Jagr scores game-winner as Oilers lose fourth straight
|Sam Gagner escapes the check of Cody Eakin on Feb. 6, 2013. (Photo by Andy Devlin / Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club).
EDMONTON - Another point gained, or another point lost? So goes the script of the recent stretch in Oil Country.
For the fourth straight game, the Oilers came up on the losing end. Jaromir Jagr's goal 1:46 into overtime ended a valiant comeback attempt, sinking the orange and blue in their second straight overtime defeat.
This time it was the home side that rallied back, peppering Stars netminder Kari Lehtonen with 13 third-period shots while tying the score after being down by one through 40 minutes, but it wasn't enough.
As a result, the Oilers' record drops to 4-3-3 (11 points) -- one up on the Phoenix Coyotes for the eight and final playoff spot in the NHL's Western Conference.
Adding salt to an already gaping wound, the Oilers lost another body in the process. Anton Lander blocked a shot early in the game and was forced to leave with what Head Coach Ralph Krueger described as a "bad bone bruise." Early indications are that nothing is broken.
"We were really proud of the effort," Krueger said. " But that's what makes this loss so disappointing."
"We're hurting for sure," added Jordan Eberle who, once again, played over 20 minutes and recorded three shots on goal. "We found a way through some adversity to battle back in the third. But it's frustrating losing games back-to-back in OT."
While the opening period was light on action, it was exactly what the Oilers needed. The 0-0 score and strong start on the shot clock set the stage for a quicker pace and sharper execution in the second.
3:21 into the period, the Oilers' second line went to work. Nail Yakupov and Ales Hemsky put on a clinic, circling the zone and scrambling the Stars defence. From the slot, Yakupov put a shot on goal that bounced over Lehtonen's pad and grazed the goaltender's blocker side post. Lurking at the doorstep off to Lehtonen's right, Hemsky buried the puck into the yawning cage behind the diving netminder.
A minute-long, end-to-end sequence shortly thereafter nearly resulted in goals for both sides, but Yakupov and Loui Eriksson both caught iron with off-the-rush shots 10 seconds apart.
Dallas took the lead with 6:36 to play as Jagr fought off his Czech countryman Ladislav Smid and fed Jamie Benn in the slot. Benn's one-time shot deflected off Jeff Petry and into the shelf behind Devan Dubnyk.
Hemsky was assessed a questionable late-period hooking penalty, which put the Stars back on the power-play. On the visitors' 19th shot with 55 seconds left in the advantage, Derek Roy blasted a missile past Dubnyk to give the Stars a 2-1 lead.
Dubnyk made 25 saves in the loss.
With Cody Eakin in the box serving a hooking minor early in the third, the Oilers cashed the equalizer. Snapping a six-game pointless streak (Jan. 26 vs. Calgary when he collected a goal and an assist), Justin Schultz launched a missile past Lehtonen to bring the Oilers back on even terms.
"It wasn't the greatest effort from us," admitted the game-tying goal-scorer. "We found a way to get back in the game, but these are the games we have to win. We didn't do that tonight, but we'll learn from it."
With the game up for grabs, Jagr ended it with a nifty play early in overtime. The ageless winger, who's collected nearly 700 goals and 1,700 points in his illustrious career, curled from the corner, walked to the slot and picked the corner short side on Dubnyk.
"He's still an elite player," Krueger said. "When he gets an opportunity like that, he usually doesn't miss."
Anton Lander is the latest entry to the growing list of patients in the sick bay. Coming into tonight, Shawn Horcoff, Ryan Jones, Andy Sutton, Ben Eager, Eric Belanger and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins already occupied the IR. With a full practice scheduled for Thursday morning, Krueger and the Oilers aren't going to rush into a decision about who (if anyone) to call up in the pivot's absence.
Chris VandeVelde attended the club's abbreviated training camp earlier this month and is most likely to get the call, assuming others aren't back in time for Saturday's game in Detroit.
"It (the injury) happened again in the first three or four minutes," Krueger said. "We patched it up along the way and the guys did well. The puck is our enemy right now, not the opposition. It's a strange string of events. The positive is that Horcoff is the only one that's long-term.
"We have the luxury of waiting until tomorrow. (On) Friday we'd like to make that decision, but we'll wait and see what will happen with Lander. We're hoping that Ben Eager and Eric Belanger will return on the weekend and we can get back to the four lines we were rolling early in the season."
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com | Follow me on Twitter @ryandittrick