EDMONTON, AB - Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot remained a force to be reckoned with but a lone goal from the Ottawa Senators midway through the second period earned the Eastern team an eventual 2-0 win, ending the Oilers five-game win streak.
A passionate battle of the netminders ensued on the eve of Halloween at Rogers Place as the visiting Ottawa Senators welcomed Craig Anderson back between the pipes after taking a leave of absence after his wife Nicholle had been diagnosed with cancer earlier in the week.
"We expected that from that team," said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. "They're proud players and they're going to play that way for a teammate. He had an exceptional night, I didn't think we made it real hard on him in and around the paint, he was able to see the puck and able to not really give up any secondary chances and that's a lot to do with their team but also a little bit to do with ours, so something to clean up."
Less than two minutes into the first, Oilers Captain Connor McDavid took off like a shot through the neutral zone, carrying the puck into the Senators defensive end for the first shot on goal of the night.
At 9:03, the Senators had a crack at breaking the scoreless stalemate with a close-range opportunity when forward Ryan Dzingel invaded Cam Talbot's crease but was denied by the netminder.
The game continued with the Oilers coming close, having had a number of chances on net, but they were unable to light the lamp.
"We looked good, we just didn't do anything," said Eberle. "We had possession of the puck, we were snapping it around, but at some point you've got to get it to the net and get the second and third chances around the net."
Tensions began to grow between the Canadian teams as Oilers forward Zack Kassian slammed Senators defenceman Mark Borowiecki into the boards. The two dropped the gloves with less than five minutes remaining in the period.
With less than a minute to go in the period, Oilers defenceman Oscar Klefbom ripped a shot from the blueline on Senators goaltender Craig Anderson, but Oilers teammate Patrick Maroon, positioned in the paint, took the brunt of the shot and collapsed - momentarily - under the sheer force of the shot.
Unable to capitalize in the first, the shots on net were a scant 7-4 for Edmonton.
"Our power play was not good at all," said McLellan.
"I look at our first period, I'm not sure we were really ready to go. We went 11 of 14 face offs and had six full minutes of power play and ended up with seven shots on goal, that's not a good recipe. We kind of looked good doing nothing in the offensive zone. We moved it around, we got into the zone but we had no substance on it, not attack, no tenacity to recover pucks and that showed up later on in the third period when we were a little more desperate. You need that early - you can't wade your way into the game like that."
Ottawa controlled the first five minutes of the middle frame. At 18:05, defenceman Dion Phaneuf rocketed a shot from the blueline, but Talbot made the save, shutting down any chance of the play becoming a scoring opportunity for the visiting team.
"It was just one of those nights, we needed some guys tonight - and I was one of them - to step up and get some offence going," said Maroon. "We had our opportunities to score but it's the end of the month now and now we move on to November and we focus on November."
Looking for his first of the season, Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins advanced on an opportunity in front of the Senators net but was foiled by Anderson.
With less than 10 minutes remaining in the period, shots on net increased 18-10 for Edmonton, with the Oilers having rattled off eight of the last nine shots on goal.
An icing call led to a faceoff in the Oilers defensive zone that saw the Senators win the draw. Senators forward Tom Pyatt, who carried the puck below the net, delivered a backhanded pass to teammate Mike Hoffman who tucked the puck in the pocket for a 1-0 lead, ending Talbot's shutout streak at 112:09. That's the first time the Oilers have trailed in 245 minutes.
"We needed some better performances from some individuals," said McLellan. "It's a long year, you're going to have some ups and downs when things aren't going good you try and shuffle them around and find three or six or nine guys that are capable of clicking and getting something done and we couldn't do that tonight."
Though an arsenal of shots from the Senators followed, Talbot remained a force to be reckoned with as the pucks were unable to penetrate the netminder's solid foundation.
Hearts stopped 17:09 into the third as Talbot emerged from the crease to regain control of a loose puck to send it up the ice for the Oilers, but his pass was intercepted and he quickly retreated back to the crease before a shot could be fired off.
The third period only continued to increase with heated scraps on the ice until finally Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse was sent to the penalty box for holding against Cody Ceci.
With 7:02 remaining, Eberle, positioned in the crease, was unable to flick the puck up and over Anderson's glove for the equalizer.
The Oilers fired 18 third-period shots at Anderson but were unable to penetrate the netminder's goal line.
"We played a good game, we did some good things, we've just got to bear down on our chances," said McDavid. "They had a fair amount and credit to Anderson who played well."
As Talbot was pulled from the crease with a minute remaining, Senators forward Bobby Ryan netted an insurance goal for a final 2-0 win, with 33 seconds left to play.
"We're a confident team," said Eberle. "We're pissed off that we let this one get away but we're going to have some good teams to face here in this road trip coming up so we've been good on the road as of late to start the season here so we can only continue to play that way."
The Oilers hit the road on Monday for their game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday.