The lesson to be learned from tonight’s game is that even if you go in and score four perfectly beautiful goals, the other team can score five dirty ugly goals and come up with an overtime win. So it went for the Red Wings, dropping a 5-4 overtime decision to the Edmonton Oilers in the second game of their home-and-home series.
The Red Wings scored the only goal of the first period, despite being outshot 11-7 by the Oilers. The puck bounced away from an Edmonton defenseman and straight to the stick of Luc Robitaille, who took off down the right side. Boyd Devereaux kept up on the left, and Robitaille fooled both the defenseman and goaltender Jussi Markkanen by looking as if to pass before putting the shot through Markkanen’s five-hole, achieving his 1300th career point.
The Oilers came back to take the lead within 27 seconds in the second period. First, Steve Staios caught the puck as it was rolling out towards the Detroit blue line. He snapped a hard wrist shot which seemed to change direction in midair before it dipped past Manny Legace for the goal. On the very next shift, Legace stopped a shot by Ryan Smyth, but the rebound came free to Anson Carter. Carter wrapped the puck around the net and banked it in off Legace’s skate before the goalie could close the gap between his foot and the goalpost.
Jason Woolley brought the score back to a tie with his first goal as a Red Wing. Brett Hull made a centering pass from behind the net. Woolley was left unguarded in the slot and let fly a hard shot which got past Markkanen.
Smyth retook the lead for the Oilers early in the third period. Robitaille had been sent to the box for high-sticking, Smyth was left to get to the side of the goal crease, where he waited with his stick blade on the ice. When Mike York sent the pass up from the right point, all Smyth had to do was tap it into the net.
Sergei Fedorov tied the game back up with his 13th of the season. He carried the puck up center and shot it from the blue line. Eric Brewer tried to get his stick in the way of the shot, but instead it deflected the puck just enough to fool Markkanen.
The Oilers took a 4-3 lead on a strange goal which was eventually credited to Janne Niinimaa. The puck seemed to escape from someone’s stick, pinball off of a few skates, and roll into the net past Legace’s outstretched catching glove.
Brendan Shanahan caught the Wings back up less than a minute later. He carried the puck up the right side, on a 2-on-1 rush with Tomas Holmstrom. Shanahan fired a hard, perfectly placed wrist shot which sailed past Markkanen to score the goal and swing the momentum back in Detroit’s favor.
The end of the third period was a huge amount of Detroit pressure in the Edmonton zone. Markkanen proved to be up to the challenge, however, and his team was rewarded a minute and a half into the overtime. Jason Smith was able to get to the front of the net and whack at the puck. Legace stopped the first three shots, but the fourth one was a backhander which chipped up high and in.
Final shots on net were 35-34 in Edmonton’s favor. The Red Wings play their next game at home on Wednesday night, when they host the New Jersey Devils.
Since this was Game # 21, and we are now about a quarter of the way through the season, it might be interesting to look and see how the League standings would look if the playoffs were to start today. In the East, #1 Boston (30 points) would play #8 New Jersey (23 points). #2 Tampa Bay (27 points) would play #7 Pittsburgh (24 points). #3 Philadelphia (26 points) would play the #6 New York Rangers (24 points). #4 Carolina (25 points) would play #5 Ottawa (24 points). In the West, #1 Dallas (33 points) would play #8 Anaheim (23 points). #2 Minnesota (30 points) would play #7 Los Angeles (24 points). #3 Detroit (26 points) would play…. get this…. #6 Colorado (25 points)! (What kind of first round is THAT????) And #4 Vancouver (28 points) would play #5 St. Louis (25 points). Hmm…. maybe it’s best that three-fourths of a season are still left to go.