The Oilers kept it close throughout the night but couldn't come up with another third period come-from-behind effort as the Detroit Red Wings exit Rexall Place with a 3-1 victory over the Oilers. Former-Oiler Dan Clearly recorded a goal and two assists to lead the way for the Red Wings. Justin Abdelkader and Valtteri Filppula scored the other two for Detroit, while the lone Oilers goal was scored by Taylor Hall.
While it would be unfair to say the Oilers played the first half of the game void of emotion, there was a noticeable lack of energy that hindered the Oilers' overall attack. A Gilbert Brule hit and fight midway through the second brought the Rexall Place crowd and the Oilers bench to life and provided the team with a lift that they made the most of. A powerplay goal moments after that sequence tied the game for the Oilers and provided a lift of momentum. Unfortunately, the Oilers were unable to ride that wave to victory.
Against the fifth best faceoff team in the league, no less, the Oilers improved on their ranking tonight; winning 54% of all the draws taken.
The Red Wings are known for their puck possession game. Tonight, the Red Wings uncharacteristically made 13 giveaways. In comparison, the Oilers made 12.
Both the Oilers and Red Wings recorded 30 shots on goal tonight; above average for the Oilers to put that many on net, and likewise for Detroit as they rarely allow that many.
Detroit recorded its 47th win vs. Edmonton and now owns the series lead (47-46-13-3 all-time vs. the Oilers).
Late in the second period following a Ryan Whitney instigator penalty, the Oilers were desperate for a kill to keep the game within one. A mad scramble around the Oilers' crease resulted in Khabibulin laying on his side, trying to keep the puck out of harm's way. The puck was eventually chopped at the goal, but Khabibulin's sprawling efforts were the difference on this play. As the puck appeared to be heading for the top of the net, he made one last ditch effort to get his glove on it; he did, and the incredible save brought the Rexall Place crowd to life with one of his finest saves of the season.
It's becoming somewhat of a disturbing theme to be featuring former Oilers as game MVP, but it certainly was the case again tonight. Following Raffi Torres' hat-trick performance the other night, Dan Cleary provided his best imitation on Friday. Cleary recorded three points (one goal, two assists) and was a force all night long; he provided reliability both offensively and defensively, and the Wings were thankful as he was the catalyst for the Detroit attack.
While Sam Gagner didn't get on the scoresheet offensively, his overall game was fantastic on this night. The young forward was centering two new linemates that seemed to complement his game well. Gagner was heavily involved in the physical game, which is perhaps uncharacteristic from him. In addition, his faceoff percentage through two periods was much improved; a tremendous feat considering the quality of the opponent.
Edmonton's third line continues to see a resurgence of energy, and that continued tonight when Gilbert Brule single-handidly created momentum for the Oilers midway through the second period. A thunderous hit on Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk in the offensive zone incited quite a response from the Red Wings. A much larger Jonathan Ericsson mobbed Brule following the hit, but Brule fought hard and eventually got the decision in an all-around beautiful sequence from the fiesty winger.
Tonight's game was the 109th all-time meeting between the Oilers and Red Wings. Coming into tonight, both Edmonton and Detroit shared the exact same head-to-head record; each team was 46-46-13-3 against the other during the first 108 games.
"They're the Detroit Red Wings. They come to play every night. I thought we did a good job tonight of sticking to our game plan and making sure that they didn't have the puck too much. We made sure we got it behind their D, and I thought we did a pretty good job."
- Kurtis Foster on the loss to Detroit
Sunday November 7 vs. Chicago 5:00 p.m. MT (Sportsnet EDM/630 CHED)
The Oilers will now depart on their longest road trip of the season while the Canadian Finals Rodeo takes over Rexall Place. The first stop on the tour will be back in the Windy City, where the Oilers hope get back on track in a city they had success in just a week ago.