Curtis Joseph might be the answer for the Edmonton Oilers goaltending woes at the NHL trade deadline, but Curtis Sanford had all the answers against them last night at Rexall Place.
Having beaten the Oilers 5-4 in a shootout before the Olympic break, Sanford made 35 saves in an encore for his fifth straight win, a 4-2 verdict, on a night Craig MacTavish's team deserved a better fate, but lost their fourth straight because they were outplayed between the pipes.
"We know at this level when you get outplayed in net, it's tough to win," lamented MacTavish. "Maybe they had five chances in the game and four goals. You're not going to win a lot of hockey games when you're giving that amount of goals up."
The Oilers outshot the Blues 37-12, but the 26-year-old Sanford, playing in just his 37th NHL game, one-upped Jussi Markkanen and made two goals by Scott Young and singles by Keith Tkachuk and Jay McClement, with the winner 17:05 into the second period, stand up.
Out of contention in the Western Conference, the Blues are suddenly on a 5-0-1 roll, while the Oilers are headed the other way after a defeat in which Markkanen didn't play badly, but couldn't match Sanford.
"We had a lot of chances but we didn't score. The chances they got, they scored and won the game," said Jarret Stoll.
"When that happens, it's disappointing. I probably had three good chances and didn't bear down and put them in the net. They go down, get one chance and it's in the back of our net."
Despite a 16-day lay-off, playing without injured veterans Michael Peca, Ethan Moreau and Jason Smith among others, the Oilers had plenty of jump and most of the play in the first, out-shooting the Blues 13-4.
But when Tkachuk waltzed around Chris Pronger and tucked a puck past Markkanen at 6:16, and Young found twine with a slapshot from the point on a power play at 10:04 for a 2-0 lead, this one looked like an encore of Feb. 12, when Mike Morrison gave up two goals on the first five shots he faced.
"We got off to a tough start again," Pronger said. "We continue to shoot ourselves in the foot and have to claw our way back. We had chances in the second and third period but came up a little short."
GOT TO SANFORD
The Blues led 3-0 after McClement banged a rebound past Markkanen before Sanford finally gave the Oilers a sniff when Pronger blew a slapper past him on a 5-on-3 power play late in the second period.
With Morrison taking over from Markkanen to start the third period and the Blues on their heels - they were outshot 11-2 in the final frame - the Oilers later cut it to 3-2 on a deflection, but Young closed the deal with his second with just 1:29 remaining.