The Oilers close out the 2014-15 season in Vancouver on Saturday night. Game time is 8:00 p.m. MDT and it can be seen on CBC or heard on 630 CHED and the Oilers Radio Network.
EDMONTON, AB – Oilers goaltender Laurent Brossoit was sensational in his NHL debut, making 49 saves, but saw the night spoiled as the San Jose Sharks skated away with the 3-1 victory.
The 22-year-old goaltender was locked in from the opening whistle, making 19 saves in the first period, the most in a NHL debut since 1990. His 49 saves are the most in a debut since Manny Legace on October 21, 1998.
“I’m flattered, but it’s always about the ‘W’ for me,” said Brossoit.
While Brossoit was the Oilers storyline of the night, Bryan Lerg was the Sharks. The 29-year-old forward was also making his NHL debut, against the organization that gave him his start in professional hockey. Lerg signed with Edmonton coming out of college at Michigan State University back in 2008. He spent two years with the Oilers organization, playing in Springfield for their American Hockey League affiliate.
Lerg scored the game-winning goal at 17:08 of the third period.
“It was the first team I signed with and my first pre-season game, I played in (in Edmonton),” said Lerg. “It felt good to score that one, let alone just to play this game. It has been a long seven years of waiting for this one, and to finish like that, it’s been pretty exciting.”
On his first shift in the NHL, Oilers winger Curtis Hamilton took a five-minute boarding penalty against Lerg at 2:08 of the first.
“I don’t want to set the team back like that, especially with a five-minute penalty,” said Hamilton. “But those things happen. I was just trying to finish my check and I’ll move on.”
Hamilton played 8:01 in his debut, finishing with four hits, one blocked shot and five penalty minutes.
“It was awesome,” he said of his first game. “I was pretty nervous before, but I’m sure it will kind of kick in the next couple of days and become a real thing for me. It was pretty exciting.”
Brossoit turned away the lone pair of shots he faced on that penalty kill.
Nail Yakupov took advantage of a Justin Braun giveaway in the Sharks defensive zone, sniping a shot past Antti Niemi at 12:30 of the second period to give the Oilers a 1-0 lead. Yakupov’s 13th goal of the season gave him a new career high of 32 points.
Brossoit’s strong night continued with another 14 saves in the second period. And chants of “L-B! L-B!” started in the third period following a lunging save.
“Our story is Bryan Lerg, their story is their starting goaltender for his first game tonight,” Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan said. “That’s a pretty remarkable performance that he put in. I think we attempted 95 shots on goal and he looked very calm, very collected. Not a lot of garbage laying around. He made some tremendous saves. Both teams have a story to tell tonight and we’re fortunate we have the win to go with it.”
Brossoit made a huge save on Joe Thornton with 10 minutes remaining in the third period to keep the Sharks off the board.
Just a moment later, however, Justin Schultz caught an edge and fell, allowing Patrick Marleau to have a great opportunity against the young netminder. Marleau potted a beautiful goal, spoiling Brossoit’s shutout bid at 10:32 of the third and tying the game at 1-1.
“Obviously not the way I wanted to end the game, considering how it was going for me. But I’ve got to take out the positives. I wanted to show well and show what I can do and I think I did that at least,” said Brossoit.
Closing in on the end of the third, Oilers centre Derek Roy just lifted a backhand over the crossbar that could have been the difference.
The Sharks took their first lead of the night as Logan Couture deked his way past Keith Aulie and set up Lerg for his first NHL goal. Former Oilers goaltender Taylor Fedun recorded an assist as well.
Brossoit’s night ended at 49 saves as the Sharks netted the game-winner at 19:31 of the third, on an empty net. Matt Nieto was the goal scorer, assisted by Tommy Wingels and Chris Tierney.
The Oilers were impressed with their young goaltender, wishing they could give him the result he deserved.
“How good was he tonight? He was outstanding,” said Oilers Interim Coach Todd Nelson. “I’m happy for him, with the way he played, but disappointed that he couldn’t get enough support from the people in front of him. We had way too many passengers tonight. But I am happy for Brossoit. He played outstanding. It was one of the best efforts I’ve seen all year.”
The Oilers close out the 2014-15 season in Vancouver on Saturday night.