EDMONTON - It probably would have been fitting if Tom Gilbert had scored the overtime winner instead of Ryan Whitney, considering everything he’s touching is turning into gold lately.
On Wednesday, Gilbert set up a pair of goals in the Oilers 5-4 overtime victory over the Colorado Avalanche. Moments before Whitney scored the winner in overtime, Gilbert had a glorious chance to end the game, jumping into the rush and firing a shot that goaltender Peter Budaj managed to stop.
Either way, Gilbert has regained his offensive touch.
“I thought I’d never find it,” Gilbert said. “It starts in the defensive zone. I think Ryan and I have been doing a great job getting the puck up the ice and when you get it moving, things open up. I’ve just been able to get in the right spots at the right time.”
The two assists gave Gilbert 12 points in his last nine games. He now has 27 points on the season.
“I'd like to think that previously in the year I was still playing well, but the bounces just weren’t coming,” Gilbert said. “I wasn’t getting those passes through and we weren’t scoring as much.
“But if the team is playing well, it makes such a difference getting the puck up to those forwards and getting it in deep. It opens up everything on the ice. I think right now the team is playing well, which allows me and the other guys to get more offensive.”
Gilbert started the Oilers' comeback by setting up Shawn Horcoff with a cross-crease pass on the power play. The goal got the Oilers on the board after they fell behind 3-0.
Gilbert then sprung Dustin Penner with a long breakaway feed, helping the Oilers cut the deficit to one before the end of the first period.
“I knew Tom was a good player, but he’s so smart with the puck,” said Whitney. “I’ve never seen a guy make so many good passes. I thought one of the strengths of my game was breakout passes, but that’s something he’s unbelievable at. He’s a guy that can have someone draped all over him and still be able to hit a guy at centre with a small spot to aim at. It helps create lot of odd-man rushes for us.
“He’s a very good NHL defenceman and I know it’s been a tough year for everyone around here, but I’m really looking forward to playing with him all year next year, he’s a really good player.”
With the Oilers currently thin on the blue-line, a lot has been asked of Gilbert heading down the stretch. He has thrived with the arrival of Whitney at the trade deadline.
“I think we play pretty similar and that helps,” Whitney said. “Neither of us are really puck rushers, but we’ll move it up in the attack. He’s easy to play with, he talks a lot and sometimes you just find guys that are easy to mesh with.”