Winning faceoffs is without question a valuable skill for a hockey team, but sometimes it isn’t necessary to score – even when the draw is in the offensive zone. Teemu Hartikainen’s goal for Edmonton, which tied this afternoon’s game and forced overtime, is a case in point.
Boyd Gordon (15 for Phoenix) wins the draw against Ryan Smyth (94 for Edmonton). Immediately, Teemu Hartikainen (56 for Edmonton) goes after Zybnek Michalek (4 for Phoenix) who has the puck.
Michalek throws the puck behind his own net, where his partner, Oliver Ekman-Larsson (23 for Phoenix), takes it. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93 for Edmonton) moves to put pressure on Ekman-Larsson.
Ekman-Larsson gets the puck away under pressure, but only bounces it softly off the boards.
The puck bounces in front of David Moss (18 for Phoenix) and Justin Schultz (19 for Edmonton) gets to it first. Ales Hemsky (83 for Edmonton) has smartly circled back to cover in case Moss gets the puck past Schultz at the blue line – not a small risk in a game that had three shorthanded breakaways.
Schultz gets a quick shot past Moss, and the puck goes directly to Smyth in front of the net. The Oilers have two guys right in front, with only Michalek near them.
Smyth makes a wicked redirection – not on the net, as Mike Smith clearly expects, but to Hartikainen at the other side of the net, who now has an instant with the puck and a wide open cage.
Hartikainen makes no mistake.
No doubt, the most critical play in this particular sequence – a sequence that ran just seven seconds from faceoff to goal – was the Smyth deflection which put Hartikainen in the clear. What strikes me the most, though, is how even in such a short series of events, everyone contributes. Hartikainen jumped into the play right off the faceoff, putting pressure on Michalek and ultiamtely scoring at the end. Smyth makes the deflection. Nugent-Hopkins pressures Ekman-Larsson, preventing a potentially better pass or a clear. Schultz makes a quick shot. Even Hemsky, uninvolved in the scoring play, needed to be where he was – had Moss blocked the shot or beaten Schultz to the puck, Hemsky would have been vital as the last man back.
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