The Edmonton Oilers were home on Monday night for the second game of their five-game homestand.
The visitors were the New York Islanders, a team that had not lost to the Oilers since 1999.
Mathieu Garon made his fourth straight start in goal for the Oilers, while Rick DiPietro started for the Islanders.
The game started with Ethan Moreau taking a tripping penalty off the opening face-off. The Islanders power play went to work and got away with an early hook on Staios behind the Oiler net. The Boo-birds were out in force every time Mike Comrie touched the puck. The Oilers killed the penalty quite easily as the Islanders failed to gain the Oiler zone for any period of time.
The teams exchanged puck possession for the next couple of minutes but neither team was able to get any shots on goal. The first shot was finally registered with 4:30 gone by the Islanders as a point shot was easily grabbed by Garon.
The Oilers came back quickly as Shawn Horcoff got a shot on the counter attack. The Oiler’s top line continued to buzz and only a good stop by DiPietro on a shot by Ales Hemsky kept the game scoreless.
With nine minutes gone the Islanders came close as Garon made big saves on shots by Mike Sillinger and Trent Hunter. The Islanders continued to press the Oilers and Andy Sutton got a couple of point shots that Garon handled.
After a minute of neutral ice play the Islanders came right back and Garon made a great pad save off a shot by Josef Vasicek. The first two-thirds of the period has been dominated by the Islanders as their puck control has given the Oiler defenders fits in the defensive zone.
4:30 to go and Tom Gilbert gave the puck away at the blueline which sent Richard Park in alone but again Garon was there to save the day. 20 seconds after that attempt the Islanders Richard Campoli was called for tripping which gave the Oilers their first power play of the game.
The Oilers 29th placed power play unit went to work and showed why they are the second worst power play team in the league as they were unable to generate much during the two minute man advantage. Their best chance came with 11 seconds left as a point shot by Gilbert was deflected by Fernando Pisani right into DiPietro.
The Oilers had their best chance of the period with 1:30 to go as Hemsky had a great chance that DiPietro got a glove on. The rebound fell to Horcoff but he was unable to pull the trigger. That was it for the first period as it ended scoreless. The Oilers outshot the Islanders 12-10 in the period.
The Oilers came out to start the second period with a little more action. 1:11 in and Hemsky took a lead pass at center ice. He drove Brendan Witt back and fired a quick wrist shot through the legs of Witt. DiPietro didn’t see the shot and it was in the back of the net. 1-0 Oilers.
The teams exchanged chances for the next five minutes with a few shots but nothing that I would call a good scoring chance. With 6:31 gone it was Ales Hemsky again with a break on a great pass at center ice from Dustin Penner. Hemsky broke in 2 on 1 with Horcoff and the pass to Horcoff found him open in front of the net and Horcoff picks the bottom corner. 2-0 Oilers. That goal was the 100th of Horcoff’s career.
The Oilers then had another chance with eight minutes gone as a centering pass from Patrick Thoresen finds Joni Pitkanen and he deflected the puck just over the crossbar.
The Islanders had a good chance to close the gap half way through the period as a 2 on 1 saw Bill Guerin feeding Ruslan Fedotenko in the slot and his shot rolled just wide of the far post.
It was then the Oilers turn as Stoll fed Reasoner on a 2 on 1 and he made no mistake chipping the puck by DiPietro. 3-0 Oilers at 11:22.
The teams then exchanged chances as the play went end to end. The play also got physical with some good hits and that resulted in a fight between Ethan Moreau and Tim Jackman. A quick, easy decision for Moreau in the bout.
Just under four minutes to go and it was Reasoner this time setting up Stoll on a 2 on 1 but Stoll missed the net. The Islanders came back with their best chance of the period as 2 shots forced Garon into 2 big saves. Those saves show why he is now the starting goalie in Edmonton. Richard Park then had a good chance that deflected off Gilbert’s stick and into the glove of Garon.
The Islanders continued to press to close out the period and Garon made another couple of saves. The period ended 3-0 for the Oilers. The shots in the period favored the Islanders 14-8.
The Islanders got the first shot of the third period with just 30 seconds gone but it was a long easy one for Garon to handle. Off the ensuing face-off the Islanders were just unlucky not to close the gap as Mike Sillinger was left alone in the slot and his shot somehow missed the empty net and rang off the post.
The Islanders continued to press but with all the action, Sean Bergenheim hits Stoll in the head with his stick to take a penalty. 23 seconds into the power play the Oilers gave up a shorthanded 2 on 1 chance that resulted in Trent Hunter having his shot saved but he as he ran over Garon. Another penalty there for goaltender interference gave the Oilers a 5 on 3 advantage for 1:37. The first minute of the 2 man advantage was a shooting gallery as both Stoll and Souray took turns firing blasts at the Islander net. Many of those shots were high or wide however one blast by Souray had DiPietro cleanly beat but rang off the crossbar. I am sure that blast left a dent in the crossbar.
The Islanders killed the penalties without allowing the Oilers to score. Again the league’s second worst power play fails to score a goal. As the play continued up to the Oiler zone another fight broke out, this time between Zach Stortini and Tim Jackman. It was an even and short bout.
The teams then spent a few minutes exchanging end to end chances. With just over 12 minutes to go it was Pisani taking a penalty for holding; giving the Islanders a chance to score and get back into the game. The Oiler’s penalty killers did a masterful job again as the Islanders had no chances.
The teams then exchanged end to end play with little in the way of chances. With just under eight minutes to go the Islanders continued to try and battle back into the game. They had another good stint with the puck in the Oiler zone but they were unable to solve Garon. The Oilers finally escaped their own zone as Hemsky broke out and his shot handcuffed DiPietro but the Islander goalie was able to jump on the rebound before Horcoff arrived.
With 5:30 to go, Hemsky had two chances to increase the Oiler lead. First he broke in with Penner 2 on 1 but overskated the puck. Then it was Horcoff finding him alone in the right circle but his shot was high and wide.
The Islanders countered with Guerin breaking down the right side. He was taken out by Smid along the boards and Guerin was called for interference as he held Smid as he tried to clear the puck.
On the power play some sloppy play gave Hunter a shorthanded chance but his shot hit Garon right in the crest and he held the rebound. The Oilers finally had a chance on the power play as Sam Gagner had 2 shots from the right corner of the net that DiPietro managed to get a glove and pad on. Finally the power play got a goal as Horcoff found Stoll with a cross ice pass and his blast found the twine behind a screened DiPietro. 4-0 Oilers.
The Oilers were smelling blood now and they continued to press for more goals. With 2:30 to go it was Kyle Brodziak having a glorious chance as he cut in off the wing but DiPietro made a huge save. DiPietro then made a 10 bell save as Brodziak found Pitkanen open on a 2 on 1. Pitkanen thought he had the empty net but somehow DiPietro got a glove on the puck.
The Islanders then had a power play with 1:08 remaining as Thoresen was called for holding the stick of Bill Guerin. The Islanders did a good job of trying to break the goose egg but Garon made several big stops. Mike Comrie then got called for tripping with under ten seconds to go to kill the game off. It was the first win in regulation for the Oilers since December 2nd as the last 6 victories had all come via the way of the shootout. That last regulation victory was also a 4-0 game. Shots in the third favored the Oilers 13-11.
That was the kind of victory the Oilers needed and they will need to continue with that style of game for the rest of the season if they hope to make the playoffs. The Oilers now have 2 days to prepare for Wayne Gretzky’s Phoenix Coyotes who have been one of the hottest teams over the last 10 games.