The Oilers downed the Sharks 5-3 last night, snapping an ugly streak of poor home play with a strong, well-played, complete win. The team has a big task ahead of them to climb back into relevance, but four-point wins like this over Pacific Division teams will make a big difference in the pursuit of a playoff run.
San Jose grabbed the lead early on a power play goal, but the Oilers answered back before the end of the first period. This was essentially a power play goal though it won’t be recorded as such. Just as time was expiring on a penalty to Tomas Hertl, Leon Draisaitl fed Mark Letestu in the circle and he bombed a one-timer home past Martin Jones.
Here's to 10,000 MORE goals from the Oilers! pic.twitter.com/M5kkVcYyaV— Oilersnation.com (@OilersNation) December 19, 2017
Not long after, the Oilers grabbed a 2-1 lead when Ryan Strome completed a tic-tac-toe goal at the side of the net. There was some great work by Edmonton’s forwards to cycle the puck down low, then JJ Khaira carried the puck out through the slot before sliding the puck to Leon Draisaitl who wired a cross ice pass to Ryan Strome for an easy tap in. It was the 10,000th goal in Oilers history, meaning Strome will forever be the answer to a trivia question.
Caggiula finishes off a pretty play to put the Oilers up by two! pic.twitter.com/TlOOSvvRhV— Oilersnation.com (@OilersNation) December 19, 2017
It looked like Drake Caggiula tipped this one home, but it was actually Sharks forward Joe Pavelski deflecting it into his own net on the back check. So it was Ryan Nugent-Hopkins who gave the Oilers a 3-1 lead with his 14th goal of the season. Still, it was a nice drive to the net by Caggiula, who’s been in the dog house as of late, to make this possible.
San Jose made it 3-2 soon after Edmonton’s third goal, but Patrick Maroon scored the eventual game-winner in the third with an extremely Ryan Smyth-esque clapper from the top of the circle. This was a great play by Nuge to pick up the puck in the neutral zone and make a cut before the blueline to spring Maroon on a partial break.
In regards to even strength shot attempts, this was an evenly played game. In total, the Sharks had a slight edge with even strength shot attempts 47 to 45. In the first, Edmonton dominated the shot clock, but in the third with the Oilers playing in a shell, the Sharks dominated. But when you look at high danger chances, it’s clear the Oilers were the stronger of the two teams. All told, Edmonton had 16 high danger chances at even strength and San Jose had just five. Even in the third when the Sharks doubled the Oilers in shot attempts, the two teams were split high danger chances 3-3.
- It’s odd to me that the Oilers didn’t play a California team until the middle of December, but it’s like a big reason why the team had such a poor start. Obviously a true contender should be able to go against any team in the league, but Edmonton is built to play in the Pacific Division. They’re 5-1 against Pacific teams this season, and if they’re going to climb back into the playoffs, they’re going to have to go on a streak against their division rivals the rest of the way. I mean, it’s not an easy task, but it’s doable. If you have a lot of ground to make up, you want to be playing the teams directly ahead of you, and that’s exactly what Edmonton has on the horizon in the new year.
- Adam Larsson made his return to the lineup last night and slotted in alongside Darnell Nurse on the team’s top pairing. The two looked really, really good. Of course, part of this can be chalked up to the top-heavy Sharks being one of the worst offensive teams in the league, but Larsson was only on the ice for one high danger scoring chance against at even strength. The two of them made life impossible for Sharks forwards in the offensive zone.
- It’s great to see the Oilers win a game without Connor McDavid picking up a point. Joe Pavelski was very effective in shutting McDavid down, but in the process, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ lines were able to play softer minutes. And they responded, as both Nuge and Draisaitl’s trio were able to put up a couple of goals. When the Oilers go up against a team with a good two-way centre like Pavelski on the Sharks or Ryan Kesler on the Ducks, they need Nuge and Draisaitl to step up, and that’s what happened last night.
- Kris Russell had an ugly game last night. He only played 15:29, the fewest of any Oilers defender. With Andrej Sekera set to return in the next week and Brandon Davidson playing very well, I’m not sure where Russell is going to fit on the blueline. Larsson and Nurse are clearly the top pair, then you have four spots for Klefbom, Sekera, Benning, Davidson, and Russell. Klefbom was placed on the Injured Reserve today so it won’t be an issue yet, but once the Oilers are fully healthy, I have a difficult time seeing Russell ahead of Davidson on the depth chart.