SUN Hockey Pool

Youth on full display

Oilers' Kyle Brodziak (left) and Matt Greene celebrate Brodziak's goal against the Sharks during...

Oilers' Kyle Brodziak (left) and Matt Greene celebrate Brodziak's goal against the Sharks during third period action on Thursday. (Sun Media/Darryl Dyck)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:15 AM ET

Whoever thinks youth is wasted on the young certainly wasn't at Rexall Place last night.

With sweaty palms, butterflies in their stomachs and a sold out crowd as nervous for them as they were for themselves, the kids were all right.

Actually, they were more than all right - they were some of the best, most exciting players on the ice, for either team, in a 3-2 shootout win over the San Jose Sharks.

Andrew Cogliano, Sam Gagner, Robert Nilsson, Tom Gilbert and Kyle Brodziak stole the show.

"It was a fun game for everybody," said head coach Craig MacTavish. "I was a little worried about how nervous we'd be going into the first game, but we settled down."

And turned it up. It's been a long time since an Oilers team had this much jump, or brought their fans to the edges of their seats as frequently as they did last night.

PRAISE FOR THE KIDS

"Gagner played pretty well, Brodziak scored a big goal for us, Gilbert scored a goal and Nilsson scored in the shootout," said Cogliano. "All the young guys contributed and that's a good start for the team. It just puts a lot of confidence, not only in the coaches, but in the players' minds, that we're ready."

Granted, it was only one game, with adrenaline and home-ice advantage contributing heavily to the scene, but the fab five was all over the place, and it was pretty to watch.

How much fun was it to play?

"Tons," grinned Cogliano, who was out there in four-on-four overtime.

"It was unbelievable. Being in on that goal for Gilbert, you can't explain it. It was a moment I'll never forget. I still can't really believe I played in this game."

After San Jose opened the scoring early in the third period, the kids came back to tie it just 1:11 later - Gilbert from Cogliano and Gagner at 1:37.

A few seconds after that, Brodziak made it 2-1, sneaking past Evgeni Nabokov to bury a rebound.

After Joe Thornton forced OT with a power play goal in the final minute, Nilsson scored in the shootout, setting up Jarret Stoll's shootout winner in the fourth round.

By that time, the crowd had seen enough to know that this season is going to be a lot more fun than last season was.

THEY CAN BREATHE NOW

"It's a little bit of a burden off our shoulders," said Gilbert. "We're all excited and we're all working hard. Sometimes it pays off. After the first couple of shifts, guys settled down and that's when we started picking the pace up."

All in all, a pretty positive lid-lifter all around. The Oilers showed plenty of energy and youthful exuberance.

There was lots of grit and hustle. Plenty of skill and speed. Dwayne Roloson looks great, Ales Hemsky looks fantastic and Raffi Torres and Jarret Stoll look like they're going to be a handful all season.

But all eyes were on the kids last night, and they didn't disappoint. MacTavish says they'll all continue to develop at their own pace, but likes what he saw.

"They were really good. I don't think Sam played that much, but that's going to change in a hurry if he keeps playing like that. He makes smart plays. He looks small, but he's got hands and he's got a head.

"Cogliano broke through a couple of times ... Nilsson was really good, created lots. A pretty good night."

Roloson stopped 28 of 30 San Jose shots and three of four in the shootout in the victory ... Hemsky, who's often been accused of dishing the puck too much, led the team with five shots on net.


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