The Edmonton Oilers went Duck hunting Sunday in Anaheim—and they bagged four of them.
The Oilers played the second game of a home and home with the Ducks, winning the first one in Edmonton on Friday 5-1. On a different night in a different location, the result was the same—an Oiler victory.
The Oilers drew first blood 9:29 into the first period as Raffi Torres banged in a rebound that resulted from a shot by Zack Stortini.
The Ducks played an undisciplined first period taking three penalties in the offensive zone. The third of the penalties at 17:03 cost them as Dustin Penner scored a strange goal against his former team on the power play. A centering pass from Robert Nilsson deflected off a stick, up to Penner’s mouth, and then into the back of the net. The time of the goal was 18:25 and the Oilers were full credit for their 2-0 lead. Shots were 10-4 for the Oil.
The Ducks started the second period with a little more effort but the penalty bug bit again at 5:52 as Todd Bertuzzi was called again for an offensive zone penalty. Another undisciplined penalty, another power play goal for the Oilers. This time it was Joni Pitkanen with a blast from the point that Ducks goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere never saw, resulting in 3-0 Oilers at 7:15.
Just over two minutes later, Sam Gagner saw Tom Gilbert come streaking off the Oiler bench and hit him with a perfect pass. Gilbert was in full flight and his wrist shot to the far post completely fooled Giguere. 4-0 Oilers at 9:19.
The rest of the game belonged to Edmonton goaltender Mathieu Garon. The Ducks were able to muster 21 shots at Garon in the final two periods but he was a master of them all. He made some easy saves, as well as some extraordinary ones, including a kick save doing the splits and a glove save with the blocker hand. He was unbeatable.
The Ducks had four power plays of their own but were unable to find the net. They took five penalties on the night, all in the offensive zone and all by the top line, with Corey Perry and Todd Bertuzzi picking up two each and Ryan Getzlaf picking up the other.
This Duck team is a far cry from the one that won the Stanley Cup last season. Without the offensive prowess of Teemu Selanne and stability of Scott Niedermayer they are wallowing in the glory of last year’s triumph.
For the Oilers, this was the perfect road game. They scored early and played tough defensively. They also played without Ales Hemsky and Geoff Sanderson who were both back in Edmonton nursing injuries. They were replaced in the lineup by Patrick Thoresen, who was called up from the AHL, and Fernando Pisani who was playing his first game of the season. Pisani had missed all the games up to this point after being diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis last summer. His struggle to regain weight and get back into shape was a long hard process but it was good to see him back playing 12:43 in the game with two shots.
With the two goals on five power play opportunities tonight the Oilers were able to move out of last place in the league on the power play. The Ducks on the other hand replaced them after going zero for four. The Duck’s penalty kill also moved down the ladder to 27th place in the league.
Oh, how the times have changed—the Ducks were near the top of both of these categories last year.
With three losses in three games against the Oilers this season, Duck’s General Manager Brian Burke must be seething inside as he chews on crow. After being quoted earlier this year saying that “Kevin Lowe had run the Oilers into the sewer,” Burke must be getting a real bad after taste of gas, especially after the two games this weekend in which his team lost both games by a combined total of 9-1.
The Oilers have now won three of their last four games and appear to have righted a ship that looked to be listing in the waves two weeks ago. They are playing hard-nosed Oiler hockey and using their speed advantage when and where they can. As other injured players return, we can look forward to even more improvement.
The team has also moved ahead of the hated Calgary Flames in the division and conference. They currently sit 12th, only three points out of a playoff spot. A victory in Los Angeles against the Kings tomorrow will go a long way to prove that they really do know what it takes to win right now.