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Rookie showcase tilts toward San Jose
Couture outplays Hall as Sharks win 2-1
12/21/10 - By Mike Lee -

Don't let the standings fool you. The Edmonton Oilers sit in last place in the Western Conference, but after going 6-3-1 in their last ten games entering Tuesday night's match-up with the Sharks, it would have been foolish to look past them. Stocked with up and coming prospects including Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, the Oilers are poised to breakout as a franchise. After falling behind on Tuesday night the Oilers put up a spirited fight before falling 2-1 at HP Pavilion.

The Sharks played a surgical game, carving away at the Oilers in the 2nd period and put a pair of goals on the board. More importantly, it resulted in San Jose's third consecutive regulation victory, the first time they've achieved that this season. They had a three game win streak in early November, but that started with a 2-1 shootout victory over the New York Islanders.

"You can't get three until you get two and we have to look forward to number four," said Sharks head coach Todd McLellan. "I think this matches our season high as far as an output goes and we challenged our players to match that and we have one more chance here before the break to try and extend it and we are looking forward to that challenge." Tuesday night kicked off a brief three-game homestand against Western Conference teams. A back and forth opening period felt more like a sparring match than a title fight. Both teams did a lot of skating, but little attacking.

The highlight of the period was a power play that turned into a lengthy stay in the Oilers zone. After Zack Stortini was sent off for goaltender interference, the Sharks setup camp in the offensive zone for a majority of the power play and beyond. If not for Oilers goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin covering a shot in the crease, the visit by the Sharks offense may have gone on for a while.

Both teams would only muster 5 shots on goal apiece, but a scoring chance by Eberle with 1:25 remaining in the period came closest to ending up in the scoring column. Eberle found himself in the slot after a nice cycle by the Oilers, and got a top shelf shot off that Sharks goaltender ANtero Niittymaki was forced to defend with a waving glove save.

Sa Jose would pick up the pace in the middle period, out-shooting the Oilers 17-9 in the period.

The Sharks got in on rookie showcase night when Benn Ferriero missed on a golden chance 4 minutes into the 2nd period on a feed from Dany Heatley. The Sharks forward had a one-time chance that he sent just wide of Khabibulin. The veterans showed they could also miss. Joe Thornton would follow up on Ferriero's close call with a chance in front of Khabibulin that went unfulfilled.

The game's turning point came at the 8:07 mark when Scott Nichol took a hooking penalty. That came 48 seconds after Niklas Wallin was sent off for interference, giving the Oilers a 5-on-3 power play chance. Playing down two men, Logan Couture stepped in front of a Oilers pass and raced up ice forcing Tyler Hall to take a holding penalty to prevent a breakaway goal.

"Logan provided that spark in the second, got us going, after that everybody else fell in line," said McLellan.

San Jose would get a brief power play themselves, but Khabibulin kept the game tied by stoning both Dan Heatley and Patrick Marleau on a bang-bang pair of chances from the right side

. "We had four turnovers on our 5-on-3. And that tells you that we're trying to do something that's not there," said Oilers head coach Tom Renney. "In a 5-on-3 you set up for the payoff skill and that's the shot. And we didn't do that with any kind of authority at all. That sort of led to our demise, if you will, and subsequent to that we got into a bit of a track meet in the second period. And not managing the puck properly they were able to get the two-nothing lead."

With all the national focus on this year's Calder race directed at Hall and Eberle, it's been Couture who has been delivering. He would extend his rookie goal scoring lead with a pretty touch shot at 13:15 of the period after Ryane Clowe raced to the right post and send a pass across the slot. Couture picked Linus Omark's pocket at center ice to start the sequence, then beat Ladislav Smid to Clowe's pass for the chip shot over Khabibulin's right pad.

A Ryan Whitney holding the stick penalty would setup a San Jose power play goal with under 4 minutes to play in the period. Dan Boyle sent a shot in from the blueline that was partially tipped by Oiler forward Ryan Jones. The deflection changed the height of the shot, lifting it over Khabibulin's kick-save attempt with the left pad.

Niittymaki was forced to step up in the 3rd period as a motivated Oilers team turned up the heat. Edmonton would out-shoot San Jose 13-8 in the period, mostly with shots in the last 4 minutes of the contest.

Edmonton would call a timeout with 2:10 to play and pull Khabibulin for the extra attacker. That decision would cost Niittymaki the shutout. Dustin Penner would tip a Whitney shot from the right point 11 seconds after the timeout to cut the Sharks lead to a single goal.

Boyle's goal would hold up as the game-winner after Niittymaki turned aside an Eberle wrister shot with a minute to play. Edmonton would come no closer as the Sharks did a better job of clearing the puck.

Game Notes:

With his second period power play goal, Dan Boyle becomes the franchise leader in power play goals among defensemen (17), surpassing Brad Stuart old mark.


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1 2 3 T
EDM 0 0 1 1
SJ 0 2 0 2
1st period - None.
2nd period - 1, SJ, Couture 18 (Clowe), 13:15. 2, SJ, Boyle 4 (Marleau, Thornton), 16:43, (pp).
3rd period - 3, EDM, Penner 11 (Whitney, Hall), 18:01.
1st period - Stortini, SJ (goaltender interference), 3:18.
2nd period - Gilbert, EDM (holding), 0:26; Wallin, SJ (interference), 7:19; Nichol, SJ (hooking), 8:07; Hall, EDM (holding), 9:25: Whitney, EDM (holding the stick), 14:48.
3rd period - None.
Shots Saves
EDM - Khabibulin 30 28
SJ - Niittymaki 27 26
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
EDM 5 9 13 27
SJ 5 17 8 30
Power Play Conversion
EDM 0 of 2
SJ 1 of 4
3 Stars of the Game
Logan Couture
Dan Boyle
Ryane Clowe
Referees: Dwyer, LaRue. Linesmen: Cameron, Lazarowich.
Holiday Gifts at BustedTees

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