smyth in the penalty box for once again, taking an ill advised penalty in the opposition's end of the ice. Tom Pyatt would tap in his ninth of the season, finishing off a beautiful feed from Hedman to give the Bolts a 1-0 lead.

Edmonton would get that one back, just before the midway point of the period. Winger Linus Omark made a lovely play to pick up his his third goal in seven games, since being recalled on March 5th from Oklahoma City. The talented Swede neatly deflected home a great feed from defenceman Ryan Whitney, with one hand and past a helpless Roloson even things at one. After sitting in the press box and playing on the Oilers fourth line over the Oilers last two games, Omark found himself on a line with Smyth and Shawn Horcoff and the diminutive winger was buzzing all night long. Outside of Hemsky, the highly skilled little man was Edmonton's best player.

Unfortunately, another costly turnover late in the period would come back to bite them, as they have all season long. After stepping up just outside the Edmonton blueline to intercept a pass, Andy Sutton  promptly coughed up the puck and never regained his positioning and Pyatt would make him pay for his blunder. The Lightning forward poked in a loose puck, after Khabibulin was unable to squeeze  J.T. Wyman's initial shot, for his second of the period to make 2-1.

Through forty minutes, Edmonton had out shot Tampa Bay 25-17 but it was in the final frame that the Oilers started to take things over. Roloson was simply outstanding in the final frame, robbing Omark on a breakaway, Eberle in tight with a nice shoulder save and was seemingly stopping an attempt from Ales Hemsky every time the Oiler forward hit the ice. Edmonton out shot the Bolts 11-1 over the final twenty minutes and finally found the equalizer with just under four minutes to play.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins threaded the needle and found a streaking Ladislav Smid with a beautiful cross ice pass, that the Oilers top D man buried for his fourth on the campaign and sent this one to overtime. The assist pulled the first year Oiler into a tie for second in rookie scoring with the Devils Adam Henrique and leaves him just one point shy of the Avs Gabriel Landeskog, for the rookie scoring title.

In what was a fairly uneventful opening three minutes of OT, neither side amounted much in the way of chances but Jeff Petry was whistled down for tripping Stamkos with exactly two minutes to go. Thus leaving the Lightning a full two minute power play to try and end it but the Oilers penalty kill stood tall. Tampa didn't create a whole helluva a lot during the man advantage but Stamkos did unleash a bomb in the dying seconds, that Khabibulin stopped and will likely be feeling for the next few days. 

Both goalies came up big to start the shootout with Khabibulin stopping the first two Tampa Bay shooters and Roloson stopping Jordan Eberle. Sam Gagner was next up and scored to give the Oilers a 1-0 lead but Stamkos made a nifty move in tight and slipped a quick shot between Khabibulin's pads to tie things up at one and leave the game on the stick of one Linus Omark. The same Linus Omark that left the Bolts steaming after pulling his spin-o-rama shootout move in his NHL debut last season. 

While Omark's attempt wasn't nearly as cheeky as last year's effort, Roloson did stone the young Swede with a nice glove save on Omark's slapshot. Martin St.Louis shot next and put the Bolts ahead beating his former mate but Hemsky would return the favour, finally scoring on the former Oiler backstop to even things at two. After Hedman and Teemu Hartikainen but missed, Teddy Purcell put the Lightning back in front. That left Ryan Smyth with the game on his stick. In a surprising move, head coach Tom Renney decided to go to both Smyth and Hartikainen ahead of Nugent-Hopkins and shootout specialist Shawn Horcoff. The move backfired, as Smyth clanked a shot off the post and the Bolts skated off with the victory.

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