From a February game against the Avs this season
Destiny’s Team? OK, that’s a bit melodramatic, but you’ve got to wonder if the Hockey Gods are smiling on the Edmonton Oilers after today’s 7–5 win over the Colorado Avalanche at Rexall Place.
Not only have the Oilers won 11 of their last 14 games to scramble back into playoff contention in the Western Conference against all odds, they survived blowing a 4–1 lead against the Avs to move within three points of Colorado with six games to play.
Riddled by injuries, facing a double-digit deficit and written off by all but the most optimistic two weeks ago, the Oilers, the-little-team-that-thinks-it-can, the drama queens of the conference, found a way again.
Ales Hemsky turned in a magnificent performance. Hemsky had three assists and the puck on a string all afternoon. Sam Gagner, scored two goals, including the eventual winner. Even Marc Pouliot, yes Pouliot, dented twine. He hadn’t scored an NHL goal in 13 months, a span of 40 games.
“I’m down to my last nerve, for sure,” said coach Craig MacTavish. “I’ve been around the game for a number of years and you know these things can and do, at times, happen. Hopefully, you draw on the experience of being able to come back from it.”
At 38-33-5 for 81 points, the Oilers survived another so-so game by Dwayne Roloson and three Colorado goals in a span of 2:33 in the third period to live to fight another day. Roloson’s given up 13 goals in his last three starts, but the Oilers have found a way to win two of them and four of their last five.
With the Avs reeling with four straight losses, the Oilers can make next Friday’s rematch in Denver matter—if they can take care of business in back-to-back games against Minnesota.
Before their frenzied third-period onslaught, the Avs had nothing going. They looked flat and disinterested in falling behind 3–0. Frankly, they look very much like a team in trouble.
“Obviously, we didn’t get out to the start we wanted,” said former Oiler Ryan Smyth, who got stiffed out of a goal by a quick whistle in the first period and spent the day in Roloson’s kitchen.
“We’ve done that the last four games for whatever rhyme or reason. It’s not acceptable. We can’t play catch-up hockey this late in the season.”
That’s not catch-up hockey, Ryan. The Oilers, it seems, hold the trademark on that.
Colorado coach Joel Quenneville’s got 433 NHL wins on his resumé, so he doesn’t need any advice from me, but his decision to give Jose Theodore the start ahead of Peter Budaj is dumbfounding.
Budaj is 5–0 against the Oilers this season and 9–1 in his career, but when the puck dropped, Theodore was crouched in the crease. That lasted exactly 14:29 as Dustin Penner, Gagner and Fernando Pisani put pucks behind him on eight shots.
It’s in the book
There’s more than one way for a player to score a goal without getting a shot on net and Marty Reasoner’s 7–5 goal is an example. When Reasoner was hooked with the Colorado net empty, he was awarded a goal at 19:50 without getting a shot.
If you’ve never seen it before, now you have.
—Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 5pm on Total Sports with Bob Stauffer on Team 1260.