Hendricks helps Oilers grind out win in Buffalo
Bryzgalov makes 42 saves, bailing out suspect Edmonton effort again
Edmonton Oilers center Boyd Gordon (27) celebrates a game winning goal by center Matt Hendricks (23) during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Buffalo Sabres in Buffalo, N.Y., Monday, Feb 3, 2014. Edmonton won 3-2.
Photograph by: Gary Wiepert, AP
BUFFALO, N.Y. — On the whole, the battle of the basement lived down to its dubious billing Monday night, but for lovers of the quirky in hockey, the Oilers 3-2 victory had its moments.
For example, fourth-line grinder Matt Hendricks scored the go-ahead goal for Edmonton on a short-handed breakaway just 57 seconds into the third period. That lifted the Oilers into a 3-2 lead and squared things after the Oilers had yielded their 10th short-handed goal-against this season.
The goal was Hendricks’ fourth this season.
“(Centre) Boyd Gordon made a great play, gathering the puck,” Hendricks said. “I kind of expected him to just dump it down and I was going to try to get down and cause a little havoc down there.
“But he made a real skill play, gathered it, had a little time and made a great pass. I just kind of went in and tried one of the only moves I’ve got and it seemed to work.”
The third period also included the sight of Sabres defenceman Christian Ehrhoff drawing an interference penalty when he reached through the gate at the Buffalo players’ bench before he stepped on the ice. Ehrhoff tried to check the puck off the stick of Ryan Smyth, who was actually on the ice at the time.
“I thought it was an ugly game, both ways,” Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins said. “It never seemed to be able to pick up any speed.
“It seemed that when the game got into the flow of it, (there was) a penalty one way or the other. Like, there was a lot of whistles. It was a tough one, I think, for both teams.”
The Ehrhoff penalty didn’t cost the Sabres, who killed off the two-minute minor, but it probably will be included in a lot of highlight reels for comic relief.
A quick whistle certainly cost the Sabres a goal at 9:45 of the third. Marcus Foligno jammed the puck into the net behind Ilya Bryzgalov, but referee Gord Dwyer had blown his whistle after the Oilers goaltender covered the puck with his trapper.
Not much else got past Bryzgalov, who stopped 42 of the 44 shots he faced. The Oilers directed 28 shots at Sabres goalie Jhonas Enroth.
Defencemen Jeff Petry, with his fourth goal of the season, and Justin Schultz, with his eighth, provided a much-needed early offensive jolt for the Oilers.
Eakins said Monday morning he was concerned about Petry’s bruised foot, after the defenceman was drilled by a shot against Boston on Saturday. But the smooth-skating rearguard jumped into the rush with ease on the play to open the scoring just 32 seconds into the game.
Veteran agitator Steve Ott, on a power play, and Drew Stafford, short-handed, scored first-period goals for the Sabres, who were trying to rebound from a 7-1 thrashing at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche on the weekend.
Neither team dazzled in a game the 29th-place Oilers and 30th-place Sabres both wanted to win for pride. With the victory, the Oilers moved to 19-33-6 and 44 points. The Sabres, 15-32-8, remain stuck at 38 points.
Hendricks racked up 15:44 of ice time, partly a function of the six power plays the Sabres enjoyed. He was named the game’s first star for his relentless defensive work as much as his nifty goal. The third-liner wasn’t focused on the accolades, however.
“I thought my energy was up, I thought I played a decent game,” Hendricks said. “But any time we (third line) get a lot of ice, it’s not a good thing, because we’re usually on the penalty kill and stuff like that.”
It was a good news/bad news first period for the Oilers.
The good news was that Petry gave them a 1-0 lead in the first minute of the game, spading a backhander past Enroth to finish a passing play with Nail Yakupov and David Perron, who also earned an assist with a great pass to Schultz on his goal.
Eakins had challenged the Perron-Yakupov-Sam Gagner line to up its production after a mini-slump the past two games.
The bad news was the Oilers played a loose period from that point, yielding one breakaway and a festival of odd-man rushes, including a steady diet of them on their own power plays. The Oilers had three manpower advantages in the opening period alone, but the danger unfolded in their own end on every one.
The Sabres scored both their first-period goals on special teams. The first, by Ott, barely trickled across the goal-line at 8:04, but a review swiftly confirmed the on-ice ruling of a goal.
The second came at 19:04 on a two-on-one rush, with Drew Stafford ripping a wrist shot high over Bryzgalov’s shoulder to give the Sabres the lead. That was the Sabres fourth short-handed goal in their last six games.
The Oilers move on to New York today but won’t play the Rangers until Thursday night at Madison Square Garden. They will close out their four-game, pre-Olympic break road trip with a game against the Devils in New Jersey on Friday night.
NOTES: Despite stopping 96 of his last 100 shots the past two games, including a 59-save, 3-0 shutout of the San Jose Sharks, goaltender Ben Scrivens sat this one out for the Oilers. Eakins likes to keep both goalies sharp and Bryzgalov had played well in Edmonton’s 4-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Jan. 27 ... Ryan Jones, Corey Potter and Belov were the scratches among the skaters for the Oilers on Monday night ... Char Ruhwedel, Ville Leino and Zenon Kenopka were the Sabres scratches ... Matt Moulson (upper body) did not dress for Buffalo.
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