Sunday, December 04, 2011

Game 27: Calgary 5 Edmonton 3

The Edmonton Oilers came out with guns blazing against their Provincial rivals Saturday night and were up two goals, three minutes in. That didn't seem to phase the visiting Calgary Flames, as the team down south, picked themselves off the mat and took it to the Oilers the rest of the way. In what was a highly entertaining night of hockey, Calgary pulled off the come from behind victory, this time by a score of 5-3. The Flames have won seven straight and ten of their last eleven meetings against the Oilers.

Edmonton opened the scoring at the 2:19 mark, when feisty forward Lennart Petrell scored his second on the campaign. Petrell had a Darcy Hordichuk slapshot bounce off him and past Flames starting netminder Mikka Kiprusoff. Forty one seconds later, the Oilers were up by two. Sam Gagner scored his first of the season, on a quick snap shot from the slot. Gagner has been one of the best Oilers of late but hasn't been able to buy a break. Edmonton was barely done celebrating their two goal lead, when Calgary scored on the power play courtesy of Olli Jokinen. Three minutes later, the Flames tied things up, when Rene Bourque banged in his eighth of the season past a stunned Nikolai Khabibulin. Just like that, the game was knotted at two and the Flames had all the momentum. From that point on, it was riverboat hockey at its finest. It's not the game either coach wanted to see but from a fans stand point, it was damn entertaining to watch.

Calgary continued to carry the play in the middle stanza and if not for Khabibulin, this one would have been over after forty. The Oiler netminder made a number of fine stops in the second but none better then a cross crease pad save, off a one-timer from Flames forward Lee Stempniak. The two sides headed into the third period still dead locked at two a piece but Edmonton were clearly on their heels.

The Oilers came out with a different level of intensity in the third and were rewarded with the go-ahead goal. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who was checked extremely tight by the Flames, broke free long enough to score his twelfth of the season and put the home side in front one more time. Unfortunately for Edmonton, the lead lasted all of forty-four seconds.

Jarome Iginla stole the puck off Hordichuk, in the Flames end, and was allowed to transition the puck up ice, without being touched. The Calgary captain promptly fed a streaking Derek Smith at the Oilers blueline, and the defencemen broke in all alone and snapped a perfect shot under the bar to even things at three.

To Edmonton's credit, they came back hard after the Flames tied it up but veteran Ryan Smyth killed that momentum, by taking an absolute bone head goaltender interference penalty. Smyth not only ran into the Flames goaltender but knocked Kiprusoff right over and the Oilers would pay for his mistake.

During the late stages of the penalty kill, the trio of Eric Belanger, Ryan Jones and Theo Peckham made the horrible decision of making a line change with the puck just outside the Edmonton blueline. The three didn't hustle off the ice and the three jumping on were late getting back into the play. To make matters worse, defenceman Jeff Petry blew a tire at the blueline and the end result was  Mikael Backlund banging in his first of the campaign, without an Oiler insight. The comedy of errors cost Edmonton dearly.

The Oilers was given one more chance to even things up, when Jokinen took a slashing penalty with just under four minutes to play. Edmonton came into the game with the leagues best power play on home ice but the Flames shut it down completely. Edmonton was 0 for 6 on the PP and generated all of one shot on goal, while Calgary went 2 for 3 on the man advantage. In a nutshell, that was the difference on the night.

The Good

  • The play of Sam Gagner continues to be a bright light, in what has become a very inconsistent period for the Edmonton Oilers. Gagner was creating chances every time he hit the ice and was finally rewarded with his first goal of the season. Sam has been waiting for an opportunity to show what he can do all season long and he is definitely making the most of it. If he continues to play at this level, the coaching staff will have to make a decision on where to play him, when Taylor Hall returns.
  • The Oilers continued the trend of getting out of the gate quickly, this time scoring twice in the first three minutes. This team has struggled with starts to games for so long, that I can't even remember the last time this wasn't the case. Now if they could only closeout games, like they were earlier in the season.
  • While the Flames did a wonderful job in taking the Oilers top line out of the game, they still managed to put Edmonton ahead when Nugent-Hopkins scored in the third period. It is not realistic to expect your top line to be on fire every game. That being said, only a select few lines have the ability to get that big goal despite having a less then successful night and Edmonton's top line appears to be one of them.

The Bad 

  • As good as Edmonton's PP has been on home ice, is was just a matter of time before it hit a wall. The absence of Taylor Hall on the top unit is very apparent and their second unit continues to be down right awful. Calgary did a great job of pressuring RNH into moving the puck but that's when the rest of the unit has to make them pay for over committing, which the Oilers were unable to do. The team has had little practice time of late, due to their compact schedule, but that is going to change over the next two weeks. They must take this opportunity to focus on the power play and put together two units that will contribute. Hopefully, neither of those two units will feature Eric Belanger at the point. It seems everyone outside of this coaching staff sees this is not a good fit.
  • Jeff Petry had arguably, the worst game of his young career. Petry was a turnover machine all game long and was continually out of position. Add to that, him blowing a tire on the Flames third goal and it seemed to be just one of those nights for the blueliner. Petry has been very good of late lets chalk this one up, to having a bad night.
  • Calgary typically runs the Oilers show when the two teams meet and last night was no exception. Edmonton had no answer to the Flames physical play and were running around because of it. As I mentioned in my game day preview, Iginla is always a handful for Edmonton to deal with and that trend continued. Add to that, Rene Bourque playing like a motivated Rene Bourque, and the duo were way too much for the home side to handle.
  • As much as this city loves Ryan Smyth, his knack for taking stupid penalties at the worst possible time, is starting to become tiresome. Smyth has been great in his return to Edmonton, both on and off the ice, but the selfish penalties need to stop. While he has yet to hit the level of former captain Ethan Moreau, when it comes to taking ill timed minors, he is headed that way if he doesn't correct the problem.
  • Much like the power play, the Oilers penalty kill is starting to show holes. Their coverage has been far too loose of late and they are giving up a ton of scoring chances on the kill. Again, it may be because of fatigue and lack of practice time but they need to have it figured out before the Canes come to town on Wednesday night. One thing I found curious, was on the Flames third goal, they had O'Marra coming out after Belanger on the question is why? Late in the game is when you would expect to see Belanger and Horcoff on the kill and not the fourth line centre. If they can't have their top two guys out on the kill because they are tired, then maybe it's time to re-examine how they are distributing their ice time.It's not even up for debate. They need those guys ready to go in those situations

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