EDMONTON – The muddled goaltending picture hasn’t become any clearer for the Edmonton Oilers.
Rookie Oilers goalie Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers made a positive impression despite losing 3-2 in shootout to the Florida Panthers on Bryan McCabe’s goal in pre-season play on Wednesday night. Drouin-Deslauriers was named first star of the contest with a 27-save performance, including lifting his team during a dreadful first-period stint where Edmonton was outshot 16-1.
The native of St. Jean-Richelieu, Que. followed up strong pre-season efforts by veterans Mathieu Garon and Dwayne Roloson to further complicate the three-headed monster that is the Oilers goaltending picture.
“I was comfortable and confident in net tonight,” Drouin-Deslauriers said. “My preparation was good for the game. It is always disappointing to lose. I need to work on my shootout skills, I think, if I want to win those games.”
Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish was impressed with what he saw in the 24-year-old netminder.
“He played well, the goaltenders have all played very well. He bailed us out in the first period with all the action that he had. He was really solid in there and made some terrific saves.”
Edmonton has some tough decisions to make in net with Drouin-Deslauriers on a one-way contract signed in the off-season. And the early showings by all three should only increase the likelihood that the Oilers start the season with a trio of goalies fighting for playing time.
“They have all played well,” MacTavish said. “They were all good games. We thought it was going to be that way and it is.”
The Oilers, now 0-1-2 in exhibition action, received goals from Shawn Horcoff and Liam Reddox.
Janis Sprukts and Shawn Matthias recorded the regulation goals for the Panthers who improved to 2-0 in pre-season play.
Matthias, who played four games with Florida last year before being returned to the OHL’s Belleville Bulls, was acquired by the Panthers in a trade with Detroit for Todd Bertuzzi in February of 2007.
He’s also hoping to make a positive impression during the exhibition schedule.
“I’m a year older, learned a lot of things last year and built a lot of character,” he said. “I think that is helping me for this year.
“I got the contract out of the way and it is a little bit easier this year because I had that call-up last year. At the same time I think it is more competitive at camp than it was last year and you have to be playing your best at all times.”
Florida caught Edmonton looking lethargic to start the contest, peppering Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers with seven shots early on before Sprukts took a feed from Stefan Meyer and beat the rookie Oilers goaltender stick-side 1:49 into the first.
The Panthers continued to pour it on, outshooting the Oilers 16-1 at one point, before Edmonton capitalized on a power-play. Ales Hemsky connected on a cross-ice pass to Horcoff, who put his first goal and third point of the pre-season past Chris Beckford-Tseu in the Florida net with 40 seconds left to tie it 1-1.
Florida regained its lead eight minutes into the middle frame as Matthias swooped around from behind the net, floated a shot in on Druoin-Deslauriers and then found his own rebound and whacked it home to make it 2-1.
Edmonton bounced back four minutes later with another power-play goal as Beckford-Tseu was able to make the initial stop of a point blank shot by Dustin Penner but couldn’t stop Reddox from tucking in the rebound.
Both young goalies had to come up with huge saves on opposition power-play opportunities to send the game to overtime following a scoreless third period.
The Panthers had a power play for the final two and a half minutes of the extra session following a laundry list of penalties to Sheldon Souray, but couldn’t get anything past Druoin-Deslauriers.
Beckford-Tseu also looked at home in the Panthers net, stopping 17 shots and the final three shooters he saw in the shoot-out to capture the win.
The two teams play each other again on Thursday night in Edmonton.
Notes: The Oilers held a moment of silence before the game to recognize the loss of former goaltender Jussi Markkanen, whose four-year-old son Oli-matias died earlier this week after falling out of a Moscow apartment window. Markkanen, who now plays for CSKA in the KHL, had brought his family to join him in Russia just a couple weeks ago. … The Panthers were playing their second game in as many nights, following a 3-2 victory in Calgary on Tuesday that earned new head coach Peter DeBoer his first NHL win behind the bench. …Florida has six consecutive pre-season games on the road in six nights. … The Oilers were playing their third game in four nights after a pair of one-goal losses against the Vancouver Canucks.