The Pittsburgh Penguins felt as though they had their third win a row locked up late in the 3rd period last night in Edmonton. The young Oilers had no answers for goalie Brent Johnson. And after 55 minutes were played, it appeared as though the Oilers were going to be shut out in their home opener and first game of the season. But with 4 minutes and 55 seconds left in the game, rookie Ryan Nugent Hopkins hoped on his own rebound to tie the game at 1 and send it into overtime. It was a big goal, but not merely because it tied the game. It was the first NHL goal for this past summers number one draft pick, one he is not likely to forget any time soon. After the game, the rookie had these comments on his historic goal:
“Going into the game I was really nervous, but I tried to use that to my advantage,” said Nugent-Hopkins, who played his first NHL regular-season game. “It felt pretty good. … It was really exciting. But, I’m more excited about the win.” – USA Today
The game was filled with penalities, but the Penguins were the only team to capitalize with the man advantage. Kris Letang scored his first of the season just 3 minutes into the game. Steve Sullivan and Tyler Kennedy drew the assists. But Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk was able to shut the door the rest of the way, giving his team the chance to get back in it. He saved 33 of 34 shots, while the Oilers threw 35 at Brent Johnson.
Overtime solved nothing, and there was a sense heading into the shoot-out that the skill of the Oilers would shine. The first shooter for Edmonton was Jordan Eberle, and he made no mistake to put the Oilers up 1-0. Dubnyk shut the door on Kris Letang, and then Ales Hemsky buried it to put Edmonton up 2-0. James Neal scored to keep the Pens alive, and Linus Omark missed the net to put the pressure on Steve Sullivan. He couldn’t get it past Dubnyk and the Oilers skated off to an opening night victory.
The fact that Taylor Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, and Magnus Paajarvi were still sitting on the bench for the shoot-out shows the kind of fire power this team has. They may be young, but there is enough skill in that line-up to strike some real fear in opposing teams. The Oilers have the tools to be a team that no one wants to see in the shoot-out. And those points will be very valuable as Edmonton starts their fight to climb the standings.