BUFFALO, NY -
Ilya Bryzgalov made 42 saves and Matt Hendricks scored shorthanded in the third period to give Edmonton the lead and the Oilers battled to take a 3-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres at the First Niagara Center.
"I thought it was an ugly game both ways that never seemed to be able to pick up any speed,” Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins said. “When the game got into the flow of it, there was a penalty one way or the other. It seemed like there were a lot of whistles. It was a tough one for both teams to get going in."
The Oilers struck first and it didn’t take long. Defenceman Jeff Petry, who missed yesterday’s practice with a foot injury, didn’t seem to be in much discomfort as he jumped in on the rush and took the puck at the face-off dot and backhanded in his fourth goal of the season, 32 seconds into the first period. Nail Yakupov and David Perron earned the assists.
Buffalo answered back at 8:04 when goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov made the initial save but Sabres Captain Steve Ott’s shot on the rebound found it’s way underneath the goalie and just over the line before an Oilers defenceman swiped the puck out. The goal went under review but the puck did cross the goal line. Tyler Myers and Cody Hodgson were rewarded the assists.
The Sabres took their first lead of the night when Drew Stafford and Zemgus Girgensons came down the ice on a 2-on-1 shorthanded rush. Stafford sniped his goal with just 55.8 seconds remaining in the first period and made it 2-1.
"That's always a boot to your team, but I thought we rebounded OK,” Eakins said of the shorthanded goal. “We just kind of took it for what it was worth, and the guys said the right things on the bench and we moved forward from it. Earlier in the season, goals that came like that put us in a horrible, horrible spot. Tonight, we were able to recover."
The goal was the 10th shorthanded goal scored on the Oilers this season, which is the most in the NHL (pending the results of the Philadelphia game in San Jose).
Justin Schultz tied the game for the Oilers at 16:45 of the second period. David Perron set up the Oilers defenceman with a nifty drop pass and Schultz sniped a beautiful shot top-shelf of Jhonas Enroth. The goal came with Yakupov and Ott in the boxes and was the 10th 4-on-4 goal by the Oilers this season, which moved them above Montreal for tops in the league.
The goal was Schultz’s eighth of the year.
Just 57 seconds into the third period, Hendricks scored shorthanded for Edmonton and propelled his team to the 3-2 lead. It was only Hendricks’ second shorthanded goal of his career, his first coming with the Colorado Avalanche in the 2009-2010 season. Boyd Gordon and Martin Marincin had the helpers on the goal.
In addition to the game-winning goal tonight, Hendricks has also secured himself a leadership role on the Oilers since the team traded for him with Nashville on January 15.
"He's preaching all the stuff that we need here,” the Oilers head coach said. “He's been excellent for me coming in. He plays extremely hard every night, he lays it on the line, he's been a good penalty killer for us… definitely a guy that's very vocal, has a very strong opinion about habits, about being a good teammate, about the work that has to go in to be on a good team. I think a lot of our guys need to be listening to that, because he certainly knows what he's talking about."
The Sabres pulled Enroth late for the extra attacker, but the Oilers would hold on to skate away with the victory.
Bryzgalov saw 44 shots, but stopped 42 of them in a solid performance by the Oilers netminder.
"He made some great saves in close,” Eakins said. “They really drove the net well and he couldn't see anything when the puck was coming to the net. He made himself big and made some saves where I'm not even sure he saw the puck until the last second."