Marc-Andre Bergeron and Jarret Stoll each had a power-play goal and an assist in the first period, and the Oilers rode nearly two periods of penalty-free play to a 3-2 victory over San Jose on Wednesday night.
Mathieu Roy added his first career goal as Edmonton took a 3-0 lead in the first 11½ minutes. Getting ahead was the easy part, particularly against a San Jose club prone to slow starts, but staying ahead required exemplary defensive play – or a whole lot of baffling officiating, according to Sharks coach Ron Wilson.
Either way, Dwayne Roloson made 32 saves as the Oilers held on in their first trip to the Shark Tank since last season’s Western Conference semifinals, won in six games by Edmonton after San Jose took a two-game lead into overtime of Game 3.
“We knew we had to stay out of the box to win,” Edmonton captain Jason Smith said. “We got some opportunities on our power play and took advantage. They came back strong when we got penalties, but we were pretty lucky.”
The Sharks had bombarded Dallas, Detroit and Columbus for 13 power-play goals in their previous three games, but didn’t get much of a chance to use that sharp man-advantage attack. Though the Sharks controlled much of the flow of play against Edmonton, the officials kept them on a parade to the penalty box with seven straight minor penalties in the first two periods.
“It’s hard to believe that you spend as much time as you do in the offensive zone that more penalties aren’t called on them,” Wilson said. “What are you going to do?”
Edmonton didn’t receive a minor until Matt Greene was called for interference with 2:15 left in the second period, drawing a sarcastic standing ovation from the Shark Tank crowd.
“Probably Joe (Thornton) has ice on both hands. There was a lot of slashing,” Wilson said. “I certainly can’t complain about the way we played. Territorially, we probably had the puck about 75 per cent of the game, but the calls didn’t go our way, so you move on.”
But Edmonton’s penalty-killing unit – the NHL’s fourth-best entering the night – also deserved credit. The Oilers did an outstanding job disrupting San Jose’s side-to-side puck movement after the Sharks jumped into the league lead in power-play goals with their recent spree.
“It was a wild one,” Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said. “We were pretty precise on our passing on the power play. We got off to a lead, and we defended pretty well. We spent a fair amount of time in our zone, but we were in the right spots. We didn’t get run over.”
Jonathan Cheechoo scored the Sharks’ 14th power play goal in four games early in the third period, but their three-game winning streak was snapped. Marcel Goc also scored, and Evgeni Nabokov made 13 saves in his fourth straight winless start.
Cheechoo, voted an all-star game starter despite having just 14 goals and a minus-10 rating, actually thought the opening period was the Sharks’ best.
“We just got away from how we played in the first period,” said Cheechoo, who has heated up lately with three goals in his last four games. “We were out-shooting them, moving our legs, and we got away from that.”
The Oilers have earned a point from five straight games after a four-game losing streak.
The Sharks’ penchant for slow starts at home doomed them again. San Jose’s opponents have scored the opening goal in eight of its nine home games since Dec. 11, with the Sharks’ win over Columbus on Saturday as the only exception.
Bergeron scored a power-play goal just 95 seconds in, with his long slap shot eluding Nabokov. Roy, who was named to the AHL All-Star game this week, got his first goal in five NHL games from a similar spot, and Stoll added his 13th of the season just 36 seconds later.
Sharks captain Patrick Marleau had a chance to tie it in the closing seconds, but his point-blank shot at an unobstructed net somehow glanced off the crossbar.
“For the most part, we stifled their power play except near the end,” Stoll said. “It was a big game for us. We needed the two points.”
Notes: Thornton didn’t score after racking up 10 points in the last three games. … Ales Hemsky extended his scoring streak to six games with an assist on Bergeron’s goal.