EDMONTON – It certainly hasn’t felt like a record-setting season for the Edmonton Oilers this year, but they have been able to enter the record books with at least one positive distinction.
Robert Nilsson scored the lone goal in the shootout as the Oilers defeated the Detroit Red Wings 4-3 on Tuesday. That gives Edmonton an NHL-record 13 shootout wins this season – they’re 13-3 in the extra session. That breaks the record previously owned by the Dallas Stars, who went 12-1 in 2005-06.
“It’s always nice to have a positive record but it is all about winning games,” said Oilers goalie Mathieu Garon. “Those shootout wins have been huge for us because almost half of our wins have come that way.”
Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish says a lot of the credit for the shootout success falls squarely on Garon’s shoulders.
“When you have a goaltender that has only allowed two goals in 29 shots, that’s pretty spectacular. Especially with the quality shooters you face at this level.
“One goal is normally enough in a shootout with Mathieu in net.”
Agreed Nilsson: “In shootouts he is awesome. That’s what gives us so much confidence in those situations. He stopped three out of three again today. He’s one of the best shootout players in the world.”
Tom Gilbert, Geoff Sanderson and Fernando Pisani scored in regulation for Edmonton.
The Oilers (29-30-5) have now won two in a row and their last five contests at home but still trail eighth-place Nashville by nine points in the Western Conference playoff race.
Jonathan Ericsson, Pavel Datsyuk and Valtteri Filppula responded for Detroit.
The Conference-leading Wings (42-17-6) have not looked sharp of late, losing their third in a row and ninth game in their last 10 as they wrapped up a disastrous five-game road trip. While Detroit still leads the Central Division by 17 points over Nashville, its once seemingly insurmountable lead in the West has shrunk to just five points over Dallas in the overall race.
“We had so many opportunities it wasn’t even funny,” said Wings head coach Mike Babcock. “It’s been tough lately, and tonight was no different.”
Detroit looked like they had the game in hand after erasing a two-goal deficit with a pair of power-play goals in the third, and then taking the lead with just 2:16 remaining when Filppula powered a shot through Garon’s legs.
But Edmonton sent it to extra time on a late power-play goal. Pisani got a shot through a pile of players in front of Red Wings goalie Chris Osgood and in the goal with just 28 seconds left to play in the third, tying the game.
“Towards the end we were just firing pucks and getting everything we could at the net,” Pisani said. “It was a mad scramble in front and I just kind of chipped away at it and it trickled in.”
The goal was scored with Andreas Lilja in the box for a delay of game penalty, a frustrating penalty to take with a one-goal lead and under two minutes to play.
“Of course it’s frustrating,” he said. “Trying to get the puck out and trying to hit the glass, and the puck is standing on the high end, and it rolls over the glass.”
The game was scoreless through the first period before Edmonton broke the deadlock after some sustained pressure three minutes into the second. Nilsson made a nice feed to a pinching Gilbert at the side of the net and he out-waited Osgood before chipping the puck into the top corner.
The Red Wings had a chance to tie the game up late in the period on a partial breakaway opportunity for Datsyuk. Garon made the initial stop only to see the puck deflect high in the air and land behind him, nearly going into the net before skittering wide to maintain the 1-0 Edmonton lead after 40 minutes.
The Oilers took a 2-0 lead 1:44 into the third as Sanderson raced past Ericsson and cut in hard on net, beating Osgood through the five-hole.
However the injury-riddled Oilers took another hit mere seconds later as defenceman Joni Pitkanen took a clearing shot off the foot and had to be helped off of the ice. He didn’t return.
Ericsson’s first career NHL goal got Detroit back into the game with six minutes gone in the third.
The Red Wings tied the game six minutes after that, when Tomas Holmstrom provided the screen on a Datsyuk wrist shot.
The Oilers play the third game of a five-game homestand on Thursday against the L.A. Kings. Detroit returns home to face San Jose on Friday.
Notes: Red Wings goalie Dominik Hasek returned to the Detroit lineup for the first time since suffering a hip injury on Feb. 9, serving as Osgood’s backup. … Even with Hasek back, the Wings were without defencemen Chris Chelios, Niklas Kronwall, Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski and forward Dan Cleary, although all are expected back before the playoffs. For the Oilers, Raffi Torres, Sheldon Souray, Shawn Horcoff and Ethan Moreau are gone for the season and Ladislav Smid is also out hurt. … The Red Wings acquired defenceman Brad Stuart from the L.A. Kings at the trade deadline but he isn’t expected to join the team until their next practice on Thursday in Detroit. The Oilers were one of four teams not to make any moves on Tuesday.