The Edmonton Oilers returned home from a tough two game road trip to face one of the leagues best and hottest clubs, the Detroit Red Wings. The Oilers played the mighty Wings tough from the opening whistle to the final buzzer but in the end, it was all for not. Detroit was simply too much for Edmonton to handle and the result was another one goal loss, this time by a score of 3-2.
Edmonton came out fast to start the game but it was the Red Wings who opened the scoring, when former Oiler Dan Cleary neatly deflected Jakub Kindl's point shot past Nikolai Khabibulin, to stake the visitors to a 1-0 lead just 4:33 into the opening stanza. That was it for scoring in the first, although both teams generated chances late in the frame but were unable to sneak one past Khabibulin or Red Wings netminder Jimmy Howard.
Edmonton pulled even early in the second, when Ryan Jones came up with another big goal. Jones has become Mr.Breakaway for this team and he managed to get the job done once again, slipping a shot past Howard to tie things up. Both sides exchanged chances throughout the second but much like the first, both goaltenders were on their game and kept the score 1-1.
Detroit broke through at the 14:36 mark, when Jiri Hudler deflected another point shot past Khabibulin to give the visitors a 2-1 lead. The Wings had numerous point blank opportunities but were unable to beat the Oiler netminder on a clean chance. So they did what any good team does, they started sending guys to the net in hopes of making the Russian puck stoppers night as difficult as possible and it worked to perfection.
To the Oilers credit, they came back and evened things up before the second period was up. After booting the puck around during their late period power play, Taylor Hall made a nice play to keep the puck in the Wings zone and fed Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for a good look but his shot was blocked. Unfortunately for Detroit, the puck just sat in the middle of the ice after the block and was just sitting on a tee for an incoming Jordan Eberle. The second year winger took full advantage of the friendly bounce and proceeded to rip a bullet past Howard with 0.5 seconds left on the clock.
In the third period, Detroit managed to slow things down and for the third and final time, took the lead. Drew Miller deflected a beautiful slap pass from Nicklas Lidstrom past Khabibulin with less then five minutes to play to give the visitors a 3-2 lead. All three Red Wing goals were on deflections and left the Oiler netminder no chance on any of the goals.
Edmonton was given a gift late in the third when Niklas Kronwall took a delay of game penalty with three minutes to play but the Oilers did not even manage to get a shot on goal. The had opportunities but the Wings collapsed their box and managed to knock down any attempted shots on goal.
- For the third straight game Taylor Hall was the best Oiler skater and for the second consecutive game, he and Nikolai Khabibulin have been Edmonton two best players. Hall was a threat every time he hit the ice and generated a ton of chances all night long. The youngster continues to look like a totally different player then he did earlier in the season and has become that ball of energy that gets this team going on a nightly basis.
- Despite allowing three goals, all via deflection, Khabibulin was again outstanding. the Wings had many point blank shots but were unable to beat the Russian netminder. He made a number of crucial stops that allowed his team the chance to come back and tie things up. While the veterans numbers have slipped slightly from his early season level, he continues to perform at a level.When you look at his stats, 2.05 GAA and .931 SV%, and consider how many quality scoring chances he faces on a nightly basis, I would have to say that Nikolai Khabibulin has been the best goalie in the NHL this season.
- While the end result was still a loss, it is impossible to question this clubs work ethic. After playing a dreadful game against Phoenix, the Oilers have came up with two of their best performances in some time but the opposition has just been too good. Yes they made mistakes out there but all four lines and six defencemen played a solid game. They were just beat by a better team.
- What can you say about Ryan Jones? The guy just keeps doing what he does and finds a ways to score big goals for this club. As it currently stands, this team has the three kids and Jones as the only options they can count on for offence. that being said, if they give Ryan a big role I think his overall play will suffer. They need to leave him in the role he is in and hope they start getting some secondary scoring from their vets.
- The trio of Hemsky - Horcoff -Smyth were once again kept off the score sheet but on this night, they try was there. Hemsky played one of his best games in weeks while the captain and Captain Canada both worked their tails off. That being said, they have to find a way to contribute on the score sheet or this team doesn't have a hope in hell. After failing to register a point against the Wings, Ales Hemsky has now gone six straight games without a point. That is only the second time that has happened in his entire career. The only other time he has had such a stretch was during his rookie season...in 2002-03.
- Honestly, there was very little to complain about when it came to the Oilers game last night. They played the Wings tough all night and thanks to some timely saves from their goaltender, they were in this game right to the end. The thing I find disappointing, is these players are busting their butts out there and it is clear that they need some help. Yet it seems as though no one in the organizations front office is to interested in going out and acquiring that help. Obviously, it's not the easiest thing to just go out and make a deal. Having said that, to just simply sit and watch this team continue to struggle and pile up losses, while attempting to do nothing, is mind boggling. These players and coaches are doing their part to try and change the losing ways of this franchises recent past...now if only management would get on board and help, they might just be able to take that next step towards becoming a better team.