Marc Pouliot’s goal at 8:28 increased the Oilers lead to two goals in the third period of their game at Rexall Place.
Sam Gagner began the play in the neutral zone, taking the loose puck and passing it ahead to Robert Nilsson. Nillson deked around Devils’ defenseman Colin White and drove to the slot. As he fell to the ice, he passed to an open Pouliot in the slot. Pouliot sent the puck to the top of the net for the goal.
That goal came right after a Kovalchuk breakaway. Kovalchuk split two defenders in the neutral zone, grabbing a loose puck and moving in alone on Deslauriers. Kovalchuk attempted to put a wrist shot through Deslauriers’ legs, but the Oilers goalie closed his pads and made the save.
Soon after the second goal, Devils’ enforcer Andrew Peters tried to begin a fight with Ryan Whitney. Both went off for roughing penalties, but Peters earned a game misconduct for continuing to talk to the officials and Whitney.
Gilbert Brule scored 1:23 into the second period to put the Oilers ahead, 1-0.
Brodeur came behind the net to play the puck. It took a bad hop off the boards and came to Andrew Cogliano. Cogliano put the puck past Anssi Salmela on the side boards, and it rolled to Patrick O’Sullivan. O’Sullivan sent a quick pass to Brule in front, and the forward one-timed the puck past Brodeur for his 14th goal of the season.
At the 15 minute mark of the third period, the Devils still don’t have a shot on net. Edmonton has put four on Brodeur.
The Devils had their best opportunity of the third period at the 14 minute mark. Edmonton goalie Jeff Deslauriers stopped an initial shot, but the rebound came to the front. Several players crashed the net, but Gilbert seemed to protect the puck from the oncoming Devils. He slid the puck to Deslauriers to freeze the puck.
Gilbert should have been called for a penalty for closing his hand around the puck in the crease.
All you have to do is look at the quality of shots, and it’s understandable why the Devils are down 1-0. It seems like every forward is trying to take on the entire defense or forcing passes to the slot. The Oilers, on the other hand, are working the puck and getting high-quality scoring chances, usually from the low areas of the points to the slot.
Brodeur had to make another spectacular save with 25 seconds left in the period. Bryce Salvador passed the puck to the front of the net, where O’Sullivan intercepted it. O’Sullivan tried a spin-o-rama shot, but Brodeur stacked the pads and made the save.
The Oilers outshot the Devils, 16-9, in the period. They lead the overall shot total, 19-15.
Lemaire changed the lines here in the second period. Kovalchuk skated on the top line, and Langenbrunner shifted down to the second line. Lemaire restored the lines at 3:54 of the period.
The Devils had a great penalty-kill during a Dainius Zubrus slashing penalty. The Devils didn’t allow the Oilers to set up their powerplay, possessing the puck and pressuring the Oilers defense. They tallied three shorthanded shots, and it’s seemed to bring the Devils to life a bit in the period.
Dean McAmmond went to the locker room after a hit from Stortini at 6:30 of the second period. Stortini put McAmmond into the bench area, and McAmmond hit the boards with the side of his body. He immediately came off the ice and went to the tunnel.
Soon after the goal, Zach Parise took a holding penalty 2:09 into the second period. The Devils’ forwards seem to be getting frustrated with their play thus far.
Brodeur made a great pad save on a re-directed shot by Tom Gilbert. Gilbert directed a shot from the point on Brodeur, and he had to quickly put out the right pad to make the save.
The Oilers have had the better play so far in the second period. They’ve continually pressured the Devils on the forecheck, and they haven’t let the forwards or defenseman get quality scoring chances.
The Devils held the edge in shots, 6-3. The advantage, however, isn’t an accurate indicator of period. Most of the first period was played in the neutral zone and on the Devils side of the ice. They need to come out in the second period more aggressive and take control of the period.
Although the Oilers have only recorded two shots, Brodeur has been busy in his own zone. Most of the play has been in the Devils zone thus far, and he’s had to be sharp. He made a very nice right pad save on Ryay Potulny in front 2:52 into the game.
The Devils 12th ranked powerplay (18.8% prior to the game) couldn’t do much with their first chance of the night. With Zach Stortini in the box for roughing, the Devils couldn’t generate a shot on net.
Interesting decision by Jacques Lemaire tonight for his starters. Lemaire is sending out the Ilya Kovalchuk – Dainius Zubrus – Patrik Elias line to start the game instead of the top line of Zach Parise – Travis Zajac – Jamie Langenbrunner.
Defenseman Martin Skoula will make his debut for the Devils tonight. He replaces Mark Fraser in the lineup. Andrew Peters gets the start over Jay Pandolfo. Rod Pelley and Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond (upper body injury) also will not play.
Martin Brodeur gets the start in net for the Devils. Jeff Deslauriers will start for the Oilers.
I talked to Jay from Low On Oil, an Edmonton Oilers blog. I asked him a few questions about the team coming into this matchup. Here are the questions and his responses.
1. With the team mired in last place, what is there to look forward to coming into the end of the season?
That’s pretty easy to be honest—drafting in the top two at the 2010 NHL Entry draft. The harder question to answer is what there is to look forward after that entry draft. It looks like the Oilers are going to be in a two or three year rebuild which means the 2011 entry draft will be the next thing to look forward to.
2. Give us your take on the trade for Ryan Whitney.
Even with the trades at the deadline, the Oilers are still in salary cap hell heading into next season. There’s a long list of players who are pending RFA’s that will be looking for varying degrees of raises for next season including Sam Ganger, Gilbert Brule, and Ryan Potulny among others.
I had mixed feelings about the Ryan Whitney trade. On the one hand, Lubomir Visnovsky is an exceptionally talented player and a joy to watch. In fact, he was one of the few players that I enjoyed watching on this team this season.
On the other hand, the Oilers had to move salary and there wasn’t much of a market for Souray with his current health problems. As good as Visnovsky currently plays, he’s 32 years old and headed for a decline in performance due to age. The Oilers won’t likely be a competitive team during that time period, so trading him made sense in that regard.
As for the Ryan Whitney trade, I like the fact that it adds size and youth to the blue line. His contract also saves $1.6 million in cap space. However, there’s no question that the Ducks got the best player in this trade. As well, I don’t like the fact that Whitney has lingering issues with his feet. Signing another player with ongoing injury concerns is disconcerting.
3. How have injuries de-railed the team?
It’s actually been one hell of a year for injuries. I myself get sickened when I hear Oilers management use the injuries as an excuse for the team’s performance this season. At the same time, the litany of injuries is getting pretty remarkable.
To an extent, the injuries have resulted from a combination of bad luck and poor management. The single biggest injury to impact this team was the season ending back injury for Nikolai Khabibulin.
Now, signing an over 35-year-old player to a 4 year contract at nearly twice the next highest goaltender signing of last summer, was monumentally stupid. Most feel that Steve Tambellini, the Oilers GM, should have been fired for signing Khabibulin to that contract. Really, there probably a few teams if any that could ride the goaltending tandem of Deslauriers and Dubnyk to a playoff spot this season.
After that, the Oilers fielded a roster of sub 200 lbs/sub 6’ tall players which has probably contributed to a degree to the injuries this season. I think that many teams took liberties while playing against the Oilers which they might not have under different circumstances.
Finally, I think if nothing else, the injuries have exposed the lack of depth and poor construction of the Oilers roster. At the end of the day, all things considered, the silver lining in the clouds are that the injuries will help the Oilers to get a higher draft pick than they would have had they not been plagued with injuries. Either way, the Oilers current roster this season was a long way from being a competitive team.
Here are tonight’s line combinations:
Zach Parise – Travis Zajac – Jamie Langenbrunner
Ilya Kovalchul – Dainius Zubrus – Patrik Elias
Brian Rolston – Rob Niedermayer – David Clarkson
Andrew Peters – Dean McAmmond – Vladimir Zharkov
Bryce Salvador – Andy Greene
Colin White – Mike Mottau
Anssi Salmela – Martin Skoula