Give the Edmonton Oilers credit, they were much more competitive against the San Jose Sharks this time around. In losing 3-2 to the Sharks, the Oilers salvaged some pride after being destroyed 6-3 in their home opener against the Sharks last month, with all six of the goals being scored in an absolute first-period meltdown by the Oilers. They were more balanced as a team this time despite making some key errors, and that bodes well for their future.
The Oilers played more calmly and patiently last night, and outside of a 39 second lapse in concentration in the second period which allowed the Sharks to score twice, they played pretty well. They got beautiful goals from stars (Taylor Hall) and surprising ones from unheralded role players (Mark Fistric).
Jeff Petry, Justin Schultz and Nick Schultz played sound defense, which largely offset the gaffes by, and poor defense of, Ryan Whitney and Ladislav Smid. With Shawn Horcoff out because of an injury, Eric Belanger stepped in and played solid two-way hockey on the third line (he was the only Oilers center to win more faceoffs than he lost), while emergency call-up Anton Lander did fine as the fourth-line center. Devan Dubnyk stood on his head throughout much of the game, and considering the number of times he was left defenseless the Sharks could easily have won this game in regulation.
It is a credit to this young and growing team that they took the Sharks all the way to a shootout the night after a draining overtime victory against the Phoenix Coyotes. The Oilers are not without their flaws, and a lot of things will still have to go right for them this season in order for them to have hopes of making the playoffs, but for right now they find themselves tied for first in the Northwest Division with the Minnesota Wild, and even if that’s just at the seven-game mark, that is cause for celebration. Of equal importance is the fact they have secured three out of a possible four points so far on this road trip and can make it five out of six when the trip concludes tomorrow night in Denver against the Colorado Avalanche.