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Under the Scope: Oilers at Stars

by Ryan Dittrick / Edmonton Oilers

After snapping a five-game winless skid last night in the desert, the Oilers were hoping to roll into Dallas and continue the winning ways against a red-hot Stars team. Unfortunately, the modest one-game winning streak came to an end with the home side skating away with a 3-1 victory at American Airlines Center.

After falling behind by a 3-0 score midway through the game's second period, the Oilers continued to press offensively as a challenge for the comeback was initiated with a strong power-play. Dustin Penner cashed with the man-advantage, with Shawn Horcoff and Taylor Hall picking up the assists to bring the Oilers within two.

The strong offensive push carried into the final frame, where Edmonton peppered Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen with 11 shots; all of which were turned aside, as Dallas was able to complete their evening with the win.

Nikolai Khabibulin returned to the crease for the Oilers, stopping 18 of the 21 shots he faced. At the other end, the aforementioned Lehtonen backstopped his club with 34 saves on 35 Edmonton shots.

All you need to know and more as we go Under the Scope:

Early in the second period, Dallas had established a 2-0 lead courtesy of goals from Brenden Morrow and Adam Burish. Although the disadvantage was obvious, Edmonton was in command of the shot clock. With Kari Lehtonen standing tall, the Stars were able to seal the game with Morrow's second tally of the evening at 8:22 of the middle frame. Even though the Oilers kept pressing and were eventually able to solve Lehtonen with a Dustin Penner goal, the dominant score differential prevented the Oilers from seriously challenging the Stars down the stretch.

31 The Oilers endured a challening evening in the faceoff dot. Only 31% of the draws were won by Edmonton, with Andrew Cogliano posting the Oilers' most efficient stat-line of any centreman: 6-10, 3%.
35 The Oilers were able to accumulate a total of 35 shots on goal this evening. Incredibly, only Vandermeer and Peckham were the only Oilers that were unable to record at least one.
2 With the loss tonight and another opportunity cast aside, the Oilers have still not won two consecutive road games since December 1st and 2nd against Montreal and Toronto.
3 With the Oilers in control for much of the night despite the numbers on the scoreboard, puck possession was an instrumental element in the team's game. Tonight, the Oilers committed a season-low three giveaways.

Brenden Morrow
G A P +/- Shots
2 0 2 +2 4

Kari Lehtonen
35 34 1 59:47 .971

Jamie Langenbrunner
G A P +/- Shots
0 2 2 +1 2

Kari Lehtonen
35 34 1 59:47 .971

Nikolai Khabibulin
21 18 3 58:41 .857

Trevor Daley - D

  23:49 - 1A, +1 rating

Tom Gilbert - D

28:00 - 0P, -1 rating

With just over nine minutes to play in the third period, both Ladislav Smid and J-F Jacques took minor penalties on the same sequence to give the home side a full two-minute five-on-three advantage. With the Stars moving the puck well through the box, a one-time attempt emerged from Dallas forward Jamie Langenbrunner. As he released the puck from the middle of the near circle, Nikolai Khabibulin came across in a hurry to emphatically rob the veteran forward with a tremendous save. Although Dallas would go on to win, Khabibulin's save was an incredible display of talent.

Kari Lehtonen had an incredible evening between the pipes for the Stars. The Oilers came into the match looking to carry over some newly discovered offensive confidence. Lehtonen, however, was equal to the task. At the end of the night, he collected 34 saves on 35 Oilers shots to earn his 22nd victory of the season and push Dallas to a 30-15-5 record overall. Lehtonen appears to have found a home with the Stars as Dallas further climbs the Western Conference standings.

With the absence of Ryan Whitney providing opportunity for others to step up, Ladislav Smid continues to shine on the blueline. Tonight, Smid played 23:41 of solid defensive hockey that featured two blocked shots, two takeaways, and a team-leading five hits to lead the physical charge. In addition, Smid was able to record one shot on goal and an even rating, in an overall productive night for the 24-year old rearguard who looks to take on an increased role.

In a game that featured a number of thunderous hits, none were more impactful than Mark Fistric's crunch on Oilers forward Colin Fraser. After chasing the puck into the offensive corner, Fraser was met by the shoulder of the charging Fistric. Fraser was knocked awkwardly, as he was driven heavily into the end-boards. The Oilers forward was initially woozy following the play, but showed no ill-effects after getting back to the bench to recoup.

American Airlines Center has not been a plesant place to visit for the Oilers in recent seasons. With another marker added to the loss column tonight, the Oilers have now lost eight consecutive games against the Stars in Dallas.

"We don't really have room for excuses right now. It was a tough night, and we got in late and all that, but -- we started off okay, especially on the road against a pretty good team. It's the let-ups. We just can't afford to do that. We're just not a team that can afford to lay off the gas."

-  Oilers captain Shawn Horcoff on the loss to Dallas

Wednesday, February 2 vs. Los Angeles
  7:30pm MT (SNET-W / 630 CHED)

The Oilers will now roll into the All-Star break before getting back to work this coming Wednesday, back home, against the Los Angeles Kings.

Author: Ryan Dittrick |

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