The Oilers stayed step-for-step with the Red Wings, pushing the veteran squad late into the game locked in a 2-2 score, but Detroit's Drew Miller tallied late to propel the visitors to a 3-2 win over the home side Monday night at Rexall Place.
With the Oilers up 2-0 in shots, the Red Wings were presented with the game's best chance 3:30 in when Corey Potter's breakout pass caught the home side in the midst of a change, forcing the orange and blue to cough up possession. Nikolai Khabibulin made the stop, but the visitors gained a surge in momentum.
At 4:33, Jakub Kindl's side-board backhand was redirected by ex-Oiler Dan Cleary at the goal-mouth, beating the veteran 'tender glove-side and putting the Red Wings up 1-0.
The Oilers pushed back, with Ryan Jones, Sam Gagner and Eric Belanger creating several scoring chances in the opponents' end, but starter Jimmy Howard stopped all three, preserving his club's early advantage.
The Wings quickly caught the Oilers' lead on the shot clock, with Ian White springing Justin Abdelkader on a partial break, but Khabibulin came up with another big save to keep his team in it.
The goalies were kept busy, as Howard was put to the test moments later when Taylor Hall picked his way behind the Detroit D, but the 27-year-old came up big, turning the sophomore's backhand attempt aside. It did, however, provide a boost in momentum that resulted in an Oilers power-play chance; Jonathan Ericsson was charged with hooking at 13:44.
Just as Hall hit Howard's blocker-side goal-post, the Oilers' opportunity turned into a 5-on-3 chance when White was assessed a tripping minor. The home side's 20.6-percent man-advantage success rate took a hit, as the Oilers squandered the chance without many opportunities to cash.
With 20 minutes in the books, the Oilers trailed the Red Wings 1-0, but were up with a slim 10-7 shot lead.
The Oilers wasted no time in getting back on even terms. At 2:36, Sam Gagner sent an ariel pass into the Red Wings end where Ryan Jones scooped it up, breaking in alone on a break against Howard. No. 28 carralled the bouncing puck and lasered a shot through the netminder's wickets to make it a 1-1 game.
Interference penalties to Drew Miller and Ben Eager provided each squad with another power-play chance, but neither side could capitalize, pushing the 1-1 deadlock into the period's latter half.
Following an ill-advised and misplaced pass by Ryan Whitney that resulted in an a turn of possession, Detroit came back the other way and made good; Henrik Zetterberg's blast from the slot was tipped past Khabibulin to restore the Red Wings' one-goal lead at 14:36.
The Oilers came close to squaring the score late in the period when Jordan Eberle danced through Zetterberg and Vatteri Filppula in the slot, but Howard came up with a remarkable glove snatch to keep the Wings in front.
They would get another chance late in the period when Ericsson was assessed his second minor of the night, putting the Oilers' 0-for-2 power-play to work. And with only 0.5 seconds on the clock, the Oilers tied the game; Ryan Nugent-Hopkins' point shot was blocked, but Eberle pounced on the mid-slot rebound, hammering home his 12th to get the orange and blue into a 2-2 score.
With 40 minutes expired, the Oilers and Red Wings were tied on the scoreboard and in shots, 18-18.
Scoring chances were scarce in the period's opening moments but, at 5:22, Shawn Horcoff clipped Zetterberg with an errant stick, putting the Red Wings back on the power-play in search of the go-ahead goal. Khabibulin came up with three brilliant stops, including a point-blank chance by Jiri Hudler to preserve the 2-2 score.
As the period's 10-minute mark passed, the teams remained tied as the visitors darted out to a 26-20 lead in shots.
With 4:15 to play, the Red Wings scored to go up for the third time in the game. Nicklas Lidstrom's point shot eluded bodies in the slot, but was redirected past Khabibulin by Drew Miller to establish a 3-2 score on the visitors' 28th shot.
Niklas Kronwall chipped the puck over the glass at 16:58, providing the Oilers with a last-gasp power-play attempt. Khabibulin was also pulled for an extra-attacker with two minutes on the clock, putting the Oilers up in a 6-on-4 situation.
The Oilers were unable to direct the puck on goal and, as such, dropped a 3-2 decision to the Red Wings.
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