Thursday, March 21, 2013
Game 29: San Jose 4 Edmonton 3 (SO)
On a night in which Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was forced to call in sick, the Edmonton Oilers were still staring at a possible two points which would have moved them into a tie for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Unfortunately, a third period rally from the San Jose Sharks and a couple of costly blunders from the Oiler, led to another disappointing shootout loss, this time by a score of 4-3.
Ryan Jones, Shawn Horcoff and Sam Gagner all managed to find the back of the net in the loss, while netminder Devan Dubnyk made thirty-one stops on the night but was shaky for much of the night. Despite their second third period collapse of their current home stand, Edmonton has collected points in five consecutive outings, posting a 3-0-2 mark over that span.
Ralph Krueger's side jumped out to their customary early lead, opening the scoring for the ninth time in their last twelve games, courtesy of a power play marker off the stick of #89. After accomplishing absolutely nothing on an earlier man advantage, Gagner hammered home his twelfth of the season past Antti Niemi to make it 1-0 for the home side.
The lead was short-lived, as Oiler Killer Logan Couture continued to carry the hot-hand...with a little bit of help from defenceman Mark Fistric. After stopping Couture's initial shot on goal, Dubnyk lost sight of the puck and seconds later, it would rebound off the hard hitting rear-guard's skate and trickle over the goal line.
After watching Joe Pavelski's harmless looking shot beat Dubnyk but catch nothing but iron in the opening seconds of period two, Martin Havlat would have an on-ice meltdown and hand the Oilers a four minute power play. The talented Czech was whistled down for interfering with Taylor Hall and made matters worse by demonstratively questioning Eric Furlatt's call and slamming the penalty box door on his way into the sin bin. Furlatt decided to not only hand Havlat an additional minor for unsportsmanlike conduct but tacked on ten minute misconduct to boot.
Edmonton could not have asked for a better break but it was a break they did nothing with it, accumulating all of two shots on goal and failing to put any sort of pressure on the Sharks. Despite doing nothing on the man advantage, Edmonton would regain the lead midway through the period, courtesy of their captain and a nice offensive rush from defenceman Nick Schultz.
While Schultz had the good fortune of the puck coming directly to him as he stepped out of the penalty box, the veteran blueliner carried the puck deep into the San Jose zone, before feeding a streaking Horcoff for his fourth on the campaign. It was a huge goal for the Oilers and put them right where they wanted after forty minutes of play.
Ryan Jones would stretch the lead to 3-1 early in the third, stripping Matt Irwin of the puck behind the Sharks goal and slipping a quick wrap around through the wickets of a stunned Neimi. The goal was the first of the year for Jones and looked to all but secure the two points against an offensively challenged San Jose side and just under sixteen minutes.
Looks can sometimes be deceiving.
The Sharks would cut the lead back down to one, as Couture wired home his second of the night, with Ryan Whitney in the penalty box. The goal came just over two and a half minutes after Jones gave the Oilers a two cushion and the visitors started to bring it. Less than three minutes later, the comeback was complete.
Ryan Smyth failed to clear the puck out of the zone, coughing it up just inside the blueline, and Tommy Wingel blew a shot past Dubnyk on the short-side, that simply can't go in. It was a bad play all around but one the ultimately lands at the feet of the Oilers starting netminder.
To Edmonton's credit, they did have a push back, including a great shift from Nail Yakupov that brought the Rexall Place crowd to life, but the Russian youngster curiously never saw the ice again. Considering this was a lineup that was already missing Nugent-Hopkins and essentially Jordan Eberle, who was utterly wasted playing alongside Jones and Smyth, one would have thought Krueger would have given his rookie winger an opportunity to be a difference maker.
This one would go to a shootout and unfortunately for the Oilers, it wasn't even close. While Eberle beat Neimi was a perfectly placed shot, the Sharks tender had little trouble stopping both Gagner and Ales Hemsky. Whereas at the other end of the ice, Dubnyk managed to foil Pavelski, but was beat clean by Couture and made to look foolish by veteran Dan Boyle, who scored his second shootout winner of the season against the Orange and Blue.
The victory helped the Sharks hold onto eighth place in the West and leaves Edmonton in a a tie for eleventh with the Dallas Stars, who blew a lead of their own, losing to the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night. The Oilers will now have to sit and watch the rest of the Western Conference battle over the next couple of days, as they do not return to action until Saturday night, when they host Ken Hitchcock and the St. Louis Blues.