The uphill climb continues. The Oilers got themselves back into the win column last night with a gritty win over the New York Rangers, pulling them to within five points of a playoff spot with a game in hand.
The Oilers opened the scoring six minutes into the game when Connor McDavid snapped a shot past Alexandar Georgiev on the power play. This was a nice by-design play off the face-off in which the Oilers moved the puck around the zone quickly for McDavid to slide in unnoticed from the point.
— NHL (@NHL) March 12, 2019
Edmonton extended their lead to 2-0 a few minutes later when Matt Benning slapped a shot from the point past a screened Georgiev. This play was made possible by Zack Kassian, who effectively brought the puck into the zone and then proceeded to crash the net for Benning’s point shot.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) March 12, 2019
Later in the first, Oscar Klefbom got it in, uh, an area you’d like to not get hit, if you know what I mean. Klefbom would leave the game and he wouldn’t return.
— Oilersnation.com (@OilersNation) March 12, 2019
The Rangers would tie the game with goals in the second and the third period but the Oilers would eventually pick up the win in overtime. The trio of Darnell Nurse, McDavid, and Leon Draisaitl worked the puck around New York’s zone before McDavid found Draisaitl for a gorgeous one-time winner past Georgiev. Leon now has 42 goals on the season.
An @EASPORTSNHL OT winner with utter authority.
Courtesy of Leon Draisaitl. pic.twitter.com/0LYcTLsWte
— NHL (@NHL) March 12, 2019
Save for a dominant second period by the Oilers, this was a tightly-contested game. If the Oilers had been able to capitalize on either their good second period or some of the power play chances they had in the third period, they likely could have won this thing in regulation. Regardless, there was a good, 60-minute effort here from the Oilers, and it reflected in the shot chart.
- I’ve praised Andrej Sekera’s steady presence a bunch recently and I’m going to do it again. After Klefbom took a puck in the pills and left the game, Sekera stepped up and played a season-high 23:32. Ken Hitchcock basically rolled four defencemen, as Nurse, Larsson, Sekera, and Russell each played at least 23 minutes while Matt Benning played just 10 minutes. In those 22 minutes mostly at even strength, Sekera put up a dominant performance. The Oilers had 22 shot attempts to New York’s 10, and the Rangers managed just one high danger chance while Sekera was patrolling the ice. You can’t understate just how valuable Steady Rej is to this blueline.
- Darnell Nurse also looked like a No. 1 defenceman last night. He played a whopping 30 minutes in Klefbom’s absence, but the best part of his game is how confidently he moved with the puck. There were multiple instances in which Nurse got the puck behind the net and blasted his way out of the zone, quickly getting the Oilers possession in New York’s zone.
- Zack Kassian had yet another strong showing on the team’s top line. He’s started to fill the Patrick Maroon role of being the big guy who goes to the net and capitalizes, which is something the Oilers haven’t had since the aforementioned Maroon was dealt last year. The Kassian conundrum is an interesting one because many wanted him on the top line so he could pump up his value for an off-season trade. But, while he was expensive as a limited-minute fourth-liner, he’s great value as a top-six guy who thrives with McDavid. If it continues to work, there’s no sense in moving a cheap and effective player, right?
- Leon Draisaitl looked like Alex Ovechkin on that game-winning goal. At this stage, it doesn’t really matter if he is or isn’t carrying his own line. He’s got 42 goals and he’s very likely going to crack 50. He finds open space and he can get the puck past any goalie with his wicked shot. I can see the argument for wanting him to do it himself, but he and McDavid have something special going on.
- Ryan Strome played his first game in Edmonton since being dealt by the Oilers and he didn’t score a goal. The curse of Former Oilers has been broken!