Oilers are suddenly red hot

DEREK VAN DIEST, Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:10 PM ET

Far too often this season, the Edmonton Oilers couldn’t buy a victory at Rexall Place.

In fact, they were coming up with new and inventive ways to blow leads and lose games that they otherwise should have won.

Now, with nothing concrete left to play for, the Oilers suddenly can’t lose at home.

On Tuesday, they won their third consecutive game on home ice beating the Vancouver Canucks 3-2. They have also beaten the San Jose Sharks and Detroit Red Wings in that span. They can make is four straight when the Anaheim Ducks come to town on Friday.

“We kind of want to build a home presence and when teams come in, we want them to know it’s going to be a battle for a full 60 minutes,” said defenceman Tom Gilbert. “That’s the way it should be. I think that we play a better game at home and that we are playing a full 60 minutes. We’re doing the right things, we’re taking the body, taking less penalties, getting pucks in deep when we need to, and just playing a smart game. That’s been the biggest difference against these teams.”

The victory over the Canucks marked the first time the Oilers have won three straight at Rexall since October. It’s the first time they’ve won more than two consecutive games since claiming all five games of a road trip in December.

Even though it falls into the category of too little, too late, it does give the team something to feel good about in an otherwise miserable season.

“I think we’ve been playing very well lately, our goaltending has been awesome that’s been a major part of the reason why we’re winning,” said Oilers centre Andrew Cogliano, who scored the game winner against the Canucks. “Dubie (Devan Dubnyk) and JD (Jeff Deslauriers) have been playing great. They’re giving us a chance to win every night and we’re scoring. The lines are connecting pretty well and I think we’re rolling all four and doing a good job.”

Dubnyk was to get the start against the Canucks, allowing him to go for his third consecutive victory. However, the rookie puck stopper came down sick, making way for Deslauriers who turned aside 31 shots in the win.

“JD played great,” said Oilers defenceman Tom Gilbert. “He made a lot of back door saves that are going to show up on the TV highlights. There were a couple of saves where we were in awe, we didn’t know how the puck didn’t go in the net. He played great for us.”

The Oilers weren’t too shabby themselves, even though they got a lot of help from Luongo who had an off night, giving up three soft goals.

Regardless, when the Canucks came at them in the third period, the Oilers were able to hold on for the victory unlike so many times in the past.

“We had our scary moments, but that happens. Even good teams have their moments where you have to fight through some stuff and on a lot of nights we couldn’t fight through it,” said Oilers head coach Pat Quinn. “(Tuesday) our guys did. Goaltending helps also, and we’ve gotten really good goaltending in the last little bit. You can gain control of that fear when you’re out in front and not play afraid if you’re not worry about the next shot that’s taken on net.

“(Deslauriers) made one real big toe save at the end. I accused him of wanting to get his save percentage back up because he kept throwing the puck around the boards at the end. He was real sharp and confident and in mental control. Our guys battled had all night long, I like how they played around him.”

Deslauriers' play and the Oilers' winning streak presents a bit of a dilemma for Quinn and his coaching staff for Friday's game. Originally, the plan was to keep going with the one goaltender until they lost.

Now both have won their previous starts.

“We’ll figure that out, I’m not sure what we’re going to do,” Quinn said.

“We had pretty much planned to go with Devan and then alter the policy from there. That’s where we are now, we’ll have to decide what might be the fairest way to go here. JD had an excellent game and you’d like to say his reward would be to go with him the next game, but we’re not sure where we’re going with that yet.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca


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