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GAME STORY: Oilers 4, Sharks 1

The Oilers stayed hot, downing the Sharks 4-1 in San Jose with the help of two Andrej Sekera goals

by Ryan Frankson / EdmontonOilers.com

Video: OILERS TODAY | at Sharks Post-Game

SAN JOSE, CA - The Oilers have a share of first place in the Pacific Division thanks to a 4-1 victory on Thursday over the San Jose Sharks - the team with which they're now tied.

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The Oilers take on the Minnesota Wild at home on January 31, at 7 p.m. MT. You can watch live on Sportsnet West or listen live on 630 CHED and the Oilers Radio Network. 

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Andrej Sekera scored twice, Drake Caggiula provided a key insurance marker and Cam Talbot made 32 saves to lead the Oilers to their third straight win and seventh in their last eight games.

Not only did the Oilers win both of their games heading into the NHL All-Star break, they did so on the road against the two teams (Anaheim and San Jose) they're battling with atop the division standings.

"It's a feather in the caps of our players," Head Coach Todd McLellan said. "They've bought into a system, they've bought into each other and they care about each other. To scratch and claw and win on the road in these last two games in very tough buildings is something we should be proud of and we should be confident with. But it's also only the all-star break. There's a lot of hockey left."

"Those are two really good teams we just played," Sekera added. "Everybody chipped in on both of these games and we played two really good road hockey games… We're growing as a team and starting to understand how tough it's going to be down the stretch."

The Sharks controlled most of the play in the opening frame, even though the Oilers outshot them 10-9 through 20 minutes. Logan Couture scored his 17th goal of the season at the 15:55 mark to give the home team a 1-0 lead.

Couture was the benefactor of a nifty tic-tac-toe passing play with Patrick Marleau and Mikkel Boedker, the latter of whom scored a hat-trick in the teams' previous meeting on January 10 back in Edmonton.

It took the Oilers until the waning seconds of the opening frame to get their first goal and tie it up, but they managed the equalizer from the stick of Sekera for the defenceman's sixth of the season.

The line of Patrick Maroon, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl found their mojo and got their cycle going in the attacking zone, with Maroon throwing his big frame around, creating a loose puck for McDavid, who slid it back to Sekera for a shot from the slot that bounced off some bodies and beat Martin Jones.

McDavid's assist bumped him up to 58 points on the season as he maintained his three-point cushion on Sidney Crosby, who got an assist for the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday.

"Coming into a back-to-back, we didn't have our legs early on and they were kind of taking it to us," Caggiula said. "We were being a little bit sloppy, but getting that goal late in the period injected some momentum our way. We came out in the second period a lot better and from there we kept rolling. It just goes to show how mentally strong our team is to keep pushing even though things aren't going our way."

The teams stayed deadlocked at 1-1 through most of the middle frame. The Sharks went on the power play at the 13:04 mark of the period, but it was actually the Oilers who generated a pair of odd-man rushes. Attempts by Sekera and Mark Letestu were unsuccessful, though, as the tie game continued.

The Oilers got their first turn on the PP at 16:20 of the period as McDavid drew a slash on Brent Burns, and they took the lead 49 seconds into the man-advantage as Sekera tallied his second of the night. 

Camped out at the point, the blueliner blasted a one-timer pass from Draisaitl just over Jones' glove-side shoulder to put the visitors up 2-1. With McDavid extending his point streak to six games in the first period, Draisaitl followed suit with a point in his sixth consecutive game. Sekera moved up to seven goals with the PPG.

The Sharks had a prime opportunity to net the equalizer early in the third as Adam Larsson got called for a high-sticking double-minor. Anchored by Talbot, the Oilers penalty-killers did their job, effectively clearing the zone on multiple occasions until they returned to full strength four minutes later.

The home side continued to press Talbot as period approached the mid-mark, but the Oilers netminder was equal to the task, stringing together a series of pad stops while ranging from post to post. After shutting out the Ducks the previous night, Talbot was fantastic yet again en route to his 26th win of the season.

"He was fresh, he said he felt really good," McLellan said of his workhorse goalie. "We felt really good about putting him in."

The Oilers got a clutch insurance marker from Caggiula at 11:31 of the third, as the rookie sprung free in the neutral zone, burst in on a partial breakaway down the right side and sniped a wrist shot glove side on Jones for his fourth goal of his freshman campaign.

"I was coming down and I had shot the whole way," he said. "Fortunately for me, it went in… Good things happen when you shoot the puck."

McDavid deposited his 17th goal and 59th point into the empty net with 1:52 to put a stamp on the momentous Oilers victory. Draisaitl assisted on the ENG for his 46th point.

The captain now heads south to Los Angeles to participate in the all-star festivities, while his teammates will rest up in preparation for Tuesday's game at Rogers Place against the Minnesota Wild, who just happen to be the first-place squad in the Central Division.

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