Sunday, December 18, 2011

Game 32: San Jose 3 Edmonton 2

Though the effort was much better, the result remained the same. The free-fall of the Edmonton Oilers continues, as they dropped their third straight game. Patrick Marleau's third period power play marker was the difference, as the San Jose Sharks fought back to edge the Oilers by a score of 3-2. Edmonton netminder Nikolai Khabibulin made his return to the lineup and was sensational in stopping 34 saves but San Jose was too much for the slumping Oilers too handle.

The Sharks came out looking for blood and took it to the visitors from the drop of the puck. The ice was tilted badly into the Oilers end for the first half of the period and Khabibulin was up to the task...that is until another horrid line change left the Edmonton shot stopper the job of dealing with a two-on-none breakaway from the blueline line in. Not shockingly,  the Sharks converted the opportunity into the opening goal of the night while ending a lengthy goal scoring drought for winger Martin Havlat.

Forward Ben Eager made an ill advised cross ice pass only steps from the Oilers bench, instead of just dumping the puck into the San Jose end to allow Edmonton to make a line change. That pass was the start of a chain reaction that saw three Oilers making a line change with that puck still at centre ice while the two players remaining on the ice pressed forward and hence leaving their goaltender to fend for himself. One quick touch pass from Dan Boyle, sprang Havlat and Michal Handzus in on the break and just like that, it was 1-0 for the home side.

To that point, the only line that was not constantly pinned in their own end, was the reunited kid line. Problem being, they had been given one full shift to that point in the period and a couple of twenty second twirls out on the ice. Why that would be, I couldn't even begin to guess. Instead of throwing their horses out on the ice and give them the opportunity to try and dictate the pace to their opposition, this coaching staff seems much more comfortable in throwing out their "veteran" players...regardless of the outcome.

Before the period was out, that group of kids that can't be trusted did what they always do, score goals. After Taylor Hall made a nice play along the boards to win a puck battle, Jordan Eberle took the puck just outside the Sharks blueline and proceeded to undress defenceman Colin White with an absolutely sick move and then corkscrewed Sharks netminder Annti Niemi into the ice, before depositing the puck into the yawning cage.. An absolute brilliant goal that needs to be seen to be fully appreciated.

Even with their poor start, Edmonton managed to head into the dressing room with the game tied and they would take the lead, early in the second period. With the Sharks on a power play, Martin Havlat simply blew a tire just outside the San Jose blueline and unfortunately for the Sharks, Havlat was the last man back. Oilers forward Ryan Jones, scooped up the lose puck, broke in all alone and beat Niemi with a quick shot to give Edmonton the 2-1 lead. The goal was the tenth on the season for the gritty Oiler winger and second shorthanded marker.

The Sharks would tie things up, just under ten minutes later with the two sides playing four-on-four. Joe Thornton scored his first goal in fourteen games, after the Oilers allowed the big centre to sneak in behind their defence and to break in all alone on Khabibulin. While rookie Ryan Nugent-Hopkins lost his mark in Thornton, it was Ryan Whitney who inexplicably pushed forward and left the gaping lane for Thornton to jump into. The game was even heading into the third but still right there for the Oilers taking.

The third started out much like the opening frame, in the sense that the kids saw the ice only twice in the first six minutes and the only time the Oilers had pressure in the Sharks end, was when they were on the ice. They didn't hit the ice until the period was nearly two minutes old and it allowed San Jose the chance to take control of the period from the outset. Defenceman.Theo Peckham took an ill-timed interference penalty just moments after the kids had been buzzing in the Sharks zone. In Theo's defence,  the call was weak but San Jose would make the Oilers pay.

Patrick Marleau knocked in his twelfth on the campaign, just twelve seconds into the Sharks man advantage. After winning the draw cleanly from Shawn Horcoff, Marleau manged to free himself up from the Oiler captain just long enough to bang home Joe Pavelski's failed wrap around attempt, past a stunned Khabibulin. Much like San Jose's third goal, it was a poor decision by an Oiler defenceman that left Horcoff in a tough position. Ladislav Smid committed the cardinal sin  for a defenceman, by vacating the front of the net to puck chase and join his partner Tom Gilbert below the Edmonton goal line and within seconds the score was 3-2. That's text book defending and a play that should not happen  at the best of times and simply can not happen in the third period of a tie game.

Edmonton tried to get the equalizer but the Sharks pretty much shut things down and when they did get an opportunity Niemi stood tall. The officials gave the Oilers a power play just past the nine minute mark, in what was clearly a makeup call for the penalty on Peckham but Edmonton were unable to take advantage of the opportunity. The Oilers best chance came in the dying seconds  when San Jose winger Ryan Clowe deflected a cross ice feed to Nugent-Hopkins, before the rookie could one time the pass into a wide open Sharks net.

Outside of the first ten minutes, Edmonton played a strong game but after their poor performance on Thursday night against Phoenix, that isn't good enough. This team needs points if they want to stay in the playoff race. With Detroit and Minnesota next up and a lengthy seven game road trip on  the horizon, it just might get a whole lot worse before it gets better.

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