The Edmonton Oilers are by far the worst team in the NHL when it comes to protecting a lead established through 40 minutes and tonight looked like it might be another example of that, but they bounced back from their early third period struggles to earn a 5-4 shootout victory.
Edmonton had a 3-1 lead going into the third period, but the Sharks responded with three goals in the first half of the third, including Joe Pavelski’s 27th marker of the season.
For a while it looked like that might be the winner, but Oilers defenseman Justin Schultz managed to even things up in the dying minutes of regulation time.
After overtime failed to solve anything, Edmonton and San Jose settled in for a 13-round shootout. Both Edmonton goalie Viktor Fasth and Sharks netminder Antti Niemi stood tall for much of the skills competition, with Fasth denying 12 of 13 skaters. In the end it was Rob Klinkhammer, who has just 20 goals in 151 career games, that managed to end the contest.
The Oilers have now won four of their last six games and have consequently opened a six-point lead over Buffalo in the battle to avoid the NHL basement. The Sabres have lost 14 straight contests.
At the same time, this was a potentially damaging night for Edmonton. The squad lost forwards Benoit Pouliot and Taylor Hall due to injuries, per the Oilers’ Twitter feed. Pouliot was hurt when he took a shot off his foot while Hall re-aggravated the leg injury that kept him out of Edmonton’s previous three contests.
In the wake of three straight regulation losses for the Winnipeg Jets in which they surrendered 15 combined goals, it sounds like Michael Hutchinson will get the nod tonight in Calgary.
It’ll be Hutchinson’s third consecutive start. The 24-year-old rookie has been excellent overall this season, going 14-6-2 with a .927 save percentage. However, there was reason to wonder if Ondrej Pavelec might get the nod tonight against the Flames after Hutchinson surrendered five goals on 32 shots in Saturday’s 5-2 loss to Dallas and four goals on 31 shots in Thursday’s 5-2 loss to Philly.
To be fair to Hutchinson, four of the five goals the Stars scored against him came on the power play.
Jonas Hiller will be in goal for Calgary.
Roberto Luongo versus Henrik Lundqvist as the struggling Panthers take on the Rangers.
Antti Niemi gets the call for streaking San Jose against the Oilers, who haven’t named a starter.
The play of Antti Niemi was the difference. And maybe a quick whistle, too.
Niemi stopped all 31 shots he faced and the Sharks were able to hold on for a 2-0 win over the visiting Chicago Blackhawks in a physical affair Saturday evening. San Jose grabbed a lead at the 5:09 mark of the opening period thanks to a goal from Melker Karlsson that appeared to go in off Chicago’s Duncan Keith.
From there, it was the Niemi Show. His teammates manufactured only 20 shots on goal the entire night.
He made a spectacular save on Jonathan Toews on a short-handed breakaway late in the second period, and then denied the Blackhawks’ captain numerous times on the ensuing scramble in the San Jose crease before a quick whistle with the puck clearly visible to everyone except the referee stopped play.
Joe Thornton scored into an empty net to secure the win for San Jose.
There has been bad blood between the Chicago Blackhawks and San Jose Sharks on Saturday.
Late in the first period, Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell crushed San Jose defenseman Scott Hannan with a heavy hit near the boards, drawing a quick and small melee. There was no call on the play.
Hannan, shaken up on the play, remained in the game.
It got a little testy after that hit, with Joe Thornton and Andrew Shaw going to the box for coincidental slashing minors near the end of the period. The two teams combined for 19 registered hits in the opening period, which saw the Sharks gain a 1-0 lead on what looked to be an own-goal from Duncan Keith.
All the latest from the blue paint…
Smith seeks better showing against Ottawa
Arizona Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith surrendered five goals on 33 shots on Jan. 10 against the Senators, but he’ll be back between the pipes tonight in Ottawa. Smith has started in every game since Devan Dubnyk was traded to Minnesota.
Smith has struggled mightily this season, posting a 3.41 GAA and .890 save percentage in 33 contests, but he held Toronto to a single goal on Thursday, so this is an opportunity for him to string a couple good games together.
Ottawa will counter with Robin Lehner.
Islanders at Red Wings: Chad Johnson vs. Petr Mrazek
Kings at Bruins: Jonathan Quick is the probable goaltender against Tuukka Rask.
Panthers at Devils: Roberto Luongo vs. Keith Kinkaid
Canes at Rangers: Neither goaltender is confirmed, but it will probably be Cam Ward facing Henrik Lundqvist.
Leafs at Flyers: James Reimer vs. Steve Mason
Stars at Jets: It’s believed that Kari Lehtonen will play against Michael Hutchinson.
Blue Jackets at Lightning: Curtis McElhinney and Ben Bishop are both considered probable.
Oilers at Flames: No word on who Edmonton will go with, but Calgary will send out Jonas Hiller.
Hawks at Sharks: Chicago will start Antti Raanta. San Jose’s starter remains a mystery, although odds are it will end up being Antti Niemi.