Devan Dubnyk stopped all 22 shots he faced, while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins recorded a goal and an assist, propelling the Edmonton Oilers to a 3-0 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday night at Rexall Place.
The Oilers nearly got on the board early when the puck was centered in the crease, and it sat in the blue paint without a touch as Ryan Jones' reach wasn't enough to tap it home. Jordan Eberle raced in, but the puck was swept away at the last second by James Wisniewski and the Blue Jackets D.
While the home side lept out to a commanding 7-2 lead in shots, the visitors burst back and nearly notched the icebreaker when Colton Gillies and Ryan Russel broek up ice on a 2-on-1. The cross-ice pass was just in front of the receiver, causing his one-time attempt to drift wide of Devan Dubnyk's outstretched glove.
Moments later at 9:20, Ladislav Smid was assessed an interference minor when he hauled down RJ Umberger. While on the penalty kill, the Oilers got the advantage's best chances but none were converted. Ryan Jones got a pair, but he flubbed a breakaway opportunity after mishandling the puck and, seconds later, fanned on a shot to end a promising 2-on-1 sequence with Eric Belanger.
With 1:45 left in the period, the Oilers' attack nearly resulted in a goal once more. Sam Gagner delivered a pass to Taylor Hall at the top of the crease, but his at-the-lip redirect attempt dribbled wide of Curtis Sanford's right pad and goal-post.
The Oilers led 12-3 in shots after 20 minutes.
The Oilers went to the power-play at 3:20 when Wisniewski was charged with hooking Eberle along the side-boards. No. 14 almost got the ultimate payback when he snapped a Ryan Nugent-Hopkins rebound on what appeared to be an empty net, but Nikita Nikitin blocked the 10-foot attempt.
The Oilers' unrelenting attack eventually paid off. Taking a pass from Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins stepped into the slot and whistled a snap shot -- eerily similar to his strike vs. New York earlier in the year -- past Sanford to put the home sdie up 1-0 on on their 15th shot.
At 8:55, Hall was assessed a double-minor for high-sticking. Columbus added little of consequence of Dubnyk, keeping the Oilers' 1-0 lead intact.
RNH nearly put the Oilers up by two with another sure-goal (seemingly so) chance, but when the puck popped into his sights at the doorstep, he was ill-prepared to handle the open-net chance and the puck skirted away undisturbed.
Making up for some lost momentum, the Blue Jackets burst up ice on a 3-on-1, but Dubnyk came up big to deny John Moore's in-tight wrist shot.
A second power-play chance was presented to the Oilers when the Blue Jackets were flagged for too many men at 17:15. Ales Hemsky had an excellent opportunity when he drove wide and cut to the net, but he collided with the goaltender as the puck stayed out.
A late-period Cam Atkinson penalty put the Oilers back on the man-advantage, and the Oilers wasted no time in extending the lead. With only four seconds on the clock, Nugent-Hopkins delivered a pinpoint shot on goal, while Hall pounced at the doorstep, jamming it home to put the Oilers up 2-0.
The home side's shot lead extended to a 24-13 advantage through 40 minutes.
Penalties to Rick Nash and Sam Gagner put the teams in a 4-on-4 situation early in the third. Neither team could generate much during the sequence and ensuing (brief) power-play chances.
The Oilers nearly made it a 3-0 lead when the club broke up on a partial 3-on-1 rush -- the pass eventually made its way to Ryan Smyth, who appeared to have an empty net to shoot at. His 15-foot shot sailed wide past Sanford's out-of-position blocker.
Dubnyk did his part at the other end, stoning Atkinson's point-blank opportunity with a quick pad denial. That big-time save spurred a breakaway for Nugent-Hopkins as he danced past Nikitin, but No. 93's shot missed the cage blocker side.
The Oilers kept pressing in search of another, dishing shots at will on additional odd-man rushes. Eberle collected the puck on a partial 3-on-2 and ripped a shot on goal, but it struck iron on the netminder's near side.
With about 1:45 to play, Columbus pulled their goalie for an extra-attacker. Linus Omark made short work of it, sliding the puck into the cage to put the Oilers up 3-0 as the orange and blue cruised to a three-goal win.
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