SUN Hockey Pool

Reelin' in a big one

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:16 AM ET

SAN JOSE -- The San Jose Sharks took a look at all the kids on Edmonton's blue line last night - a crew so inexperienced it was more of a green line - and had to be licking their chops.

Sixty bewildering minutes later, they were licking their wounds.

In a game that had slaughter written all over it, the Oilers built a stunning 3-0 lead in the first 11:19, then spent the rest of the night hanging on for dear life.

Now, pulling a towel over your head, curling up in a ball and hoping the clock runs out is not a very good way to manage a lead, especially when there's 48 minutes left in the game. But darn if it didn't work.

"It helps when you give yourself a three-goal lead," said defenceman Marc-Andre Bergeron, after a nail-biting 3-2 victory.

"I know we've blown a couple of them lately, but we played a great team game.

DAMAGED DEFENCE

"We all knew our defence corps was damaged, so the guys out there battled hard. It's not the easiest lineup with three D-men out, so we're proud of what we accomplished."

It was definitely a night when the Sharks deserved better, outshooting Edmonton 34-16 despite getting the short end of the power play stick (7-1 Edmonton through 40 and 9-4 through 60).

"It was a wild one," said MacTavish. "We were pretty precise on our passing early on the power play, got off to the lead and were defending pretty well.

"We spent a fair bit of time in our zone, but we were in the right spots.

"It was a pretty gritty effort by a lot of guys."

This wasn't the way it was supposed to go. With Steve Staios, Daniel Tjarnqvist and Ladislav Smid injured, the Oilers were desperately shallow on defence.

Combine the career games of four of their starting six defencemen Matt Greene (68), Jan Hejda (14), Mathieu Roy (3), and Tom Gilbert (0) and they could barely scrape together a full season.

They knew they were in for a struggle. And the defence didn't waste any time making a difference, in a good way.

Bergeron scored on Edmonton's first shot of the game and Mathieu Roy made it 2-0 on their third.

Then, with Edmonton on the man advantage, Jarret Stoll scored on that half-boards play they like and it was 3-0 on five shots.

"I was just trying to get it through, there were a lot of bodies in front of the net, and when it went in I was pretty happy about it,'' said Roy, who put a point shot through traffic. "Pick the corner? I was just trying to pick the net."

The Oil were as surprised as anyone how it went.

"Yeah," said Roy. "The power play did a good job getting us the lead and then at the end Rolie made some huge saves and our guys blocked shots and paid the price for those two points."

TOUGH BUILDING

"They played pretty well," MacTavish said of the green line. "Matty got a goal, Tom Gilbert was pretty good in as tough a building as there is to play in."

It's not often you see a team that almost has as many power plays (seven) as shots (nine) through 40 minutes.

But that was Edmonton. Up 3-1, they knew an avalanche of penalties, and the No.1 PP in the NHL, were coming in the third.

But the best the Sharks could do was 1-for-3 with the man advantage in the third. The rope-a-dope worked.

"We need these big wins because we've been struggling for a while," said Bergeron.

"So it's nice to get a win in a game that we maybe should have lost."

LATE HITS: Injured winger Ethan Moreau, who accompanied the team on this trip, will begin skating in the next few days. He can't practice with the team yet, for fear of a collision with the surgically repaired shoulder. He's still aiming to be back for Edmonton's final road trip of the season.


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