EDMONTON, AB – Although they led in the third period, controlled most of the game and outshot Columbus 47-20, the Oilers fell to the visiting Blue Jackets, 4-3 in a shootout.
“It’s disappointing we didn’t get the result we wanted, but I was happy with our effort,” Oilers Interim Coach Todd Nelson said. “I thought our guys played a pretty strong game. There were pockets in it where we were sloppy with the puck but, for the most part, I liked our game.”
The Oilers held the play in the Blue Jackets end for much of the opening five minutes. However, the Blue Jackets drew first blood on their first shot of the game. With penalties to both teams, David Savard scored a 4-on-4 goal at 5:35 of the first to make it 1-0. Savard was assisted by Alexander Wennberg and Scott Hartnell.
It was very much a dominant opening period for the Oilers, who outshot Columbus 14-4, but they found themselves down 1-0 after 20 minutes.
Ryan Johansen made it 2-0 at 3:50 of the second. Johansen fired a shot in from the top of the circle, assisted by Ryan Murray and Cam Atkinson.
Going the other way and trying to cut the Columbus lead in half, Oilers winger Benoit Pouliot was robbed by the glove of goaltender Curtis McElhinney.
“It’s one of those nights where their (goalie) played really well,” Nelson said of McElhinney’s career-high 44 saves. “When you’re playing well, good things happen and we just missed our mark a few times. We had some really good opportunities and we just didn’t find the back of the net. We probably could have had six…. but you’ve got to give credit to their guy. He played outstanding.”
It seemed like it was just a matter of time before the Oilers connected on the power play. They came into the game leading the league on the man advantage, since the All-Star break.
The Oilers got their break at the 11:00 mark of the second period. Nail Yakupov carried the puck through traffic up the middle. He got a diving pass out to Pouliot, who gathered and then set up Derek Roy for the backdoor goal. Yakupov’s assist gave him a five-game point streak.
Edmonton tied the game at 1:28 of the third period when Jordan Eberle fed Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for his career-high 20th goal of the season. Eberle danced around Artem Anisimov then backhanded a pass across the crease to his centre, who promptly buried the equalizer.
“It was something I wanted to accomplish coming into this year, obviously was improving on that,” Nugent-Hopkins said of his new career-high in goals. “It’s been going pretty well for our line as of late, so we’ve just got to keep that going.”
That goal stretched Nugent-Hopkins’ point streak to four games, where he has one goal and six assists for seven points in that span. Eberle saw his streak increase to six games. Over that time, Eberle has four goals and eight assists.
Oscar Klefbom hammered a shot behind the Columbus net and it rebounded out to Nail Yakupov, who pounced a scored to give Edmonton their first lead of the game. Andrew Ference recorded the second assist.
That goal came at 9:15 of the final frame, but the celebration was short lived as Columbus tied the game at 3-3 less than a minute later. Mark Letestu put one past Ben Scrivens, assisted by Jack Johnson, at 10:09.
Overtime solved nothing and for the second time in five days these two teams went to a shootout. The Blue Jackets beat the Oilers in Columbus on March 13, 5-4 in a shootout.
Although Eberle scored for the Oilers, Johansen and Wennberg buried their chances for Columbus to put the pressure on Roy. The Oilers centre’s shot went low blocker on McElhinney and the Blue Jackets escaped with the 4-3 win.
“It was good. It was a competitive game,” Oilers centre Boyd Gordon said. “I thought we controlled the game for portions but we just haven’t found a way to win. If it’s not one thing, it seems to be the other. Tonight we had tons of shots, lots of chances but we couldn’t find that way to get the win.”