After a very shaky start to the season, Edmonton Oilers goaltender Devan Dubnyk is finding his feet.
Dubnyk turned aside 35 shots and collected his first win of the season on Saturday as the Oilers downed the Ottawa Senators 3-1 and Edmonton nears the end of a six-game road trip.
The win comes after Dubnyk’s 37-save performance on Thursday was wasted in a 3-2 loss to the New York Islanders.
“It’s nice to get out there and be myself and just worry about playing goal,” Dubnyk said after watching his save percentage balloon over the past two games.
“It hasn’t been an easy start and it was nice the last two games just to relax and go play hockey and know that I can be ready for these guys.”
Ryan-Nugent Hopkins scored twice, including once into an empty net, and Jordan Eberle also scored for the Oilers (2-6-1), who halted a five-game losing streak. They wrap up the road trip in Montreal against the Canadiens on Tuesday.
Chris Neil had the only goal for the Senators (3-3-2) and Robin Lehner made 18 saves in just his second start of the season.
The Senators continue to be one of the most penalized teams in the NHL. On Saturday, Ottawa took seven penalties resulting in six power plays for the Oilers, and although none of them cost the Senators a goal, it is a situation that needs to be corrected.
“Penalties are not something we’re going to forget about,” said Ottawa captain Jason Spezza, adding that the Oilers took a lot of penalties (six) themselves.
“It was a game where both teams were taking penalties and it’s not like other games where it was lopsided. We’ll continue to talk about it until we start to take less penalties.”
Senators forward Milan Michalek was called for goaltender interference when he ran into Dubnyk and teammate Jared Cowen was given an interference penalty as the play continued down into Ottawa’s end.
The Oilers generated only one good scoring opportunity on the ensuing power play as they looked to build on a 2-0 advantage.
After the Senators killed off both penalties they were quickly given a power play of their own as Ladislav Smid was called for hooking, but they too were unable to create anything offensively.
“It was good to see how calm the guys were after that,” Nugent-Hopkins said.
“We didn’t get too much momentum off (the power play) and obviously not a goal which would have been huge, but we stuck with it and pulled out the two points.
Ottawa got on the scoreboard as Neil was credited with his first goal of the season on a shot that looked more like a missed popup than a hockey play.
In a scramble at the side of the Oilers’ goal Neil batted the puck out of midair and it seemed as though Dubnyk tried to catch the puck as it came down, but instead it landed in behind him and then went in.
“We said in between periods that it wasn’t going to be a pretty one that went in, and that’s a prime example of a dirty goal,” Neil said.
“You go to the net and you get rewarded and we just didn’t do enough of that and their goalie was able to see way too much.”
Edmonton scored on its first shot of the game after the Senators turned the puck over in the offensive zone. Eberle made a nifty to move to get around Spezza and beat Lehner between the legs just 2:15 into the game.
A little more than eight minutes later the Oilers struck again, this time after Lehner made a stop but was unable to control the rebound, which went directly to Nugent-Hopkins and then to the back of the net from a sharp angle.
It wasn’t all good news for the Oilers though, as they lost Taylor Hall in the second period to a left knee injury. After an innocent looking play just inside the Ottawa blue-line Hall turned and hobbled to the bench and directly to the dressing room and did not return.
He left following the game with his knee in a brace but without the use of crutches. His immediate condition was not known
Notes: Oilers defenceman Denis Grebeshkov made his season debut after missing the first eight games with a groin injuryaJesse Joensuu, Nick Schultz and Ryan Jones were scratches for the Oilers while Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Joe Corvo were scratches for the SenatorsaThe Oilers had lost 39-man games to injury going into the game, compared with just two for the Senators.