The Edmonton Oilers were home on Wednesday night to face Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
It is the first career game for the 21 year old Crosby in Edmonton due to the bizarre NHL schedule. Crosby did play against the Oilers last year in Pittsburgh and was held pointless in a loss. The Oilers are one of only two teams he doesn’t have a point against, with San Jose being the other.
Dwayne Roloson and Marc-Andre Fleury started in net.
The first good chance of the game went to Edmonton as Ales Hemsky sent Dustin Penner in alone, and the puck rolled off his stick as he went to tuck it into the open net.
Crosby then setup Petr Sykora with a chance that Roloson made a big leg save on. Sykora continued to control the puck, and again had a good chance that Roloson made another save on. Good pressure by the Penguins.
It was then the Oiler’s turn, as Joni Pitkanen had a shot and the rebound bounced to Robert Nilsson. Fleury then dove back to save his shot.
The Oilers continued to press. Pitkanen then went across ice to Nilsson and blasted it by Fleury with a great one-timer. The Penguins got caught on a long shift, and were tiredly running around in their zone.
1-0 Oilers at 5:39.
The Penguins then tried to get something going—but Ladislav Smid rocked Crosby behind the Oiler net with a solid check. The game was played with frantic pace through the first eight minutes, with only two whistles.
The Penguins then started to control the puck, and some good pressure forced Roloson to hold the puck. The Pens then won the resulting face-off, that generated a chance for Jordan Staal that Roloson made a huge save on.
The teams then exchanged chances with the continued frantic pace—both goaltenders made some good saves. The Oilers then had a chance to increase their lead with 8:20 to go, as Scuderi was called for cross-checking Shawn Horcoff.
The Oilers got nothing established on the power play and the Penguins had an easy penalty kill.
Both teams kept the end-to-end action going with some solid shots that Fleury and Roloson had to make quality saves on. With under three minutes left in the peroid, a shot from Gagner and rebound by Nilsson gave Fleury some troubles—but again, he kept it out.
With under a minute to go, Joni Pitkanen did his Paul Coffey impersonation with an end-to-end rush, and his shot gave Fleury troubles again.
The period ended with the score still favoring the Oilers by one. Shots in the period favored the Penguins 11-6.
The Oilers started the second period with some early pressure with no results. The Penguins then had some pressure of their own, which forced Roloson into making a big save.
The Oilers were right back at the Penguins, and a point shot by Staios was tipped into Fleury by Gagner. Crosby then lead the Penguins back and set up Erik Christensen on the left side; Roloson flashed the leather to make a big save. Stoll was then called for interference on Crosby to give the Penguins their first power play with 3:19 gone.
The Penguins controlled the Oiler zone for most of the power play with several scoring chances—but good blocks and a couple of good saves by Roloson and the penalty was killed off.
The Oilers controlled the play after the penalty, and with seven minutes gone Fleury was forced to make a couple of big saves—first off Stoll, then Torres.
Ten minutes gone and Hemsky did a dipsy doodle on Sykora, getting off a good shot that Fleury made the save on. The Oilers continued the pressure, and Penner passed to Hemsky who found an open Horcoff. His shot ripped over the net.
5 minutes left in the 2nd and the Penguins had a turn with pressure. Two blocked shots, and another wide shot later, Malone got an attempt through that Roloson grabbed and held on to. Roloson had done a great job of holding rebounds up through this point of the game.
2:38 to go and the Oilers had the Penguins penned in their zone. Hemsky passed across ice to an open Shawn Horcoff, and his blast beat Fleury.
In the last minute, Penner stapled a defender behind the Penguins net—and hit him so hard that the boards and glass were bouncing back and forth like a wave. The period ended with shots even at eight.
The first four minutes of the third period were played with some good end-to-end action. Neither team was able to generate any shots.
4:30 into the period and Penner stole the puck at the Penguins' blue line. He had a 2-on-1 with Hemsky, but his shot went high over the net. That was, unknowingly, the turning point of the game.
Just over a minute later and the Penguins closed the gap, as Maxime Talbot found the mark behind Roloson. A good pass by Evgeni Malkin set up that goal. The amazing thing was that Crosby had not been on the ice to start the third.
21 seconds later, Crosby was out for his first shift of the period, and wasted no time firing a cross-ice pass to Kristopher Letang, who found the back of the net.
Two goals in 21 seconds and the game was tied. There were some horrible defensive mistakes by the Oilers on those goals.
The Penguins continued the pressure for over another minute, and Roloson made a five bell leg save off Talbot, who was sent in alone by Sykora. Crosby was back out and dominated play again. I think the benching at the end of the second and beginning of the third woke him up, as he appeared to be flying.
With under ten minutes to play, the Oilers finally had some pressure on the Penguins, with Horcoff and Gagner passing the puck around. That was broken up by LeTang, as he stapled Gagner to the end boards.
The Penguins were back attacking with the Crosby line, and Sidney fed the point. Eaton took the shot and it deflected off of Armstrong’s skate and behind Roloson.
3-2 Penguins at 10:57.
Edmonton had stopped doing the things that made them successful in the first two periods of this game, and the last several games as a whole.
The Oilers tried to get things going. A shot by Horcoff in the slot came close, but was saved by the blocker of Fleury. That pressure was short-lived, and the Penguins took control in the Oiler zone again. The result was Marty Reasoner being called for holding on Armstrong.
The Penguins had a great chance to increase the lead with the power play. And increase the lead they did, as Crosby found Whitney with a cross-ice pass.
4-2 Penguins at 13:30.
Since he stepped onto the ice in the third peroid, it had been the Sidney Crosby show. The Oilers got a bit of pressure again, and again it was short-lived.
The Penguins came right back. Armstrong had another good chance off a Crosby pass. He was being shifted every second shift for the Pens, and it made a huge difference in the game.
The Oilers were pressing with just under four minutes to play, and got two shots off in quick succession—but Fleury stood his ground. The Oilers continued to press and a shot by Horcoff was again kicked away by Fleury.
The Oilers pulled Roloson with 1:40 to go, and with the extra attacker had some good pressure. However they were unable to get any good shots away. Finally, Gagner was set up from in close—but again Fleury held on to the puck.
The Oilers were unable to generate anything further, and the game finished 4-2 Penguins.
The Oilers lost the game in the third period because they stopped doing the things that had made them successful during their last few games. They allowed the Penguins to penetrate into the scoring lanes and it cost them.
For the first two periods, everything came from the outside—and when they did get something from the inside, Roloson was there to stop it. In the third, however, Roloson was not athletic or nimble enough to make a couple of saves that might have helped.
I would question MacTavish’s decision in not starting Mathieu Garon in net again. You have to ride the hot hand when you have one, and Garon has been lava hot. Against a young athletic team like the Penguins, I think his athleticism could have made a world of difference.
Don’t get me wrong: Roloson wasn’t the reason they lost. There were 18 other players on the ice to blame for that. I just think the Oilers have been playing better in front of Garon.