The Edmonton Oilers needed the kind of performance they got from Cam Talbot against the Boston Bruins at the TD Garden to kick-off a four-game road trip Monday. Likewise, Talbot needed exactly the kind of performance he delivered in a 3-2 overtime win.
It was the kind of game that could’ve and probably should’ve got away from the Oilers well before the second intermission. Had that happened, it might have meant the crease getting away from Talbot, who instead served notice he isn’t nearly ready to loosen a tenuous grip on the blue paint yet.
With Anders Nilsson having snatched the starting job away, Talbot, making his first start since Nov. 27, made a career-high 47 saves to baffle the Bruins, backstop the Oilers to their sixth straight win and begin to re-stake a claim to a job most observers thought was his going into this season.
After sitting on the end of the bench, cheerleading and watching Nilsson eat his lunch over the course of seven straight starts, Talbot stole two points for the Oilers and injected some drama into the competition in the crease for the first time in several weeks.
MONEY WHEN IT MATTERED
“It was a big confidence builder for me,” Talbot told Sportsnet host Gene Principe. “I think that might have been my best game all year.”
Rather than force Talbot to shake off the rust against his former team in New York tonight, Todd McLellan handed him the keys against the Bruins. It did not necessarily set up well for Talbot, who’d had his confidence drained with losses in his last four appearances.
Talbot was less-than-stellar in all of those games, posting save percentages of .875, .857, .857 and .844. Had Talbot done another face-plant in Boston, it’s anybody’s guess when McLellan might have gone back to the guy GM Pete Chiarelli gave up three draft picks to get.
While this performance – his 47 saves on 49 shots is .959 — doesn’t put Talbot back on even footing with Nilsson, it at least gives him a shot of confidence in a season that had seen him win just three times before beating the Bruins. Having joined the Oilers with a career .931 saves percentage, Talbot was a modest .889 this season when he took the crease in Boston.
TAKE THE POINTS
The Oilers have played well in a handful of games that they’ve lost this season, which is cold consolation. Has there been another night in the first 31 games when they were outplayed as badly as they were by the Bruins and still got away with two points? I don’t recall one.
The Bruins outshot the Oilers 7-1 to start the first period before Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins made it 2-0 against the flow of the play. The Oilers were outshot 10-0 to start the second period, before Matt Beleskey cut it to 2-1, and 18-3 overall.
“We were able to weather the storm early and get a couple quick goals, but then I think we kind of sat back a little bit and let them dictate the play,” said Talbot, whose previous career high for saves in a game was 38. “They’re too good of a team to allow that.”
“It seemed pretty busy for most of the night. The first period, not too bad. They started off pretty quick and then they kind of slowed down and we turned the page on them. During the second and third it seemed like we were hemmed in our end a little bit.”
McLellan was more direct: “We’re a smart group of players but we know we stole one here.”
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.
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