When a goalie gets pulled, he usually takes off his mask, takes a seat at the end of the bench and jams a ball cap on his head, but the Edmonton Oilers’ Cam Talbot kept his mask on for the last 14 minutes of the second period after getting the hook in Tuesday’s NHL game against the Los Angeles Kings.
It turns out that smoke was coming out of Talbot’s ears after allowing three goals within 96 seconds.
“To be honest with you, I was just pissed,” said Talbot, who took his mask off to watch fellow netminder Anders Nilsson play the third period of the 5-2 loss. “I was mad at myself for putting the team in that situation. We were having a good game (scoreless first period) and I let in those first two and that deflated us. If I play the way I had been playing, we win that game. But the goals go in and we’re behind the eight ball.
“The first one shouldn’t have gone in (Dwight King scored on the short side from the boards),” he continued. “He popped out and I was going into my (technique where he hugs the post) and he beat me over my pad. Half a second later, I’ve sealed the post. Then the second goes in (Michael Mersch tucks the puck through Talbot’s pads in the crease), then before I know it (Tyler) Toffoli’s coming down, ripping one short side. Happens quick against a team like that. Those are saves I have to make.”
Talbot has had two phenomenal winning starts the past two weeks — in Boston and against the Winnipeg Jets at Rexall Place, both with more than 40 saves — but his season has been as much pogo stick as goalie stick. He’s been out-of-this-world good or struggled in games, giving up goals he knows he shouldn’t, like Calgary Flames winger Michal Frolik in the dying seconds from the boards on Halloween night and like King’s score on Tuesday.
He is still searching for the solid work that Jonathan Quick turns in for the Kings, game in, game out, where the coach knows what he’s getting. It’s the stuff No. 1 goalies have and something Talbot and Nilsson are desperate to find.
“Personally, I need to be more consistent,” said Talbot, who gave up only two goals in three of his first four starts in October and just one against Detroit in his fifth time in net, but then surrendered 15 goals on 115 shots over four starts, then four goals each game at Chicago, L.A. and Detroit on 90 shots before rebounding.
“We addressed that today and we’re working on that moving forward.”
Both goalies have stolen wins for the Oilers (Nilsson had a five-game run where he gave up only nine goals on 183 shots), but neither goalie has seized the opportunity to be the starter three out of every four games. Talbot has a 3.01 goals-against average and .901 save percentage in 19 games, just south of Nilsson’s 2.91 and .908 in 22 games.
It puts Oilers coach Todd McLellan in a bind. The season is almost half over and he doesn’t have a No. 1 goaltender yet as Edmonton tries to qualify for a playoff berth in the Pacific Division. It’s nice to have 1 and 1a goalie situations — the Oilers did very well with Grant Fuhr and Andy Moog in the 1980s — but hockey coaches would rather write the same name in the starting lineup on a regular basis.
When asked who was playing against the Anaheim Ducks on New Year’s Eve, McLellan didn’t flip the coin. But he also didn’t come out and say yea or nay on either goalie.
“Yeah, it’s probably not a good thing,” McLellan said. “We’re in a situation where we’ve pulled both of our starting goalies the last two games (Nilsson in Calgary, Talbot against the Kings). Regardless of the decision we make on who plays (Thursday), there will be some second-guessing.”
Heads McLellan comes back with Talbot, hoping for a rebound game.