Last night was a must-win game. The Oilers, as I discussed on Tuesday, are blessed with an easy schedule down the stretch. But no games in the NHL are ever easy, automatic wins, especially when you come out as flat as the Oilers did last night.
The tempo for the night was set when the Devils scored their first goal. The Oilers, who started very slowly, got a chance to turn the momentum around with a power play opportunity, but they squandered it. Just as the power play was ending, Blake Coleman managed to get a very soft shot past Mikko Koskinen to give the Devils a 1-0 lead.
Minutes later, the Oilers got themselves on the board with an ugly one of their own. Matt Benning fired a puck through a series of players on the net that Sam Gagner would deflect past Cory Schneider.
Soon after that, it looked like the Oilers were finally sitting in the driver’s seat. On their second power play opportunity of the game, Alex Chiasson re-directed a pass from Connor McDavid past Schneider to give the Oilers a 2-1 lead. It was Chiasson’s 20th goal of the season.
This was a back-breaker. The Oilers failed to clear the puck out of their zone in the dying seconds of the first period and they forgot about Travis Zajac standing in front of the net.
🚨 Zajac with the equalizer 🚨 pic.twitter.com/h5JoJ36vLE— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) March 14, 2019
After that, the wheels just fell off. The Devils would explode for three goals in the second period to give them a 5-2 lead the Oilers wouldn’t be able to erase. The nail in the coffin really came in the third period, though. The Oilers pulled the game to within two goals, got a power play opportunity, and then proceeded to allow a short-handed back-breaker that made it 6-3.
This game was a tale of three different periods. The game was sloppy in the first, as the Oilers came out slowly but started to play better as time went on. After giving up that game-tying goal late in the first, though, the Oilers were absolutely dominated in the second. Edmonton turned on the burners in the third when behind 5-3, but it wasn’t enough. You need to play a full 60 minutes, and, as you can see on the shot chart, they didn’t.
- There’s no way other way to put it. That was a miserable effort in what should have been a very easy win. I mean, in the NHL there aren’t really any automatic wins, but this injury-decimated Devils team on the second leg of a back-to-back is as close to a tap-in you can get. The Oilers now have to compensate for that loss against the Devils with a win against a difficult team like Calgary or San Jose. The four easy games (NJ, ANA, LA, and OTT) they have left afforded them some breathing room in their hard games, but now that has been thrown out the window.
- The defence and goaltending were horrendous last night. A good chunk of New Jersey’s top players (Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier, and Sami Vatanen) were out due to injury and they still managed to score six goals. New Jersey’s top forward in terms of ice time last night was Blake Pietila, a guy with four points in 34 career NHL games. If Mikko Koskinen is going to be as bad as he was last night, the Oilers won’t be able to beat any of their easy opponents down the stretch. He looked completely lost out there last night. It wasn’t fully on him, though, as some of Edmonton’s top defenders, like Darnell Nurse and Adam Larsson, had some very poor reads in the defensive zone. It’s confounding to me that the team can look so solid defensively one night and so, so, sooooooo terrible defensively the next.