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GAME STORY: Oilers 4, Ducks 0

Cam Talbot earned his fourth shutout of the season, as the Oilers beat the Ducks 4-0

by Ryan Frankson / EdmontonOilers.com

Video: OILERS TODAY | at Ducks Post-Game

ANAHEIM, CA - The Oilers scored three times in the middle frame en route to a 4-0 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday to secure a huge two-point bump in the Pacific Division standings.

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Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Zack Kassian found the back of the net in the pivotal second period, while Cam Talbot finished the night with 26 saves for his fourth shutout of the season.

"He was unbelievable again for us," Draisaitl said of Talbot shutting the door for his 25th victory. "He gives us a chance to win every night. You can't really ask for much more from your goaltender… We played a good game, but I think we gave up a little too much, he was there for us and it's been like that the whole season. We're very, very happy to have him back there."

"We needed him," Head Coach Todd McLellan echoed. "I thought he was sharp. The rest he's had over the last little bit looks like it's been good for him. He made some really tough saves to allow us to get into the game. We weren't on our toes to begin with, but that's what good goaltending does and he certainly provided it tonight."

With important leverage atop the division up for grabs, the Oilers and Ducks expected a playoff-like game, and that's exactly what they delivered in the opening 20 minutes.

The first period was tight-checking with just 13 shots combined between the two teams, but bodies were flying all over the ice as 23 hits were doled out. Former Duck Patrick Maroon was heavily involved in the physical play, leading the Oilers with three hits, including crushing Hampus Lindholm and Joseph Cramarossa into the boards seconds apart.

Just after the first Oilers power play of the game expired midway through the period, Anaheim got a pair of prime scoring chances, but Talbot made back-to-back highlight-reel saves. The Oilers netminder first denied Nick Ritchie with his blocker on a two-on-one rush, then slid across his crease to prevent Antoine Vermette from lighting the lamp shortly thereafter.

"When you make those saves at the beginning of the game, it's a confidence booster moving forward," Talbot said. "The guys build off that and we were able to find our game legs after that in a tough building against a tough opponent. Give our guys a lot of credit for sticking with it, potting some big goals tonight and closing it out."

The Oilers opened the scoring at 5:33 of the middle frame, with Draisaitl depositing his 18th of the season to tie Maroon for the team lead. After the Ducks failed to clear the puck, Draisaitl fed Connor McDavid with a pass to the slot and the captain put it right back on his linemate's stick. His first shot was blocked but he converted on the second attempt.

With the helper, his league-leading 40th of the season, McDavid extended his reign atop the NHL scoring race to three with his 57th point.

The Oilers were just getting started with Draisaitl's goal, however, as they beat John Gibson twice more in the second to take a commanding 3-0 leading into the final frame

With 2:05 remaining in the period, Milan Lucic cut across the offensive zone and dropped a pass to Nugent-Hopkins, who ripped a wrist shot on net that bounced off Lindholm's leg and through Gibson's five-hole for RNH's 11th of the season. Anton Slepyshev also picked up a helper on the 2-0 tally.

Then, with just 16 seconds to go in the second, Kassian scored one of the prettiest Oilers goals of the year. The winger beat a pair of Ducks to a loose puck in the Anaheim zone, chipped it into open ice, burst in on the goalie, deked quickly to his forehand and snuck a backhand shot just inside the post for his fifth of the season.

"When he uses his legs and gets in on the forecheck, he can be dangerous," McLellan said. "He out-skated a couple guys and made a real smart play to poke the puck. We're happy for him. When he scores, the bench really takes a lot of joy in it."

It took Edmonton just 1:34 to keep the goals coming in the third as the Maroon-McDavid-Draisaitl line got the cycle going in the Ducks zone. Andrej Sekera passed the puck to Maroon down in the corner, and the big winger zipped it right back to Draisaitl, who rifled a one-timer underneath Gibson's pad for his second of the night and team-leading 19th of the season.

"We've been playing really good and creating," Draisaitl said of his trio. "It's a lot of fun playing with those two guys."

In addition to McDavid holding down top spot in the NHL scoring race, Draisaitl has moved up to 13th with 44 points, including a five-game point streak and seven in his last nine games.

The Oilers will look for a carbon-copy result with another massive Pacific Division battle on tap Thursday night as they visit the first-place San Jose Sharks. With San Jose idle on Wednesday, the Oilers (62 points), Ducks (63 points) and Sharks (64 points) are neck-and-neck atop the division standings.

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