Friday, January 06, 2012

Game 40: St.Louis 4 Edmonton 3


In what was a tale of three separate hockey games, the Edmonton Oilers played one great period and two god awful ones. Not surprisingly, the result was a 4-3 loss to the St.Louis Blues and drops the Oilers to 1-5 on their current seven game road trip. Thankfully, the marathon like voyage will come to an end on Saturday afternoon, when Edmonton takes on the Dallas Stars in an afternoon affair.

In what was a very interesting night of hockey, the St.Louis Blues came out flying and physically dominated the Oilers from the outset and there was seemingly nothing Edmonton could do to stop them. If not for the strong play of goaltender Devan Dubnyk, this game would have been over by the ten minute mark. While Dubnyk stood on his head keeping the game scoreless, he played a big part in handing the Blues the games opening goal.

The Oilers in the midst of  another terrible line change when a penalty to Blues forward David Perron had expired. The puck was dumped deep into the Edmonton zone and with the hard charging Perron in full flight, Dubnyk decided to wander from his net to play the puck along the sideboards. Problem being, that as he got to the puck and looked for options to move it, all he saw were blue jerseys. The netminder panicked and instead of swinging the puck behind his own goal, which was in the vicinity of defenceman Corey Potter, he tried going up the boards to clear. Unfortunately, his attempt went directly to Chris Stewart who found a streaking Jamie Langenbrunner, who immediately returned the puck to Stewart for his ninth on the season into an open net. The Blues kept coming but couldn't find a way to slip another past the "Big Easy", despite holding a 14-3 advantage on the shot clock.

Edmonton came out a much more determined bunch in the second period and the tide started to turn. St.Louis started taking penalties and before  you knew it, the Oilers had the lead. With Edmonton in complete control on the man advantage, Jordan Eberle wired a shot off the crossbar/post that some how manged to stay out of the Blues net. It made you wonder if it might just be one those nights but moments later, their luck would change. Taylor Hall would score his thirteenth on the season, after taking a quick wrist shot from just inside the blueline that beat a screened Jaroslav Halak. For Hall it was his eighth power play goal on the campaign and just like that, the game was tied...at least for the next twenty-five seconds.

Edmonton would come right back to score their second of the period, courtesy of Ben Eager. With the line of Eager-Belanger-Jones pressuring the Blues deep in the St.Louis end, Eager sent a harmless looking shot towards Halak that somehow managed to beat the netminder. Ryan Jones was causing havoc in front of the goal but the former Montreal Canadien playoff hero played the shot, like he was handling a grenade.

Just over three minutes later, the Oilers would be given a five minute power play when defeneceman Roman Polak, was assessed a slashing major and a game misconduct for smacking Hall on the back of the head. While I don't think Polak was trying to take off Hall's head intentionally, the whip like motion he made with his stick after being stripped of the puck by the talented youngster, sure did some damage. Fans were in an uproar in the building but the call was correct and Hall would miss nearly the entire man advantage, as he was being sewn up for the gash left on the back of his head.

With Hall out getting repairs, Edmonton didn't accomplish much on the extended man advantage but the Blues would help them out a little, when they were whistled down for a too many men penalty with only fifteen seconds left in the Polak major. The Hall back out on the power play, the Oilers took full advantage of the opportunity and would extend their lead to two. Jordan Eberle would bury his seventeenth of the season after a mad scramble, in front of the home sides net. The power play marker was Eberle's eighth of the season, which ties him with Hall for the team lead.

Edmonton would end the middle stanza with a 3-1 lead on the scoreboard and a 24-23 advantage on the shot clock. After being bombarded  in the opening twenty, the Oilers out shot the Blues to the tune of 21-9 and were in the driver's seat heading into the third period...our at least they seemed to be.  

Corey Potter started the period off in the worst possible fashion, as he fired the puck over the glass at the seventeen second mark to put St.Louis on the power play. Three seconds later, the score was 3-2 courtesy of a blast from star blueliner Alex Pietrangelo. David Backes won the faceoff straight back to Carlo Colaiacovo, who quickly fed Pietrangelo and the big defenceman promptly ripped a bullet past a screened Dubnyk.

Thirty seconds later, Hall was called for roughing penalty on an absolute brutal call. The sophomore was nailed by T.J. Oshie with a clean open ice hit and he quickly picked himself up off the ice and gave the St.Louis winger a shove. Apparently that was enough to earn a rough minor but the call came as no real surprise. With Edmonton getting the majority of power play time in the second, you knew calls were going to start going the other way in the third and the refs wasted little time in making that clear.

With Hall in the box, the Blues would tie the game up after a Pietrangelo point shot changed directions in front of Dubnyk and somehow managed to squeak through the Edmonton netminder. The puck appeared to take a slight deflection off Andy Sutton but the goal was credited to David Backes. The third period was less then two minutes old and St. Louis had already struck for two power play markers.

The home side continued taking it to the visitors and were rewarded with their third goal of the period at the 8:59 mark. Matt D'Agostini swung out wide from behind the Oilers net and wired a high shot past a stunned a Devan Dubnyk to give St.Louis their second lead of the night. While Dubnyk was partially screened on the shot, it is a scnerio that Oiler fans have seen far too often with the young goaltender. He tends to drop to knees far too early and often, and teams have routinely beaten him with well placed shots to the top half of the net. Apparently the book on Dubnyk is out but the 25 year-old has yet to make an adjustment to deal with the problem.

Just like Tuesday night in Buffalo, Edmonton came hard in the final minutes looking for the equalizer but came away empty handed. The came close when an Andy Sutton slap shot cleanly beat Halak but rattled off the goal post and into the corner.

It was another good effort by these players but this team simply doesn't have the horses needed to pull off a win, in these types of games. They are in nearly every game but yet find ways to come away empty handed time after time. Unless management decides to deal with the shortcomings of this group in the very near future, the outcome on most nights will continue to be the same.

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