By Kellen Taniguchi on April 24, 2021.
The penalty box was a revolving door for the Medicine Hat Tigers in the third period on Saturday night and the Edmonton Oil Kings capitalized with two power play goals and left Co-op Place with a 4-1 win.
Edmonton played a dominant game and outshot the Tabbies 44-25. Tigers goalie Garin Bjorklund made 40 saves in the game, including a number of impressive stops to keep his team within striking distance.
“He’s playing well. He’s battling, he’s had a couple guys run into him in the crease too which is hard, and he’s battled through that as well,” said Tigers head coach Willie Desjardins post-game. “He’s got good focus, he’s a good focus and we know every night he’s in there we’re going to have a chance to win.’
Oil Kings forward Jake Neighbours tallied three points in the win, including a highlight reel goal which ended up being the game-winner.
The visitors opened the scoring three minutes into the game. Kaid Oliver found Neighbours opened in the slot, but Bjorklund skated out and made an impressive kick save on the one-time attempt. However, Neighbours didn’t give up on the play, dove for the puck and used his stick to push it through Bjorklund’s legs and across the crease to Oliver who made no mistake and tapped the puck into the open net.
Neighbours showed his hand-eye co-ordination skill when he extended the Oil Kings’ lead to two goals. The puck took a bounce off Tigers defenceman Daniel Baker’s stick and Neighbours stopped the puck in the air, controlled it and batted the puck past Bjorklund with just over three minutes left in the opening frame.
Edmonton defenceman Matthew Robertson was sent to the sin bin for two minutes during the first half of the second period and the Medicine Hat power play cut the lead in half. Brett Kemp sent a pass to Cole Clayton at the blueline who sent a shot through traffic labelled for the left corner, beating Oil Kings’ goalie Sebastian Cossa for the only goal of the period.
The Tigers couldn’t generate any momentum in the third period and took three penalties in the first half of the frame – including Corson Hopwo taking a double-minor penalty for high sticking. The Tabbies killed off the four-minute penalty, but the Edmonton power play broke through when Kemp was sitting in the bin for cross checking.
“It was tough because we built so much momentum in the second and guys really were starting to play with some energy and I think those penalties, it’s just really tough to keep going with them. I think we just got to find a way to stay out of the box and deal with some adversity in the third, kill off those penalties and just bear down a little bit better,” said Tigers captain Ryan Chyzowski.
“I think the guys wanted to compete. I think they wanted to have a really good third period. I think the excitement was there, but it’s hard when you’re killing, it’s just hard to create momentum,” said Desjardins.
Josh Williams opened the third period scoring with a shot through traffic that beat Bjorklund’s blocker side. Less than a minute after Williams’ goal, Dru Krebs was sent to the penalty box for hooking. 25 seconds into the penalty, Robertson sent a missile of a slap shot toward the Tigers goal which found twine on the left side of the net – Oliver and Neighbours picked up assists on the power play marker.
With the loss, the Tabbies fall to 12-5-0-1, while the Oil Kings separate themselves from the rest of the central division and improve to 16-1-0-1 on the season.
The two teams will play the third and final game of their three-game series in Edmonton on Sunday night with puck drop scheduled for 7 p.m.