Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Oilers Pull It Out in Third Period

The first 48 minutes of tonight's game didn't look especially good for the Edmonton Oilers.

Certainly, there were some good things about it: for one thing, Jordan Eberle's play. He didn't score any goals or rack up any assists, but he did create several quality scoring opportunities -- including an early shot that rang off the goalpost.

The first 6:39 of the game were especially bad, as the Oilers were severely out-played by the Islanders. Perhaps the Isles were energized by the long-awaited presence of Jonathon Tavares in their lineup (playing alongside Doug Weight), or perhaps the Oilers -- icing many more veterans and stars than their opponents -- simply came to the rink with a false sense of security.

The play of Islanders goaltender Nathan Lawson was certainly a factor, as he turned away a golden opportunity by Ales Hemsky, and stoned the Oilers power play on four separate occasions throughout the first two periods.

When the Oilers finally tied the game it game on a goal by Dustin Penner. A few minutes later Sam Gagner smuggled a backhand shot behind Lawson to pull ahead.

The Islanders would tie the game again on a wrist shot, only to have Sheldon Souray chug into the slot and score the game winning goal on a backhander.

Gagner and Souray both also notched assists to have a two-point night, and Andrew Cogliano, Robbie Nilsson and Hemsky also put up assists.

This Oilers squad -- the only two players to compete in last night's game were Devan Dubnyk and Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers -- at least doesn't seem to have the penalty troubles that the road squad seems to have.

Souray dominated the puck, firing several heavy bombs off the point (including one almost directly into the Islanders' Richard Park). If he maintains his pace tonight throughout the season, Souray may eclipse the 26 goals he scored for the Montreal Canadiens in 2006-07.

But, again, the competition tonight was far from NHL-calibre. Jordan Eberle managed to outshine Jonathon Tavares as the best player on the ice -- better even than Hemsky -- but one shouldn't necessarily expect that to continue as the Oilers face tougher and tougher competition as the pre-season progresses.

One should remember also that the Oilers will face the Islanders again, in Saskatoon, later in the preseason. That will be a big game for Eberle, as it's just up the highway from his hometown of Regina.

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