With the net empty, Viktor Fasth took a shot at scoring but came well short of achieving the rare feat for goaltenders.
"It's just lack of skills," Fasth laughed when asked why he couldn't convert. "I don't think I'll get a better chance than that but unfortunately I couldn't get it away."
After the game, Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins talked about the ongoing process as the Oilers learn to become a more consistent team.
“It’s the process. Our guys, they’re slowly getting it. It takes time to build a program, to understand the program and to get better. Our guys this year have been excellent students of the game. They’re working a lot on the fundamentals. Our group’s different. We’ve got a little bit more NHL experience now. And some of our key guys are getting stronger,” Eakins began.
One of the players making big strides is Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who had a goal and an assist with five shots on goal in 20:40 in icetime in the win.
“Again tonight, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. This kid is coming like gangbusters right now and that’s important," Eakins continued. "And we’ve got other guys coming right behind him, too. I thought it was a great team effort.”
Another key indicator of team effort was seeing how the team played while up 2-1. The Rangers didn't get a shot on goal for the first half of the third period.
"We were still being aggressive," Eakins said, answering why the team was successful. "We don’t want to change our game much when we do have the lead. We had success throughout the game playing an aggressive game. Other than tweaking it just a tiny bit, our guys stayed with that aggression.
"When you start getting the result like that, there’s not that negative thought in your head that something bad’s going to happen. It’s, hey, if we continue doing this we’re going to be rewarded. But for me it was our aggression still in the game and not coming off it."
Nugent-Hopkins contrasted the team's performance today with their game in Boston where they did let a 2-1 third period lead slip away.
"Against Boston we didn’t do a good enough job, just a few big mistakes. We limited those tonight. It really goes to show how much more mature our team is.”
The Oilers are on the ice for morning skate at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Forward lines are:
UPDATE: Viktor Fasth gets the start in goal today.
The Oilers came into Buffalo on difficult circumstances, having played the night before in Boston. But Coach Eakins felt that the team managed to put all that aside to play a very good game, with a 3-2 win and 52 shots on goal.
"Sometimes these things don’t set up very well. You’ve lost a few in a row and you’re coming in to play a team that’s struggling and you’re playing back-to-back," Eakins began. "The odds aren’t lining up very well for you. But I thought our guys were excellent tonight. I thought that not only did they play well, they had great energy on the bench when we got down. They all took a deep breath and got back to work."
Over Thursday and Friday's games, the Oilers were pushed to the max physically but still managed to pull through in the third period with a big come-from-behind win.
"Our fitness levels were tested tonight. The guys have done an excellent job over the past year — through the summer — to prepare for games like this," said Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins. "It certainly paid off tonight because we were able to keep the pace high with very little let-up."
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Benoit Pouliot, for example, each played well over 40 minutes of hockey over the two nights. Nugent-Hopkins had almost 24 minutes on Thursday and played nearly 18 minutes Friday. He was 59% on face-offs with three hits and five shots on goal to help lead the Oilers to the win.
Goaltender Viktor Fasth led the Oilers onto the ice for pre-game warm-ups and will start in goal against the Sabres.
All seven defencemen on the roster are taking warm-up: Klefbom, Marincin, Schultz, Aulie, Petry, Fayne and Nikitin.
The defence pairings will be:
Up front, Pakarinen and Yakupov swap:
Marincin in Klefbom out. D: 86-2, 22-5, 85-19, Fasth starts— Bob Stauffer (@Bob_Stauffer) November 7, 2014
With four straight losses and still searching for their first win of the season on the road, the Oilers have been trying to look at the positives in their play the last few games. Jordan Eberle commented that getting a win tonight would go a long way to getting a good feeling back in the room.
“It’s definitely been an up-and-down season with the start, then winning the next four then losing the next four," Eberle noted. "It’s been a bit of a roller coaster. I think a win could do everything. It always changes things.”
Keith Aulie, a newcomer to the squad, said he didn't feel that the team was getting down on itself.
“It’s those moments of adversity that you can really see what a team’s made of. I’ve been on teams before where guys hang their heads and get really frustrated. I didn’t see that last night. It’s just a tough moment. You’ve got to learn from those experiences and move on.”
The tendency could be for a team in the Oilers situation (four straight losses) to relax with a team like the Buffalo Sabres (30th in the NHL) coming up, but the team is coming into tonight's game knowing that the Sabres are going to be a tough out.
“They’re not playing their best hockey and I think we need to capitalize on that. And if we play the way we did last night against Boston we’re going to have a lot of chances out there. If we bring the same intensity and will as we did yesterday, we’re going to be fine tonight for sure,” said Benoit Pouliot.
The Sabres are 3-9-1 but have picked up points in each of their last two games and three of their last four, including a win over the Detroit Red Wings in that span.
“We’ve got to play that sense of urgency. We’ve got to expect them to play their best game of the season. Our mindset needs to be to play hard and play a smart game. We need to play with a little more urgency,” Oilers centre Boyd Gordon remarked.
Jordan Eberle stressed that anyone in the NHL can win if you don't come in prepared.
“It’s the NHL. You’ve got to find ways to win hockey games. Any team can beat any team at any time. That’s the best part of this league, every team’s great.
Iiro Pakarinen put up good numbers in seven games with the Oklahoma City Barons this season. He scored eight points, including a team-high five goals.
His efforts helped earn him a call up by the Oilers. They also left a mark on Barons Head Coach Todd Nelson.
“The first thing that comes to mind when you meet him is how mature he is for his age and he’s a consummate professional,” Nelson said. “He’s played in the international scene but coming here we were expecting a bit of an adjustment, but he adjusted fine. He’s a very complete hockey player. When we were looking at him for some of the areas to help him grow there isn’t a lot there, especially at this level. Everybody can get faster, everybody can shoot harder and move the puck better. With him, he plays a skilled game but he also plays an abrasive style where he’s good defensively, he’s good on the walls and he’s a big, strong guy. He has a lot going on for him. If he plays the way I think he can up in Edmonton I don’t think I’ll get him back.”
Pakarinen makes his NHL and Oilers debut tonight in Boston.
The Oilers assigned Luke Gazdic to Oklahoma City for a two-week conditioning stint as he returns from shoulder surgery.
Gazdic scored a goal in his first game with OKC on November 1. His shoulder feels great just two games into his return.
“It’s been good,” Gazdic said. “Last weekend, I got those two games in back-to-back. It felt good, we got a couple of wins here with the guys and I was playing a lot of minutes. I feel great, (the shoulder is) strong, it’s solid. I didn’t have any fights, but I put in a goal and was getting in on the forecheck.”
Gazdic hasn’t had to fight anyone yet to really test out the shoulder, but he knows he might have to answer the bell before his time in OKC is complete.
“There’s a little bit of chirping going on back and forth but that’s just to be expected with the type of game I play. We have another tough team in Toronto coming in on Saturday. I wouldn’t be surprised in the next three games here if something happened but we’ll see. It’s inevitable sometimes with the style of play and the way I approach the game. I play it hard, I play it fast and sometimes the fighting comes to me more than I initiative.”