Hemsky helps Oilers slide past Canucks in season opener
By Rob Soria
The Edmonton Oilers started their 2013 season off in style, with a come from behind 3-2 shootout victory, over Robero Luongo and the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday night. Jordan Eberle and Ales Hemsky led the way upfront, with a goal a piece, while Devan Dubnyk stopped twenty-eight shots in earning the win.
Edmonton - January 21, 2013 - On the heels of being blown out by the Anaheim Ducks in their season opener on Hockey Night in Canada, the Vancouver Canucks continued their less than impressive start to the 2013 NHL season, falling 3-2 to the Edmonton Oiles on Sunday night.
Devan Dubnyk out-dueled Roberto Luongo, stopping twenty-eight shots on the night and both Vancouver shooters in the shootout, in leading the Oilers to a win in their season opener.
Jordan Eberle picked up right where he left off in 2012, roofing his first of the season on a brilliant backhand late in period two. While Ales Hemsky forced the game to overtime with a third period power play marker and than clinched the victory with a nifty little shootout finish.
Defenceman Alex Edler opened the scoring midway through period one, on a shot the Oilers netminder would love to have back, giving the Canucks the early advantage. To Dubnyk's credit, from that point on, the Oilers starter was rock solid, giving his team a shot at taking home the two points.
Despite falling behind 2-0 on Zack Kassian's first of the year, thanks to some awful defensive zone coverage from Ryan Whitney and Sam Gagner, Edmonton was the team dictating the pace for much of the middle frame. If not for the stellar play of Luongo and the Oilers inability to hit the net on numerous quality chances, the visitors could have easily found themselves up a goal or two.
Fortunately for them, Eberle's timely finish, gave his squad the shot of energy and momentum, to get back on level terms in the third and force the game to overtime.
After giving up a less than ideal opening goal of the season, Dubnyk was excellent the rest of the way. He made a number of timely stops when calleded upon, though he was not heavily tested. He made a couple of huge stops in the first to keep it a one goal game and followed it up with a monster stop off Alex Burrows in the third...shortly after Hemsky tied things up at two.
At the end of the day, if Devan can produce that sort of effort in the vast majority of his starts, the Oilers will be just fine. He doesn't need to be spectacular but being average won't get the job done.
The penalty killing went a perfect five-for-five and outside of some quality chances on their first couple of opportunities, the Canucks generated very little on the man advantage. Edmonton kept the Sedins under wraps on the PP, which almost never happens against the Oilers.
The pairings of Justin and Nick Schultz and Jeff Petry and Ladislav Smid were outstanding from the drop of puck. Smid and Petry continued their strong play from a year ago, whereas the Schultz and Schultz duo appeared to be a perfect fit, as Justin took off for a few of his already trademark gallops up ice.
Petry was a force from the opening whistle and seemed far more intent on trying to join the Oilers rush up ice...on top of throwing a couple of punishing hits down low.
For a change, the fourth line did what every good fourth line does...bring energy to the table. The trio of Ben Eager, Eric Belanger and Lennart Petrell saw limited time at even strength but manged to leave their mark, every time they saw the ice.
Both Eager and Petrell were physically engaged, with Eager dropping the mitts in a third period, in a spirited tilt with Kassian.
Edmonton's top line was far from dominant but for the most part, they held their own at even strength. While Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had one of his least memorable games in an Oilers uniform, he along with Taylor Hal and Eberle, were solid in their own zone, as they played much of the night head-to-head against the Sedin line.
Krueger seemed more than ok with going best on best...something you would have rarely, if ever, seen last season.
On the negative side of the ledger, the pairing of Ryan Whitney and Corey Potter struggled for much of the evening and were under duress, on numerous occasions.
While Potter did his best, he was clearly out of his comfort zone on the penalty kill and the fact Whitney continued showing signs of problems with his mobility, only made things worse.
It was somewhat surprising that the coaching staff went with Potter over recently acquired Mark Fistric but one would imagine Fistric will find his way into the starting lineup in Tuesday's home opener, against a very big San Jose Sharks side.
Hemsky did manage to even things up with a goal on a third period power play but for the most part, the Oilers highly regarded power play was ineffective for much of the night. They did generate some chances and both units moved the puck around fairly well but in order for this club to have a successful season, they will need to bury opponents much earlier in games.
Which brings us to Teemu Hartikainen, who saw the least amount of ice time of any Oilers forward, playing just 6:10...far less than his third line linemates Shawn Horcoff (19:07) and Ryan Smyth (18:37). The fact Edmonton took three first period minor penalties did not help the youngster's cause but neither did having Horcoff and Smyth seeing major minutes on special teams.
With the two veterans playing on both the power play and penalty kill, it essentially took Hartikainen out of the game. No one expecting the feisty Finn to be given major minutes but if he going to be given a shot with the big club, he needs to be given a fair shake.
In a perfect world, Horcoff and Smyth should be splitting time on the man advantage and Hartikainen should see regular duty on either power play unit.
All and all, you really could not have asked for much more in the season opener.
Rob Soria is the Edmonton Oilers' correspondent for OurHometown.ca. Rob was born and raised in Edmonton and is the author of the Edmonton Oilers blog - OilDrop.ca. He has been a dedicated follower of the game and its history for years but his focus remains on his hometown Edmonton Oilers. If you have questions or wish to contact Rob, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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