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Under the Scope: Oilers vs. Sabres

by Ryan Dittrick / Edmonton Oilers

Despite firing 13 third period shots and 31 overall, Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller stood tall to turn aside 29 en route to Buffalo's 15th victory of the season. The Oilers pushed hard for the equalizer in the final frame, with Ryan Jones' eighth of the season bringing the Oilers within one, but the home side came away on the wrong side of a 4-2 score in the team's fourth consecutive defeat.

Buffalo's Mike Weber scored his first NHL goal with a marker early in the second period that put the Oilers down 2-0. With confidence abound and a hot stick riding the wave, Weber netted his second of the evening (and of his career) into the empty net at 19:08 of the third to seal the Oilers' fate.

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

Former Oilers have had tremendous success against their old club this season; particularly when the game is played in Edmonton. That phenomenon continued tonight with Jochen Hecht doing some damage. Just 2:45 into the final frame when the Sabres held a 2-1 lead, Hecht scored to put his team up by a pair. The Oilers attempted to mount a late third period comeback with 13 shots directed the way of Ryan Miller. The Oilers got one, but needed another to stay alive. Of the Sabres' four third period shots, the one by Hecht turned out to be the game-winning tally.

47 The Oilers won 47% of the draws tonight. Dustin Penner and Andrew Cogliano led the way with 5-4, 56% outings. Sam Gagner struggled, going 4-8 for a 33% efficiency rate.
17 Puck management was an issue for the Oilers, particularly in the second period when the game's momentum shifted to Buffalo's favour. As a result, the Oilers committed 17 giveaways tonight.
5 With the Oilers accumulating 31 shots over Buffalo's 21, this was on the fifth time all season that the Oilers have outshot their opponent. When doing so, the Oilers' record is 1-3-1.
4 The Oilers have now dropped four consecutive games and will be looking to rebound this Thursday against the Colorado Avalanche.

Mike Weber
G A P +/- Shots
2 1 3 +4 2

Tom Gilbert
G A P +/- Shots
0 1 1 -2 3

Jochen Hecht
G A P +/- Shots
1 1 2 +1 1

Ryan Miller
31 29 2 60:00 .935

Nikolai Khabibulin
21 18 3 59:03 .857

Jordan Leopold - D

25:37 - 0P, -1 rating

Tom Gilbert - D

30:20 - 1A, -2 rating

With the Oilers down 3-2 midway through the third period, some strong offensive zone pressure created a number of golden scoring chances for the home side. None were better than a cross-crease feed from Sam Gagner that found the stick of Ales Hemsky. The Oilers winger connected with a shot low along the ice that looked to be a sure goal. With amazing quickness, Ryan Miller pushed off his left post and was there to meet the scoring opportunity. His right pad connected the puck as he turned away the amazing chance. It was an incredible save that turned out to be the Oilers' last gasp of the evening.

Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller was the story tonight as the game coursed through the 60-minute clash. Although the game didn't begin as Miller and the Sabres would have hoped, allowing a goal just 1:27 into the match, Miller stopped 29 of the 31 shots he faced, including 12 in the third period when the Oilers pushed for the equalizer. With the victory, Miller earned his 200th NHL victory and an important two points in the standings for his club.

After missing practice yesterday due to a nagging knee injury, Tom Gilbert showed no ill-effects of his condition with a sensational performance tonight on the blueline. With Ryan Whitney going down in the first period, Gilbert's emergence was realized. The 27-year old recorded an assist, two blocked shots, and a team-leading 30:20 of ice-time. Even more impressively, Gilbert was actively involved in the offensive pressure, as he often made smart pinches and plays on the rush to kickstart the attack.

When slotted into the lineup, you can usually count on J-F Jacques to provide a physical presence. Late in the second period, he did just that with a thunderous open ice check on Sabres defenceman Craig Rivet. Caught with his head down, Rivet dished the puck and then was on the receiving end of some solid shoulder-to-shoulder contact. Rivet was sent toward the the neutral zone, performing an airborn 180 in the process. Rivet was visibly upset and later took a retaliatory penalty as the play progressed into the Oilers zone.

Coming into tonight's game, the Oilers owned a 21-7-3 record against the Sabres all-time at Rexall Place. That record is Edmonton's second-best winning percentage at home among all NHL teams. The only club that the Oilers have had more success against at Rexall Place are the Columbus Blue Jackets (14-4-4).

"I think everybody in here wants to learn and get better and win. It's just a matter of -- tonight was one of those nights where we didn't learn throughout the game and they outplayed us."

Ryan Jones on the loss to Buffalo

Thursday December 30 vs. Colorado
  7:30pm MT (TSN / 630 CHED)

With the Oilers now riding a four-game losing streak, Edmonton hopes to turn things around Thursday night when the Colorado Avalanche visit Rexall Place.

Author: Ryan Dittrick |

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