The Coyotes are bad. But the Oilers didn’t make them look bad last night. The two bottom teams in the Western Conference played a tightly-contested game that the Oilers edged out on a beautiful overtime goal by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
The Oilers tied the game with a few minutes to go in the first period when Zack Kassian finally buried his first goal of the season. Kass has had quite a few chances but he’s been supremely snake bit, so it’s great to see him finally get off the schneid. Mark Letestu deserves a lot of credit for this play, intercepting a pass in the defensive zone and springing Kassian on the breakaway.
Matt Benning sent the Oilers to overtime with a wrister from the point that fooled Scott Wedgewood. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had a great forecheck on this play that forced Luke Schenn to make a terrible breakout pass right to Milan Lucic on the boards. Lucic fed the puck to Kris Russell who slid it across to Benning for the open look shot.
It’s a shame this clip doesn’t have the entire sequence, because Nugent-Hopkins looked like Pavel Datsyuk on this play. he backchecked hard and singlehandedly erased a potential scoring chance for the Coyotes, who were really carrying play in the overtime period. After that, he still had the wheels to push the puck past Oliver Ekman-Larsson and score a gorgeous overtime winner. It really was the whole excellent two-way centre package on this play from RNH.
By the numbers
Though it didn’t really seem like it, the numbers suggest that this was a tightly contested game through the first two periods. I felt the Coyotes were better and that the Oilers looked completely dead, but the even strength shot attempts were split right down the middle in the first two periods. Arizona was better than Edmonton at getting quality chances, though, as they out-chanced the Oilers 13 to eight in the first 40 minutes. Then, in the third, the Oilers started to actually play. They edged the Coyotes 18 to 15 in terms of shot attempts but only managed two high danger chances. That said, they didn’t surrender a high danger chance in the third. All told, Edmonton had 56 shot attempts to Arizona’s 54, while the Coyotes had 13 high danger chances to the Oilers 10.
- Cam Talbot’s early season funk seems to be behind him. He had that rough stretch against St. Louis and Dallas and got pulled after a couple goals on three shots against the Blues but has been very good since. Last night, Talbot made some big saves early on while the Oilers were still asleep to keep them in the game. That seems to be key for the team right now as the team infrequently comes out hard in the first period. If Talbot doesn’t stand tall and the Oilers go down by a couple goals early, I have a hard time believing they come back and win this thing. You obviously don’t want to rely on your goalie this much, but that’s where we’re at. Talbot needs to be very good, and last night, he was.
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was the other star of the game for the Oilers. He was solid throughout the first two periods but really turned on the jets in the third and in the overtime. He forechecked hard and played responsibly in the defensive zone. That overtime goal he scored really was a thing of beauty, not just because it was a slick breakaway snipe, but because of everything that went into it. RNH is part of the solution on this team, and if Chiarelli deals him, I really just don’t know what to say.
- I mentioned after last game that Darnell Nurse is starting to look like Edmonton’s No. 1 defenceman this season. That was the case again last night. Him and Adam Larsson were suffocating on defence and were really the only pair that could consistently shut Arizona’s forwards down. Matt Benning and oscar Klefbom were also solid, but the Nurse and Larsson pair was excellent.
- While the team ended up with a win, it certainly wasn’t pretty. The Coyotes are really, really bad and the Oilers shouldn’t be barely squeezing out an overtime win against them. The first period was bad and the second period wasn’t much better. The Oilers can’t wait until the third period to start playing hockey. If they do that against the Leafs on Thursday, it’s going to be ugly.