A pair of goals for Leon Draisaitl puts himself one goal short of 50 on the season in a 3-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks
EDMONTON, AB - Leon Draisaitl scored twice to put himself within one of 50 goals on the season, but the Oilers were unable to cap off their home schedule with a victory as they fell 3-2 to the San Jose Sharks on Thursday at Rogers Place.
The Oilers wrap up their season in Calgary with the Battle of Alberta on Saturday. The game can be seen on Hockey Night in Canada and Sportsnet and heard on the Oilers Radio Network, including 630 CHED. Puck drop is 8:08 p.m. MDT.
"That's something special," Draisaitl said of his quest for a half-century of goals. "I'm not sure if I'll ever get that chance again, so I'm going to try and make the most of it. I really appreciate the guys trying to set me up."
Anthony Stolarz made 25 saves on 28 shots in his second start as an Edmonton Oiler, while Aaron Dell countered in the opposite goal by stopping 25 of 27 for the Sharks.
It was Stolarz' first start in goal since March 9 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, with Mikko Koskinen starting 24 of the last 25 games in the crease for Edmonton prior to tonight.
"Early on there's that little adjustment period getting back up to game speed, but as it wore on I felt like I really turned a page and started controlling pucks a little better," the netminder said. "I left some rebounds in front, but the boys really helped me clear them out."
A goal and assist tonight for Sharks defenceman Brent Burns extended his team lead for points to 81 in 81 games, the most ever by a Sharks defenceman in franchise history.
"I thought I was off angle, but on the replay I saw he just ripped it over my shoulder," Stolarz said of the defender's tally. "Sometimes you just have to tip your hat."
After Zack Kassian was sent to the box for hooking inside the first 43 seconds, it was Draisaitl who stepped up shorthanded to provide the early breakthrough. The German picked off San Jose's entry and sent himself in alone the other way, sliding his 48th goal of the season and 103rd point under the outstretched Dell.
A slick feed from Joe Thornton behind the Oilers net led to the Sharks levelling things up with 8:52 to go in the opening frame after Marcus Sorensen accepted the feed and fired home the equalizer. Thornton's assist was the 1,064th of his career, passing Steve Yzerman for eighth all time.
"He was given time back there and made a great saucer pass," Stolarz said. "The only think I can probably do is stay in my butterfly, but he makes a great pass and they get it off quick. Guys like that are going to make plays in this league."
The Sharks were ahead 1:09 later, with Brent Burns tucking a wrist shot off the faceoff top corner over the glove of Stolarz.
The visitors held the 2-1 advantage on the scoreboard, and a 12-8 advantage in shots.
Fans were soon put on alert for Draisaitl's 50th after he levelled the score with number 49. Matt Benning slid his pass on the partial 2-on-1 to Draisaitl, who waited and fired five-hole through the wickets of Dell to put himself one goal short of the half-century for goals and one shy of Alexander Ovechkin's league lead.
Tempo would begin to hit high gear midway through the second when Stolarz made a number of back-to-back saves as the Sharks pressed forward. A high hit to Andrej Sekera by Timo Meier signalled a start to the rough stuff, with Milan Lucic taking offense to the hit and both teams being forced into their first test of 4-on-4 hockey following the play.
With 1:12 left before the second intermission, Burns' point shot was redirected in the slot by Gustav Nyquist to restore San Jose's lead at 3-2.
Another look for Draisaitl shorthanded in the third after Colby Cave was whacked for a hooking call awarded him the opportunity to notch his 50th, but his cutback in the slot was stopped by the blocker of Dell.
Stolarz kept the Oilers in with a shout when he stoned Evander Kane, who had an open look in the slot with 4:47 on the clock, but the Oilers couldn't draw even as time expired on the Oilers home schedule in a 3-2 defeat.
"I thought we played well," Oilers Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said post-game. "I thought that third goal hurt us a lot, it was in our control three times, but other than that I thought we competed hard. I thought the second period was one of the better periods we played, so you can't fault some of the decent efforts we got from guys tonight."
In his post-game press conference, Hitchcock noted that forwards Jujhar Khaira and Kyle Brodziak will be shut down for the remainder of the season.
The Oilers wrap up their season in Calgary on Saturday with the Battle of Alberta against the Flames. Puck drop is set for 8:08 p.m. MDT.