In Sunday’s riveting match-up between the Edmonton Oilers and the Chicago Blackhawks, both teams came into the game at United Center eager for a victory. While Chicago was coming off a loss, Edmonton was entering not only with a streak of five losses, but with a two-game shutout streak. The Oilers needed a win – they needed a goal, period. They needed something to change.
A burst of fresh energy came in the form of three players who had been out injured – Shawn Horcoff, Teemu Hartikainen, and Ales Hemsky all returned this game. I hoped they would help revive the lethargic Oilers of the previous two games, and I definitely wasn’t disappointed.
Simply put, the Oilers were phenomenal in the first period – they dominated. A bit more than 2 minutes in, Mike Brown scored the Oilers’ first goal of the game – and, coincidentally, his first goal as an Oiler. A mere 36 seconds later Sam Gagner added to Edmonton’s lead by burying a wrist shot past the Blackhawks’ Ray Emery.
Edmonton continued to show stellar play throughout the period, promptly getting the puck out of their end and not letting the Blackhawks place pressure on Dubnyk like teams have been in previous games. At 9:19, Ryan Whitney added to Edmonton’s goal count, bringing the score to 3-0, at which point the Blackhawks pulled Emery and replaced him with Corey Crawford.
Edmonton, however, was doing everything right and refused to be stopped. Around the 12 minute mark, the Oilers made fantastic use of a power-play and Gagner, receiving a great pass by Whitney, scored and brought Edmonton to a 4 goal lead.
Though Mike Brown’s goal seemed somewhat lucky, it was the catalyst that the Oilers needed, and the following three goals had some amazing plays. Edmonton not only built their lead in the first period, but solidified it by not letting the Blackhawks gain any momentum through a goal of their own. They outshot the Blackhawks 12 to 6 and it was an incredibly promising start for the Oilers.
Coming in with a record 21-1-3, the Blackhawks weren’t about to let Edmonton triumph so easily, and came into the second period fighting. Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa scored 00:49 and 5:36 into the period, respectively. Around the 9 minute mark, a collision in the crease led to Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk being pulled and replaced by Yann Danis.
Almost as if he sensed that Chicago was beginning to smell blood, the Oilers’ Shawn Horcroff countered the Blackhawks’ goals with a power-play goal at 10:28 with a beautiful assist by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Danis stood up well to the heat the Chicago Blackhawks were beginning to place on the Oilers, managing to save six shots on goal, but eventually at 15:05 Sheldon Brookbank brought the Blackhawks up 5-3. Taylor Hall countered again with a power-play goal – the oilers’ third power-play goal in three attempts. The scoring concluded with a goal by Brent Seabrook. Though the Oilers lost their stunning first period lead, they managed to hold off the Blackhawks despite being outshot 20 to 9, and finished the fast-paced second period at 6-4.
The Oilers opened the third period with some strong shots by Gagner and Hall, but Chicago managed to convert their first power-play of the game with another goal by Patrick Kane. The Oilers successfully killed the Blackhawks’ second power-play– the first power-play kill of the night – as they tried to maintain their increasingly threatened lead.
Though there were some good plays in the remainder of the period, and a somewhat strange icing call with roughly 60 seconds to go, the Oilers managed to hold on to their 6-5 lead and pull out a win against the venerable Blackhawks.
In a post-game interview with edmontonoilers.com, Shawn Horcoff cited increased communication as a contributor to the change in their game play, saying that “we talked a lot on the bench, we talked a lot on the ice.” Hopefully they manage to continue the energetic, communicative playing they showed themselves to be capable of tonight.
Coach Ralph Krueger told edmontonoilers.com that though the Oilers “gave up some goals….with a win you’ve got something to build on.” He also commented that they didn’t see signs of a head injury in goalie Devan Dubnyk but would be assessing him again in the morning; though Danis did very well tonight, hopefully Dubnyk will return strong in the Oilers’ next game against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday, March 12.