Going into their game against the suddenly beatable Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday night, the Edmonton Oilers hadn’t scored a goal for two consecutive games and found themselves in a familiar spot: dead last in the Western Conference standings. The season started off with so much promise. There were high hopes for the Oilers. Nail Yakupov was every bit as advertised. The powerplay was clicking. The goaltending was solid. But things started to go off the rails pretty quickly, and Edmonton once again finds themselves staring at a possible lottery pick.
When a hockey team is in a bad stretch, it’s best not to focus on where they are in the standings, or how far they have to climb. But rather they need to take it shift by shift, and period by period to try to improve the little aspects of their game. A week ago, a tilt against the Chicago Blackhawks would have been the worst sight for a team struggling as much as the Oilers have been. But after the Colorado Avalanche handed the Hawks their first regulation loss of the season on Friday night, they weren’t unbeatable anymore.
The higher you get, the longer you have to fall. In the case of the Blackhawks, they were about as high as a team could get and the first period against Edmonton proved to be quite a fall. Just over two minutes into the game, tough guy Mike Brown scored his first goal as a member of the Oilers. He wasn’t brought in for his scoring ability, but his tally sparked a four-goal first period for an Oilers team that needed to bust out of an offensive slump in a bad way.
A few seconds after Brown’s goal, Sam Gagner’s eighth of the year would put the Oilers up 2-0, leaving the crowd in Chicago stunned. Ryan Whitney scored a few minutes later, and Sam Gagner would follow that up with his second of the night on the powerplay to give the Oil a commanding 4-0 lead. But, as is the case with the 2013 Chicago Blackhawks, this game was far from over. Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa both scored early in the second to cut the Oilers lead in half. Edmonton would give themselves some breathing room as Shawn Horcoff potted his second of the year on the powerplay. But Chicago scored two minutes later to close the gap once again.
It was quite a see-saw battle in the second frame as Taylor Hall’s powerplay marker gave the Oilers a 6-3 before Brent Seabrook would pull the Hawks within two. The third period held much less drama as Patrick Kane’s powerplay goal was the only score of the final 20 minutes. The last 10 minutes of this game were tense but the Oilers were able to hold on and break their losing streak with a 6-5 victory.
“We took a lot of pride in how we came out in this game. To come out and get a win against a team like that, we’re very proud.” – Taylor Hall. “We just wanted to keep things calm. We were prepared for that, we know they’re a good team.” – Sam Gagner. “I thought all 6 of our goals were well-executed and well-deserved.” – Coach Krueger. (Edmonton Oilers)
Beating the best team in the league, and putting six on the board in the process, is obviously a huge confidence booster for the club. The game wasn’t all positive, as goalie Devan Dubnyk was hurt and had to leave the game. The severity is not yet known, but the team is hopeful it’s not a head injury.
The Oilers needed this win. They needed to bust out with some goals. It might not be enough to jump-start this team into contention, but considering how things have been lately, this was the best the Oilers could have hoped for. Who knows where it may lead.