January 3, 2012
Oilers ground Blackhawks
By DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency
CHICAGO - They weren’t talking how, but how many heading into the contest.
Having blown out the Chicago Blackhawks in the previous meeting, the Edmonton Oilers were expecting to face a motivated opponent.
As it turns out, the Oilers had some motivation of their own, pulling out a 4-3 victory and snapping a three-game losing skid in the process.
Ryan Smyth, Taylor Hall, Andy Sutton and Ben Eager scored for the Oilers, while Jonathan Toews, Andrew Brunette and Jimmy Hayes countered for the Blackhawks.
“It’s great, we needed it,” said Sutton. “That’s the way we played at the start of the year. What’s so complicated about playing that way? Just don’t turn the puck over, be tenacious on the puck and the results speak for themselves.”
Aiding the Oilers get the victory was a five-minute boarding penalty on Blackhawks winger Daniel Carcillo, who hammered defenceman Tom Gilbert into the end boards.
Both players were racing back for the puck and both had to leave the game with leg injuries.
The Oilers also lost Ryan Nugent Hopkins, who fell and left the arena with his left arm in a sling.
“I don’t know what happened, maybe there was a sniper in the press box,” said Oilers head coach Tom Renney about Nugent-Hopkins. “He just fell down. In talking to him he thought he caught an edge.”
Regardless, despite not having Nugent-Hopkins after the first period, the Oilers capitalized on their extended advantage with a pair of goals to take a second-period lead.
“I think the hits speaks for itself and the penalty does as well,” said Renney. “At least to his point it has been addressed and I hoped it’s looked at even further.”
Smyth scored 16 seconds into the advantage, while Hall added another just over three minutes later.
Sutton then restored the Oilers lead, after Andrew Brunette had tied the contest on a tip in front of goaltender Devan Dubnyk.
The Oilers defenceman slipped into the slot undetected, took a behind-the-back pass from Jordan Eberle and snapped a shot over the shoulder of goaltender Corey Crawford.
“Ebs is a great heads-up player and we’ve been talking about getting him to curl and hit the late guy,” said Sutton. “He found me twice, actually. The first time I should have shot it, but I tried to slide it backdoor to Hallsy. Ebs is a great player and I was just trying to get open for him.
“I guess I knew where I was going with the shot, I might have blacked out, what happened?”
Eager extended the Oilers lead in the third period, taking a pass from Jeff Petry in the slot and firing a backhand past Crawford.
The Oilers winger redeemed himself after a tough afternoon in Long Island Saturday, taking three penalties in that contest, two of which were scored on.
“Obviously the last game was disappointing, I wasn’t happy with how I played and costs the team with bad penalties,” Eager said. “It would have been nice to play the next day so I could bounce back. Tonight I wanted to come with a good effort and I was fortunate to score a goal and it happened to be a big one.”
Dubnyk also had a redemption game, bouncing back strong after giving up four goals on nine shots in the loss to the Islanders.
The Oilers goaltender turned away 39 shots, 22 in the third period alone to preserve the victory.
“It feels real good,” Dubnyk said. “It was pretty exciting to get the opportunity. It was nice for Tom to give me a chance to get back in here. We talked about how we needed this one. We battled hard for the whole game. It was fun, there were definitely some nerves for me at the start, which isn’t a bad thing. I settled in nice, I just didn’t want to let anything bother me all night and I thought I did that.”
It was expected Renney would go back to Khabibulin for the contest, but he decided to give Dubnyk an opportunity to get back on the horse.
“You have to give guys an opportunity,” said Renney. “Maybe down the road, when we’re closer to a finished product in terms of our team, you can bench a guy or put him in the press box. I think you have to give guys an opportunity to learn from a tough circumstance, battle through it, gain some confidence in himself and move forward. Oftentimes, people deserve a second chance.”