SASKATOON, SK -
The Oilers lost Captain Andrew Ference to an arm injury in the second period and the Chicago Blackhawks provided all of the offence on their way to a 5-0 win at the Credit Union Centre.
The first period got off to a great start for the Oilers. Right off the opening draw, Anton Lander nearly set up Iiro Pakarinen out in front of goaltender Scott Darling. The puck rolled just wide of the left post, but the Oilers were off and running.
“I thought our first 10 minutes was awesome,” Oilers goalie Richard Bachman said. “We were flying, we were getting in on the forecheck and I don’t know if they even had a shot (for a while).
“We came out real strong and we played the game we wanted to play. They gave a little push. They have some players who can really play over there. We kind of knew that was coming and we felt like we had a little bit of trouble getting back on track.”
At one point, the Oilers were outshooting the Blackhawks 9-2. But by then end of the opening 20 minutes Chicago had the lead and evened up the shots at 10-10 with some offensive pressure of their own.
The first goal of the game came when Kris Versteeg dug the puck out of a scrum along the boards and got it out to Nick Leddy. The Chicago defenceman flipped a shot towards the net and it was deflected in backhanded, off the stick of Bryan Bickell at 14:06.
With 5:01 left in the second, Chicago defenceman David Runblad got tangled up with Teddy Purcell, who was breaking in on Darling. The holding penalty gave the Oilers a great opportunity to even things up, but they couldn’t capitalize and the Blackhawks kept the momentum in their favour.
“We started well,” Oilers winger Jordan Eberle said. “Definitely in the second period we backed off quite a bit and they capitalized. I don’t think it was ugly as the score was. They definitely had their chances and they buried them. We hit a few posts and things could have turned around. It seemed like we were bobbling pucks a lot and it was tough to move pucks. I don’t know if it was the ice or the way we were playing but we seemed to lack confidence in that area.”
Duncan Keith unleashed a rocket of a shot through traffic to put Chicago up 2-0 at 18:34 of the middle frame. Trevor Van Riemsdyk and Jeremy Morin recorded the assists.
Just over a minute later, Teuvo Teravainen picked the top corner over Bachman to push the Blackhawks lead to 3-0. Adam Clendening and Nick Leddy had the assists.
Bachman was not without his moments in net for the Oilers. He made some superb glove saves and kept the Oilers in it for much of the game.
“You never want to give up five goals and you never want to lose, but I think overall it was a good starting point to play my first full 60 minutes of the year,” said Bachman, who made 21 saves on the night. “A few of the goals were posts and in, nice plays and deflections. We weren’t far off, I wasn’t far off. There are a lot of good things I can take from it. There are also things I know I’ve got to improve on here going forward and getting ready for the regular season.”
Mark Arcobello rang a shot off the post moments before the Tervainen goal. It was one of several close scoring opportunities for the Oilers that went by without success.
Part of the Oilers struggles in the second period was the absence of Ference, who left the game with a right arm injury and did not return. Down a defenceman, the Oilers found themselves in a three-goal hole heading into the third period.
That deficit increased to four at 11:27 of the third period. Runblad set up Andrew Shaw at the top of the crease and Shaw’s one-timer found twine for the 4-0 lead.
Bickell set up a streaking Versteeg with a great pass from the wing for the Blackhawk’s fifth goal of the night, at 13:56 of the final frame.
Late in the third period, Oilers third-overall pick Leon Draisaitl made a slick move on a 2-on-1 rush and found David Perron with a pass. Perron, who tied for the Oilers lead in goals with 28 last season, couldn’t quite handle the pass as the team continued to look for their first goal.
Chicago held on to complete the shutout, with Darling making 22 saves on the night.
Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins said after the game that Ference's x-ray was negative and, "he’ll be fine.”