The Edmonton Oilers returned home last night to face the Minnesota Wild after a fairly successful road trip that saw them go 2-1-1.
The Oilers did something different this week to prepare for this game as they sent goaltender Dwayne Roloson back to Edmonton to rest for the game last night and had Mathieu Garon start Wednesday night in Vancouver with Jeff Drouin-Deslaurier as the back-up. Time will tell whether or not the move works.
The teams started the game with some good end to end action and some minor shots for the goalies to deal with. The first good chance of the game went to the Oilers with four minutes gone as Ales Hemsky moved into the slot and rang a shot off the crossbar. Less than a minute later the Wild came back and a shot from Martin Skoula from the point looked to deflect off the leg of Stephane Veilleux, who was standing in the slot, and behind Roloson. 1-0 Wild.
The Oilers got a chance to get that goal back a minute later as James Sheppard took a hooking penalty and the Oiler power play had a chance to go to work. The Oilers controlled the Wild zone the entire two minutes but were unable to beat Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom. The Oilers had the next good chance with 10 minutes gone as Stoll gets a shot from the slot that Backstrom saves and Nick Schultz is called for slashing on the play. The Oiler power play again had a chance to tie the game. Again the NHL’s worst power play unit had some chances but couldn’t find the net.
With just over 8 minutes to go the Wild got their turn on the power play as Ales Hemsky is called for high sticking. It was tough to tell who had the power play though as the Oilers had 3 odd man rushes short-handed in the first 1:15 of the power play. The Wild got a late shot on their power play but the Oilers did a great job of killing the penalty.
With 5:35 left in the period the Oilers had their third chance to tie the game as Marian Gaborik was called for tripping giving the Oilers their third power play of the period. Again the Oilers were unable to score but unlike the first two power plays, the Oilers looked like the NHL’s worst on that power play.
The Wild finally had a good chance to increase their lead with just over a minute to go as Brian Rolston fires a sharp angle shot that gives Roloson troubles. Steve Staios is called for roughing on the play as he took exception to a Wild forward banging into Roloson. The period finished with the Wild up 1-0 and 30 seconds left on the power play. The Oilers outshot the Wild in the period 16-8.
The second period started much like the first with both teams getting some early shots even though the Wild had the power play for the first half minute. The first good hit of the game came in the third minute o f the period as Kyle Brodziak banged Kurtis Foster behind the Wild net. Derek Boogaard knocked Zack Stortini with a high stick behind the action and none of the officials saw that misdemeanour.
5 minutes gone and the Oilers get the first good chance of the period as Dustin Penner picked up a rebound and trickled his shot off the post. The Oilers continued the pressure and were finally rewarded as Hemsky rounded the net and his shot is blocked, fell right to the stick of Jarrett Stoll and he had an open corner to put the puck into. 1-1.
The Wild finally had a chance to take the lead with 7:30 gone as Branko Radivojevic was left alone beside the Oiler’s net but he couldn’t beat Roloson with his shot. Oiler rookie Sam Gagner almost put the Oilers ahead with just over nine minutes to go in the period as his wrap around forced Backstrom into the splits to make the save.
8:45 to go and Robert Nilsson is called for holding and the Wild got their third power play of the night. The monkey took a big jump off the shoulders of Jarrett Stoll as he scored his second goal of the night, short handed no less, to give the Oilers the lead 2-1. Cogliano set that up with a great block at the Oiler blueline which sent Stoll away. It was also a horrible goal for Niklas Backstrom to give up. Still on the power play the Wild moved the puck around with lightning precision and Marian Gaborik was left alone beside the net and he made no mistake with the empty net. 2-2.
The Oilers then had a chance to regain the lead as the Wild’s Veilleux was called for tripping. The Oiler power play lasted only 50 seconds as they were then called for too many men on the ice. That was a horrible penalty to take with the man advantage. The Wild didn’t get anything going in their power play as Stoll and Horcoff did a great job of killing the time.
Three minutes to go and the fans are getting into the game with chants of “Let’s go Oilers." The rest of the period looked to be done but with 55 seconds to go, Andrew Cogliano got tangled with Marian Gaborik and was called for tripping. Like in the first period the Wild had the chance to finish the second period and start the third period on the power play. The Wild didn’t need the last half of that power play though as they score only 7 second into the power play as a point shot by Foster beats a screened Roloson. 3-2 Wild. Shots favoured the Oilers in the period by a count of 10-7.
The Wild began the third period with a change in goal with Josh Harding taking over for Niklas Backstrom. The Wild increased their lead to 2 goals one minute into the period as they got a 3 on 2 and a cross ice pass from Gaborik finds Parrish open and he made no mistake blasting a shot by Roloson. 4-2 Wild.
The Oilers came right back with a chance of their own as Stortini had a shot from the right side of the ice that Harding has to be sharp on. The Oilers kept on pressing and a minute later it was Staios set up in the slot by Gagner but again Harding makes a big save. With 5 minutes gone it was again the Oilers with a chance to close the gap but a shot by Penner is easily handled by Harding.
The Wild finally got another chance with 7 minutes gone as Veilleux was left open and his shot was saved partially by Roloson and cleared out of the crease by Staios. The Wild continued to press for a fifth goal as Gaborik took a quick wrist shot from the right circle that Roloson juggled but managed to hang onto.
The longer this game went on the more tired the Oilers looked especially in the third period. They definitely looked like a team that played the night before. The half way point of the period showed that tiredness even more as Staios gave the puck away and Smid had to dive to save a shot and he took a penalty for tripping on the play.
The Wild have owned the Oilers with the man advantage this year as they scored 4 power play goals last game and had 2 already tonight. With seven seconds left in the power play, Cogliano is called for a rather weak hooking penalty. The Oilers killed the seven seconds of 5 on 3 power play but the Wild continued with great puck possession. With 36 seconds left on the power play, Sheppard is called for holding so the Oilers had a good chance to cut into the Wild’s lead. The Oilers had a good power play with 4 shots but none could beat Harding.
The Oilers pull Roloson for the extra attacker with just over two minutes to play. Edmonton controlled the puck for over a minute in the Wild zone but Harding was there to make 3 big saves. The Oilers continue with the pressure and finally the Wild break out with Koivu and Gaborik and Tarnstrom was called for holding Gaborik to prevent an empty net goal. 15 seconds after that penalty, Steve Staios slashes the stick out of Boogaard’s hands to virtually kill the game. 4-2 is how the game ends.
Can you say goaltending controversies? The Oilers were riding a 2 game winning streak before today off the goaltending of Mathieu Garon. Dwayne Roloson was sent home to rest for tonight’s game and his performance was nowhere close to what we had seen from Garon. In my opinion the Oilers need to play Garon and let him go as long as he is winning.
Josh Harding also came in to replace Backstrom tonight and he shut the door on the Oilers after Backstrom had let in a weak goal on the short-handed effort of Stoll.
The other interesting thing that I noticed is that the Oilers tend to lose games where they greatly outshoot their opponent. Their 2 victories this week came when they were outshot. Tonight they outshot the Wild 40-25. The Oilers also need to stay out of the penalty box against the Wild as Minnesota has torched their usually good penalty killing unit for 6 goals in the last 2 games.