Another four games are in the books for the Edmonton Oilers and they still find themselves in the hunt for a playoff spot. A 3-1 week finds the Oilers only five points out of a playoff spot. The great thing with the Northwest Division is that only seven points separate first from fifth, and four of those teams will make the playoffs. With two games left against each of the teams in the division, the Oilers have a fighting chance.
The week began as bad as it could as the Oilers were humiliated by the Colorado Avalanche by a score of 5-1. The Avalanche scored a late goal in the first period and four more in the second as they beat the Oilers in every aspect of the game. The Oilers added a power play goal mid way through the second to make the score 3-1 but that was as close as they got.
The Oilers were out shot 32-24 in the game. Mathieu Garon started the game but was pulled in favor of Dwayne Roloson after he was run over in the crease and looked a little tender. He had let in three goals on 11 shots to that point. Roloson showed a bit of rust but looked descent going the rest of the way allowing two goals on 18 shots. The Oilers seemed to wake out of their funk for the third period though as they out shot the Avs 12-7 but couldn't find a way to get the puck past Petr Budaj.
The Oilers seemed to have taken some positives from the game as they visited Phoenix on Saturday to play Wayne Gretzky's Coyotes. Dwayne Roloson got the start in this game. It was his first start since February 1.
The Oilers scored the first goal of the game just over six minutes in as the power play connected yet again. Ales Hemsky's wrist shot beat Coyotes goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov. It was the 19th goal of the season for Hemsky which tied a career best.
The Coyotes tied the score on a power play of their own four minutes into the second period. Shane Doan found the net on a tip-in that Roloson had no chance on. The Oilers responded just under four minutes later as Robert Nilsson set up Joni Pitkanen in the slot and he buried the shot. The Oilers increased their lead with just under five minutes to go in the period as the 4th line banged, crashed and forechecked the Coyotes into submission and it was Curtis Glencross finding an open Zach Stortini in front and his shot was deflected by Kyle Brodziak into the back of the net. 3-1 Oilers after two periods.
The Oilers increased their lead eight minutes into the third period as Marty Reasoner was set up by Andrew Cogliano. His shot cleanly beat Bryzgalov. The Coyotes got one of the goal back with 1:12 on the clock but with 59 seconds remaining, Fernando Pisani found the empty net to make it a 5-2 final.The Oilers were out shot 40-37 on the night but Dwayne Roloson made some good saves and the Oilers offense found the mark.
The Oilers then traveled to San Jose on Sunday to play the NHL's hottest team. The Sharks had rattled off 11 straight victories. This game was all San Jose except for the final score. The Sharks came at the Oilers hard and for the second straight game, Dwayne Roloson was the man of the hour. The Sharks hammered 19 shots at the Oilers in the first period but were only able to beat Roloson on a 5-on-3 power play with just over two minutes remaining in the period. Sharks captain, Patrick Marleau, tipped a Joe Pavelski shot past Roloson and that was all the Sharks were going to get on this night.
The Oilers were again out shot in the second period by a count of 16-6 but it was the Oilers who did the only scoring. With just under seven minutes left in the period the Oilers got the break they needed on this night. With a delayed penalty coming to Craig Rivet for hooking, Sharks enforcer Jody Shelley decided to take a stupid roughing penalty by taking a punch at Zach Stortini. The Oilers took advantage of the 5-on-3 advantage as Ales Hemsky took a pass from Robert Nilsson and blasted a shot by Evgeni Nabokov.
The Sharks continued to press in the third period but were unable to beat a stellar Dwayne Roloson. Roloson, a guy many, including myself, had given up for a bag of pucks at the trading deadline, earned this win for the Oilers. The Sharks again out shot the Oilers this time 12-7. The Oilers were in all too familiar territory when this game went to a shoot out. The Oilers may have out shot the Sharks 4-2 in OT but it was a save that was the talking point. In the final minute, Joe Thornton was sent in alone on Roloson but the Oiler netminder was out to cut the angles down and big Joe missed the target.
The familiar shootout saw the Oilers grab the extra point as each team sent out four shooters but it was Fernando Pisani beating Nabokov to give the Oilers a 2-1 shootout and game victory. The goal by Hemsky in the second was his 20th and established a new career high for him. The Oilers are now 15-3 in the shootout and 19-5 in games that go to overtime.
After a 2-1 road trip, the Oilers were home on Tuesday to face the Coyotes. It was the Oilers last game against teams outside their own division. This one was a wild one. The Coyotes got off to the early start they wanted as Derek Morris beat Roloson with a slap shot only 4:13 into the game. The Oilers came right back as the kid line set up Tom Gilbert in the slot and his slapshot beat Bryzgalov. The Coyotes took the lead four minutes later and Shane Doan beat Roloson with a back hander that handcuffed him. The Oilers then got two late power play goals with first Sam Gagner finding the twine at 17:26 and then Robert Nilsson at 19:22.
The Oilers increased their lead to 4-2 early in the second period. With the Coyotes on the power play, Kyle Brodziak blocked a shot and the deflection sent Andrew Cogliano down the right side. Brodziak caught up to make it a 2-on-1 and a perfect pass to Brodziak in the slot left him with little to do but pick the corner on Mikael Tellqvist, who had replaced Bryzgalov after the first period.
The Coyotes closed the gap to 4-3 with 1:03 to go in the second as Daniel Winnik's wrist shot beat Roloson. The Coyotes had out shot the Oilers 25-19 to that point.
The third period was as strange a period as you will see. Just over four minutes into the third, Peter Mueller snapped a shot at Roloson who seemed to lose it, and fumbled the puck into his own net. A tie game with just under 16 minutes to go. The flood gates then just seemed to open as the Oilers came forward in waves. at 7:32 it was Dustin Penner scoring on the power play to make it 5-4. Curtis Glencross then was rewarded for a lot of hard work and two missed opportunities in the second period as Zach Stortini set him up and he had an open net to put the puck into. Just over three minutes late, it was Glencross again as he was alone in the slot and had several whacks at the puck before one managed to beat the defender and Tellqvist. Finally with three minutes to go and Ladislav Smid in the penalty box for a weak high-sticking penalty, the Coyotes pulled their goalie to give them a 6-on-4 advantage. It backfired. Jarrett Stoll scored the Oilers second short handed goal of the night as he dove at a puck at the Oiler blueline and the puck had enough steam and direction to find the empty net. 8-4 final. The Oilers out shot the Coyotes 17-9 in the third period.
The win moved the Oilers into 10th in the Western Conference and will within striking distance of the other NorthWest division rivals who hold down third, sixth, seventh and eighth spots between them. With all eight remaining games against divisional foes, if the Oilers can continue their hot play, then they have a definite shot at making the playoffs. They seem to be peaking at the right time and with three home games against these teams this week, the Oilers could really be in the thick of things by this time next week. All they can do is continue winning.