Deslauriers' time to shine

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:38 AM ET

NASHVILLE -- Barry Trotz was talking about his own goaltending tandem of Pekka Rinne and Dan Ellis, but the warning resonated all the way to Edmonton.

"If you can't get games and wins from your second goaltender, you're not going to make the playoffs, plain and simple," said the Nashville coach.

"There's too much at stake and there's too little wiggle room."

Nobody appreciates that more than the Oilers.

If Nikolai Khabibulin sticks to his schedule and plays no more than 60 games this season, then Jeff Deslauriers, ready or not, will be responsible for winning or losing 40 or 50 points, which might as well be a million on a team that usually makes or misses the playoffs by one or two.

If he isn't any good, Edmonton won't make it past April 11. Plain and simple.

Last night against Nashville, in his first start of the season, Deslauriers was everything they wanted him to be and more in a 6-1 whitewash in Music City.

"He was our star tonight, no question about it," said head coach Pat Quinn, whose club improved to 3-1-1 and hasn't lost in regulation since the ill-fated home opener.

"Early in the game we had some rough shifts and he was really sharp, got us a chance to get the early goal, and then we had some hot sticks going."

The scoreboard suggests Edmonton thoroughly dominated this one, that the Oilers could have put a stickman in net and still been OK, but the Predators were all over them. The Oilers were actually outshot 41-20, but Deslauriers made the big saves that Rinne couldn't.

"He hasn't played too many bad games since he's been here, when you think about it," said Oilers captain Ethan Moreau.

"The times he's been in he's played well. It gives us a lot of confidence being able to go to him because in this league the travel and the schedule are so hard, we need two goalies."

Up front, Zack Stortini led the way with two goals and a marathon fight with Triston Grant in the first period.

"He set the tone for us, that was one of the better games out of an Oiler in a long time," said Moreau.

"A great fight and two really good goals, skilled goals. That really got us going."

The fortunes of a season are a lot to put on the shoulders of a goalie with a grand total of 11 NHL games on his resume, but nobody seems too worried about it.

"That's what I want, every goalie wants to have a big role on the team," said Deslauriers, who helped Edmonton weather an early Nashville storm and punctuated his evening with a highlight reel poke check on Steve Sullivan's third-period breakaway.

"I'm pretty happy about the win; I couldn't ask for a better start.

"Now I have to continue it."

With Sheldon Souray and Steve Staios out with concussions and the Oilers playing a team that had beaten them seven straight times (and 11 of the previous 12), this one had beat-down written all over it.

Only it was Edmonton, not Nashville, that was supposed to be searching the ruins for their teeth.

"We had some key guys missing, but everybody played hard," said Stortini.

"It's tough beating these guys, they always play well, so it was nice to get our first road win of the year in this building."

Despite early pressure from Nashville, Shawn Horcoff and Gilbert Brule had the Oilers up 2-0 by the 11-minute mark.

Stortini's pair made it 4-0 after 20 and goals from Andrew Cogliano and Denis Grebeshkov iced it.

The Predators finally got to Deslauriers on their 25th shot, a deflection by Jason Arnott at 19:11 of the second period.

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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