The Oilers wrap up their road trip in Washington D.C. against the Capitals on Tuesday at 5:00 p.m. MST. The game can be seen on Sportsnet West or heard on 630 CHED and the Oilers Radio Network.
SUNRISE, FL –Nail Yakupov scored the winner and Viktor Fasth was perfect in the shootout in addition to 35 more saves as the Oilers defeated the Florida Panthers 3-2 tonight at BB&T Center.
After the Panthers took a 2-1 lead into the third period, Matt Hendricks’ shorthanded equalizer 6:32 into the final frame paved the way for overtime, which solved nothing, before Yakupov scored the lone shootout goal. The young Russian executed a series of dekes before rifling a wrist shot past Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo. It was all Fasth from there as he made three straight shootout saves to secure the victory.
Yakupov had never been picked for a shootout attempt before in his NHL career, and the first time was definitely a charm.
“Coach gave me my first shootout, and I nailed it, so I feel pretty good,” Yakupov said. “I was just sitting on the bench and Nelly touched my back and then touched it again so I turned around and he said go. Shootout? He said yes. I’m going first? He said yes. I just jumped out there, went and scored.”
“He’s been working on shootouts quite a bit in practice, so it was a hunch, and he made a great play,” Coach Todd Nelson added. “There was zero analytics that supported putting Yak in the shootout, but right now he’s looking pretty good.”
Fasth’s last start came on Jan. 6 as he made 37 saves in a slim loss to Detroit, so his 35 saves tonight and shootout perfection furthered his strong play as of late.
“We played a really good game today and I think we were worth the win,” Fasth said. “We got the two points and that’s what counts. It was good to be on the right side of this one. We all worked really hard today, so it felt good to get this win here on the road.”
“Viktor had a great game,” Nelson added. “It was nice to see him, in back-to-back starts, play extremely well. He did a great job in the shootout.”
There were plenty of shots but no goals in the opening frame as Fasth stopped all 14 Panthers attempts and Luongo turned aside all 12 from the Oilers. Edmonton’s best chance to get on the board came with a 50-second five-on-three power play as Jonathan Huberdeau was off for elbowing and Jussi Jokinen took a slashing minor.
Their one prime opportunity to convert came when Taylor Hall found Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on the doorstep with a cross-ice pass. With Luongo out of position, RNH had an open net to shoot at but Panthers captain Willie Mitchell got his stick on the attempt and the puck ricocheted off the crossbar and out of play.
The Oilers finally got one past Luongo 3:35 into the middle frame as Matt Fraser sprung Jordan Eberle on a breakaway and #14 made no mistake, deking to his forehand and sneaking a wrist shot under the bar for his team-leading 12th of the season. His 28 points also put him one back of Hall for the Oilers lead, while Fraser got his sixth point with the helper.
The Panthers replied 2:06 later, however, as Erik Gubrandson’s wrister from the point grazed Hendricks, slightly changing the puck’s trajectory and sending it over Fasth’s glove-side shoulder to tie the game 1-1. The home side then took the lead at 14:29 as Huberdeau found himself alone at the side of the net, corralling a loose puck and banging home a rebound to make it 2-1.
With Hall in the sin bin, the Panthers had a chance to add to their lead, but the Oilers had other plans as they tallied their second shorthanded goal in as many games courtesy Hendricks. Mark Fayne stole the puck at the Florida blueline and passed to Boyd Gordon, who fed Hendricks in the slot for a wrist shot past Luongo to make it 2-2. The equalizer was Hendricks’ sixth goal of the year and 11th point.
“Our PK was outstanding tonight,” Nelson said. “It was a great play by Fayne, stepping up and moving the puck to Gordon, and then Gordon made a great pass to Hendy and he finished it off. It was a great effort by our penalty-killing units all the way around.”
The Oilers are now three-quarters through their four-game road trip, with the Washington Capitals last up on the schedule on Tuesday. The Oil beat Alex Ovechkin and the Caps 3-2 on Oct. 22 at Rexall Place, falling behind 2-1 before Nugent-Hopkins and Nikita Nikitin each scored in the middle frame to give the home side the win. They’ll look to ride the momentum of tonight's shootout win in Florida into the road trip finale.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s overtime or shootout, it’s always great to get two points,” Yakupov said. “Especially before a pretty good team in Washington. We feel good now, get a couple days rest and be ready for next game. It’s always good to win, and we finally did it. Now we just have to stick with it.”
“I’ve really liked our room the last week,” Nelson added. “The guys are really starting to come together and playing hard for each other. I think a win like this on the road is really going to help us out in the future. A win on the road is a great thing, but to come from behind is even better.”