EDMONTON, AB -
The visitors from Pittsburgh mounted a two-goal lead heading into the third, but Edmonton tied the game twice in the final period and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored the overtime game winner to lift the Oilers to a 4-3 victory over the Penguins.
“It’s satisfying when your team sticks with the gameplan,” said Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins. “I was quite sure which way it was going to do when we were down by two. After the second, we talked about our habits again, about our ability to chose which way we want to play and I thought we kind of reloaded the gun and had a way better third. I thought we got away from our good habits in the second. That’s rewarding when you beat a team like that and the game didn’t fall away from you when it was 2-0.”
The Oilers hope this win, their second in the last three games, can build momentum heading into a road trip that begins in Chicago.
“It’ll do nothing but give us confidence,” said Oilers forward Taylor Hall. “We’re going into another building that’s hard to play in, in Chicago. We should take confidence from this. The biggest thing is… it wasn’t a game where we got lucky or our goaltender stood on his head. Even though Duby played great, I thought for the most part we played pretty well tonight. I think that’s a style of play that we can continue to play. I think the biggest thing is knowing what we did well and continue doing that.”
After a fast paced first period in which the Oilers fared well against the mighty Penguins, Pittsburgh would waste no time in taking the game’s first lead, 2:09 into the second. Evgeni Malkin had the puck behind goaltender Devan Dubnyk and chipped it out in front to James Neal who roofed it far-side corner on the Oilers netminder. The score was Neal’s 17th goal of the season and his 16th in his last 19 games.
The Penguins gained the 2-0 lead with 12:05 remaining in the second period as Brian Gibbons passed the puck to Sidney Crosby on the rush. The Canadian Olympian fired a centring pass out in front and it deflected in five-hole of Dubnyk off of Oilers forward Sam Gagner. Crosby’s tally was his 25th of the season. It was also the first time in his career that Crosby has scored a goal against the Edmonton Oilers.
Some fireworks erupted in the waning moments of the second period as Malkin and Chris Kunitz were denied by some impressive saves by Dubnyk. Malkin knocked the goalie’s stick away and then Dubnyk shoved the Penguins forward after the play. Some shoving was followed by a big huddle in the corner. Malkin was given an interference and a roughing penalty while Dubnyk earned a roughing penalty of his own.
“It’s good to show emotion once in a while,” said Dubnyk. “I was a little frustrated with just being down 2-0. It was getting a little push and shove there with a pretty good player on their side and fortunately, he ends up in the box. I think it was going to be even but he was going for kicking my stick to the corner in the first place and we score the goal that gets us going on that power play. We’ll definitely take that, but I don’t know if he’ll be waiting for me by the zamboni gates.”
Dubnyk made 25 saves in the win.
“I thought Dubs battled in there,” said Eakins. “I thought he battled hard. He made some saves and the good thing about Dubnyk tonight is he looked big in the net to me.That’s always something that I’m looking for, from the bench. He seemed to be out, on the outside of his blue paint, and challenging a bit more. I thought he was there when we needed him and it’s good to see. He’s had some ups and downs this year and, once again, not only our team, but for him to outlast that lineup with amount of firepower they have is a good thing for his confidence as well.”
After those extracurriculars, the Oilers hit their stride. Nugent-Hopkins scored his 12th goal of the season, on the power play, by sniping a shot through traffic just 53 seconds into the third. The Oilers centre was assisted by Jordan Eberle and Justin Schultz.
Then, Gagner passed the puck to Nugent-Hopkins at the face-off dot and the centre hopped it towards the top of the crease where Hall finished it off backdoor to tie the game at 2-2. The equalizer by Hall came at 10:07 of the third.
Kris Letang would retake the lead for the Penguins with a long-range shot on Dubnyk at 12:16. He was assisted by Crosby on the power play.
The Oilers weren’t letting the Penguins leave town without a fight. It took Anton Belov’s first career NHL goal to tie things up with two minutes remaining. Ales Hemsky banked a pass off the boards and out to the point to Belov who rocketed a snapshot past Jeff Zatkoff at 18:01. Mark Arcobello earned the second assist.
“Last season, I scored maybe eight or nine goals and one season before, I scored only one goal,” said Belov. “Now I already think maybe, this again? But finally, I score. I’m so happy.”
Belov’s first career goal comes the same week he was named to Russia’s Olympic team for the 2014 winter games. It was also the defence man’s first game back since being scratched for the previous three.
“He looked refreshed and it wasn’t the plan to leave Anton out of the lineup that long,” said Eakins. “We wanted to reset him and give him a little bit of rest. Then when we won the game against Tampa, I didn’t want to change the lineup so he had to sit an extra one. I thought he looked good, I thought he was advancing the puck well. It’s great to see him score. He’s had some chances this year and he always seems to, when he’s shooting the puck, he breaks a lot of sticks. It seems like every night he’s got a great chance and his shaft blasts apart and tonight, everything stayed together for him. I thought he had a good night after having an exciting week and being named to the Russian team.”
The game would head to overtime, all knotted up at 3-3.
On the power play, Eberle would set up Nugent-Hopkins backdoor for the game-winning goal, just 1:01 into the overtime period, to cap the centre’s impressive game and give the Oilers the hard-earned victory.
“I thought we did a good job of weathering the storm in the second period,” said Nugent-Hopkins. “They’re a good team and they’re going to have momentum surges and we did a good job of coming back in the third and there was no ‘let up’ from us tonight.”