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RECAP: Ducks 2, Oilers 1

by Chris Wescott / Edmonton Oilers

EDMONTON, AB – John Gibson made 27 saves, holding off a late push by the Oilers who fell 2-1 to the Anaheim Ducks at Rexall Place.

Officiating played a role in key moments of the game, particularly down the stretch in the third, aiding the Ducks more so than the home team. Following Nail Yakupov’s goal to make it a one-goal deficit, Edmonton had much of the momentum. That was hampered by a boarding call against Oilers winger Patrick Maroon, who wasn’t happy with the penalty or its effect on the game.

“It was a terrible call, sorry,” said Maroon, who made contact with Josh Manson into the boards, resulting in the call. “I’m a big guy, I play heavy. He’s already on his way down, I mean, what am I doing? I out-muscled him. It was such a good game going, and then five minutes left and we have the momentum going and that’s just so inconsistent I think.”

That call gave the Ducks a power play at 15:50 of the third, and while the Oilers penalty kill was up to the task, it milked precious time off the clock.

Despite three penalties in the third, Edmonton blanked the number one power play in the NHL, keeping them 0-for-4 on the night. Their penalty kill gave the Oilers a fighting chance late. The Oilers outshot the Ducks 9-7 in the third period as they tried to capture the equalizer.

The home squad had some momentum in the final minutes, following the end of the Maroon penalty, and kept the puck in the zone for another run at the tie in the final minutes.

However, a whistle blew the play dead inciting outrage from both the Oilers players and their fans. A misjudged offside call killed the play and the momentum. Time ran out on the Oilers comeback hopes, with the Ducks escaping with the narrow victory.

“Playoffs are coming. The (officials are) going to have to be sharp heading in,” said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. “When you’re on the outside looking in where we are, it’s hard to whine and bitch, so I’ll leave it at that.”

For the opening shifts of the game, the Oilers controlled the puck in the offensive zone, but that didn’t lead to shots nor did it lead to goals. As it does often in hockey, missed opportunities and failure to capitalize led to the opponent drawing first blood. It was the Ducks who opened scoring, 4:02 into the first period.

Corey Perry sizzled a slap shot from the top of the circle, hammering it off the far post and in behind Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot. Jamie McGinn and Rickard Rakell recorded the two assists.

The goaltenders duelled for the remainder of the period and well into the second. Then, 4:37 into the middle frame, Yakupov nearly put the Oilers on the board. The winger took the puck to the net on a brilliant pass from Leon Draisaitl, but was robbed by the right leg pad of Gibson, who made a phenomenal save.

The save was all that much more important because it allowed the Ducks to increase their lead. Anaheim made it a 2-0 game at 12:48 of the second when Brandon Pirri scored his 13th of the season. Pirri out-muscled Oilers defenceman Adam Clendening in the slot,  spun and shot the puck past Talbot.

Yakupov found redemption for his earlier chance that was foiled by Gibson. The winger made it a one-goal game at 11:40 of the third when he found twine with a one-timer from the slot, fed by Taylor Hall. Draisaitl had the second assist, right off the draw. Yakupov enjoys playing up the lineup with those two forwards.

“All three of us use our legs and have really good speed,” said Yakupov. “We understand each other, we try to support each other, make some little plays and always try to be by their net more times than in our zone. I think it’s worked pretty well for us.”

There was some conflict after the final whistle when Maroon, a former Ducks forward, disrupted the opponents’ post-game tradition. The Ducks collect the game puck from all their wins, but Maroon decided to put a wrench in those plans.

“They do a thing in their locker room where they hang up the pucks and I knew it would get under their skin so I stole their puck and threw it in the trash,” Maroon chuckled. “That’s why (Chris) Stewart came after me there, because he wanted it but I wasn’t going to give it to him and then Perry asked for it and I said, ‘no way.’ So I threw it in the trash here. They’re going to have to find a new puck.”

Maroon was acquired from the Ducks at the NHL Trade Deadline.

The Oilers have to wait until Saturday for their next game. They host the Calgary Flames for one last Battle of Alberta at Rexall Place, before moving downtown to Rogers Place this fall. Edmonton is 2-2-0 against their provincial rivals this season.
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