EDMONTON – The Edmonton Oilers showed their age against Detroit’s veteran-heavy lineup.
Dan Cleary had a goal and two assists and Jimmy Howard made 29 saves as the Red Wings defeated the Oilers 3-1 on Friday.
Cleary, a 13-year NHLer who played in Edmonton from 1999-2003, felt that having far more games under the Red Wings’ collective belt helped stymie the speedy, rookie-laden Oilers.
“Coming into a building like this against a young team that is exuberant and high-flying, our goal was to slow down their speed,”he said.“Experience was a big factor. We know how to protect leads and how to win on the road. We have proven that the last few nights out West.”
Justin Abdelkader and Valtteri Filppula also scored for the Red Wings (8-2-1), who have won three straight and six of their last seven.
Detroit head coach Mike Babcock gave a lot of credit for the tight game to the goalies on both sides of the ice.
“Their goalie (Nikolai Khabibulin) was unbelievable,”Babcock said.“He stood on his head, especially early. We had the puck behind him four or five times and he was still able to keep it out. Our goalie was very good as well. It was a tight game on the road like you expect.”
Taylor Hall scored his first goal on home ice for the struggling Oilers (3-6-2), who have just one win in their last nine games.
Detroit got on the board at 1:45 into the match as Ladislav Smid got caught pinching, allowing a 2-on-1. Mike Modano elected to shoot and Khabibulin made the original save but Abdelkader swept in the rebound.
It was Abdelkader’s second goal in as many games since returning from an injury.
Edmonton was fortunate to come out of the period only down 1-0 as the Wings had a number of high-quality scoring chances, including several on the power play thanks to a Sam Gagner high-sticking double minor, but Detroit couldn’t pad its lead.
The Oilers came out with more fire in the second, clanging a pair of shots off the post before evening the score just over five minutes in while on the power play. Shawn Horcoff directed the puck to Hall and he chipped it over a sprawling Howard for his third of the season.
Detroit surged ahead 2-1 three minutes later on a man-advantage of its own as Cleary made a nice backhand pass to Filppula at the side of the net and he sent the puck into the open cage.
The Red Wings came very close to taking a two-goal lead before the second period ended but Khabibulin made a huge save, swatting away a Henrik Zetterberg shot.
Edmonton had the bulk of the third-period chances but couldn’t get one past Howard before Cleary iced the game with 21 seconds left with an empty-netter.
Oilers head coach Tom Renney felt that a win was in their grasp, but his team still hasn’t learned how to go out and get it as of yet.
“I thought we played the first period as though we weren’t sure we belonged on the same sheet as them,”Renney said.“But of course we do. We are an NHL team. We have youth on our side and I feel the right tactics. We have to apply ourselves accordingly. It’s a great saying—you can’t steal second with a foot on first.”
The Red Wings conclude a three-game trip on Saturday in Vancouver while the Oilers will start a five-game road swing in Chicago on Sunday.
Khabibulin made 27 saves on 29 shots.
Notes: It was the first of four meetings between the two teams this season. Edmonton took three of four last year. … Edmonton is now dead last in the league in penalty-killing at just 68.8 per cent.…Howard hadn’t lost a game in regulation in 22 starts, going 19-0-3. He is off to a 6-0-1 start this season. …Backup goalie Chris Osgood has ruled himself out for the final two games of the trip because of a groin injury. Joey MacDonald dressed as Howard’s backup. …Red Wings defenceman Brian Rafalski (knee) could return next week. … Detroit’s Johan Franzen played after sitting out practice on Thursday with a hip flexor. …Oilers left winger Steve McIntyre missed the match with a sore back.