Edmonton Oilers: 5
Colorado Avalanche: 4 (OT)
The Oilers’ final home game of the season ended on a positive note, with a 5-4 overtime victory over an Avalanche squad that was resting some of its veterans. It didn’t start that way; the Avs jumped out to a 3-0 lead early on, thanks to some guys watching the puck and some shaky play on the part of Jeff Deslauriers. The Oilers didn’t go away though; Tom Gilbert was the catalyst behind two first period goals and they battled back and actually held the edge in play until the third, when the Avalanche seemd to wake up a bit. It wasn’t enough, as Ryan Whitney hammered home a Dustin Penner pass to give the Oilers the overtime win.
Oilers Three Stars, According To Me
1. Dustin Penner. The Oilers’ best player was the Oilers’ best player. Penner will probably always be a bit of a whipping boy because he’s such a low energy player (by which I mean it often looks like he’s taking his time) but he is incredibly effective, especially tonight as he scored a breakaway goal and then drew the primary assist on Cogliano’s third period marker and Whitney’s overtime goal. He also drew the first penalty (which led to Horcoff’s goal) with some wizardry in the offensive zone.
2. Andrew Cogliano. It isn’t a secret that I haven’t been as thrilled with Cogliano as the Oilers’ broadcasters because of his occasionally sloppy defensive play, but he was good tonight and showed some chemistry with Penner (as seemingly everyone has). There’s always a bit of edge to his game, which I like, and he showed both finish with his third period goal and some smarts with his role in the Oilers’ overtime winner.
3. Tom Gilbert. There were lots of players who deserve some mention, but Gilbert gets the third star because of his great offensive night. He was great on the power play, pinching in for a glorious chance before giving Horcoff a nice feed for his goal, and then a few minutes later springing Penner’s breakaway with a perfect pass.
This & That
Neither goaltender was especially sharp; Deslauriers had a couple of highlight reel saves (he always seems to, doesn’t he?) but his rebound control was a big part of the reason the Oilers fell behind early, and he almost deserved an assist on O’Reilly’s goal. His puck handling was customarily rough and bad angle shots gave him trouble. At the other end, it was a similar story for Peter Budaj, who looked shaky for good portions of the night.
It’s out of fashion to say so, but I was very impressed with Patrick O’Sullivan at points in this game. He hit a post early on and then was the catalyst behind an incredible shift for him, Comrie and Stortini where the line had three incredible chances in close but couldn’t put the puck away. He had a smart game offensively that included setting up Mike Comrie’s goal.
After an abysmal season, Shawn Horcoff had a pretty good night on special teams, setting up a Gilbert chance and then cashing in when Gilbert returned the favour. Initially it also looked like he had deflected the Comrie goal into the net (in fact, the puck went off the Avalanche defender) but his screen was still a big part of the play.
I was very impressed to see Matt Duchene stand up to a big Zack Stortini hit; Stortini’s not the most fearsome fighter in the world but he can throw his weight around as well as anybody but Duchene had no trouble with it.
Finally, I wanted to note something about confidence. Louie DeBrusk mentioned that one of the Oilers’ strengths is the fact that they have the confidence to come back from deficits because they know they can score, and at various points in the season that’s looked very true. On the other hand, I’ve heard Ray Ferraro mention at several points that confidence is a big problem for the team (the word he used was “fragile”) and that they seem to collapse if they give up the lead, something which has looked true at other points in the season. My own personal take is that ‘confidence’ tends to be a catch-all for colour commentators and it likely isn’t nearly as simple as either point of view. I’m curious as to what everyone else thinks: are those viewpoints too simple, or is one right and the other wrong?