Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Oilers dodge a bullet

They gave up a two goal lead in less than seventeen seconds, survived a game ending scare and eventually preserved enough to take game three from the Detroit Red Wings by a score of 4-3. Oh and by the way, they played not one but into a second overtime period before things were settled in Edmonton.

For most of the game the Oilers had managed to once again shut down the most offensive oriented squad in the NHL, keeping the Wings to one goal heading into the third period but with a quick couple of goals the Wings were back in the hunt, and the Oilers began to feel the heat of taking on the league’s best team.

Detroit seemed to gain control of the third period after those two quick goals and the Oilers could only seem to hang on and hope they could avoid the kind of mistake that puts a game away. In fact, for many in the rink the game seemed over in the first over time period, as the Wings recovered from a scare in their own end of the rink to charge down the ice and have Jason Williams put a shot on net that seemed to be in, but after video review proved to have actually gone under the padding at the side of the net.

With that bullet dodged the Oilers managed to avoid any more drama until the second over time frame. Close to half way through the second OT Jarret Stoll sent everyone but Red Wing fans home happy as he fired a shot past Manny Legace to bring to an end the Oilers third longest playoff game in history. Stoll’s goal came after a remarkable save by Legace on Sergei Samsanov who tried almost successfully to put a wrap around in behind the Wing goal tender, Legace took a stab at the puck as it went by him but couldn’t react in time to stop Stoll’s shot and keep the OT rolling along.

The loss puts the Wings in what is becoming a familiar position for them in first round series; once again they trail a series many felt they would dominate. The Wings now need to rally and equalize things on Thursday, turning this best of seven into a best of three winner take all competition.

For Edmonton the lesson of Tuesday night is simple, a full effort for sixty minutes will be required to knock off the league leading Wings. The Oilers changed their style of play in the third, playing too tentative and allowing the Wings to bring the play into their end of the rink far too often. Fore checking and ice control will be a key to shutting down the Wings, allowing them to dictate the flow of the game is a recipe for disaster when playing such a high scoring squad as this. The fact that the Oilers could only manage five shots in the third tells one how much control they ceded to the Wings in the third and how close they came to frittering away a solid game of fourty minutes.

Expect coach Craig MacTavish to review the rules of the game with his players before Thursday comes around, the one rule he’ll be particularly inclined to reinforce, a game lasts sixty minutes not fourty!

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