February 24, 2012
Oilers shut out Flyers
By ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency
EDMONTON - The Philadelphia Flyers are fighting for home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, while all that’s left for Edmonton to fight for is some of the respect that’s been lost after three straight seasons in the NHL gutter.
But despite having nothing tangible to play for, it was the lowly Oilers who looked like they wanted it more Thursday night at Rexall Place.
In 29th place with no hope for the spring, they’ve been enjoying the role of spoilers lately, following up their stunning upset of the Calgary Flames on Tuesday with an equally-shocking 2-0 decision over the third-best road team in the NHL.
“There’s nothing really magic about what we’re doing,” said netminder Devan Dubnyk, who pitched a 35-save shutout. “We’re using our speed, winning every single race to loose pucks, we’re coming back and creating turnovers the other way.
“It’s been great to watch and it’s fun because there’s no secret behind it and no reason why it can’t continue.”
Shawn Horcoff says it’s simply a matter of having access to all of their best players (aside from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins) instead of having six or seven guys on IR.
“Really, once we got healthy we’ve been a pretty good team since then,” said the captain. “When we’ve lost lately it’s been our own fault, the effort wasn’t there. But when we’re skating we’re tough to handle. When we have our legs we’re pretty solid.”
They had them Thursday. The Oilers opened with a pretty good road period, slowing the game down and taking the crowd out of it to escape the first with a 0-0 tie against a much better team.
Moral victory, to be sure.
They then began to separate themselves from the visitors in the second, with goals from Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle to take a 2-0 lead into the second intermission.
The Flyers fought hard in the third, outshooting Edmonton 15-6, but Dubnyk and the Oilers wouldn’t budge.
“We’re a good team,” said Eberle. “Maybe our record doesn’t show it, but we’re capable of playing with the best teams, and beating them, we’ve shown that we can.
“Our problem is consistency. But when we play our game the way we can we can roll with the best of them.”
He’s not kidding.
The Oilers are 7-4-2 in their last 13 and have beaten Philly, Calgary, Chicago and Detroit in that stretch, and took Vancouver to overtime.
When they look at how they’re going, they can’t help wondering what might have been had they managed to stay a little healthier, managed to somehow find five or six more wins amid the chaos and frustration of the first 60.
Eight or 10 more points and they’re right in the mix.
“It’s too bad,” said Dubnyk. “You never want to blame injuries, but they certainly didn’t help us. It’s a lesson that there really can’t be that lapse in the middle of the season.
“They always say you can’t make the playoffs at the start of the season but you can certainly lose out on them. We kind of got taught that lesson this year. We went on that lapse, had a bit of a losing run and dug too big of a hole. We need to push this year and keep playing and take it as a lesson and make sure we don’t do it again.”
That’s the plan.
“All we can control is the way we finish the season,” said Horcoff. “Really try to make a statement for ourselves and everybody else about what kind of team we’re going to be next year.”
LATE HITS: Philly’s frustration level began to show, and reached a boiling late in the second period when Scott Hartnell stuck a knee out on Oilers sophomore Magnus Paajarvi, who left the game with a leg injury.
Hartnell was lucky to get away with just a two-minute minor.
“I was just finishing my check,” said Hartnell. “It was the end of a long shift and part of my game is being physical. Hopefully he is all right. I don’t really know what happened to him. But it wasn’t my intent to injure.
“It’s a fast game out there and things happen quick.”