Saturday night was a rough one for the Edmonton Oilers against the Vancouver Canucks; they were outplayed by the Canucks’ bottom six scorers and Mike Smith had another forgettable night. The rare home-at-home against a divisional rival presented the Oilers with an opportunity to steal four points, create a gulf and bury the Canucks in the Pacific division standings. The first game did not go as planned, and the Oilers were starting down the barrel of the gun a bit with some unexpected absences heading into the game in Vancouver: already without Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, both Zack Kassian and Kris Russell were out of the lineup, the former due to injury, the latter due to the birth of his second child.
It was a hard-fought win, with Patrick Russell’s first NHL goal being called back, and going down 2-1 halfway through the second period. But Leon Draisaitl wasn’t going to let the team go down twice in two days, and Mikko Koskinen proved, yet again, that he is the starting goaltender for this team, turning away 30 of 32 shots for a marvellous .938sv% and now improves his personal record to 10-2-2.
Oh, and Connor McDavid and Draisaitl both reached 50 points on the season before the team’s thirtieth game.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) December 2, 2019
Here’s a quick rundown of the game:
- First off, this Vancouver crowd sucks; they’re flatter than a day old glass of soda.
- I also never want to hear Tanner Pearson’s name again.
- Mikko Koskinen weathers an offensive storm from the Canucks and keeps the game tied early, something the Oilers did not get last night. Hmm… it’s like, Koskinen is better at this than the other guy or something…
- ARCHI!! Josh Archibald makes the most of his opportunity on the top line with McDavid and scores his first goal as an Oiler (off a wicked pass in the high slot from Darnell Nurse). 1-0 Oilers.
- ARG!! Ethan Bear takes a tripping penalty against Elias Petterson and the Oilers go to the penalty kill. No fear, the special teams are mighty.
- And mighty it remains. Penalty successfully killed. Special teams are life.
- Adam Larsson is a shot-blocking maniac, already with three blocked shots 15:00 into the game!
- Ugh. Brock Boeser finishes off an actually pretty nice passing play. 1-1.
- OH SWEET VALHALLA, HOW YOUR MILK IS SWEET! It’s a game of firsts as the Danish Viking Lord Patrick Russell scores his first NHL goal and it’s 2-1 Oilers!
- Oh wait, I forgot that the refs are in the bag for the Canucks and they reverse the call claiming goaltender interference on Jakob Markstrom. Remains 1-1.
- Matt Benning blocks a shot with his head. For a guy coming back from a concussion, probably not ideal.
- Connor McDavid somehow gets called with an interference penalty at the end of the period after he has to skate through a Tunnel of Hooks stickhandling into the offensive zone. This is such a joke and I, ladies and gentlemen, am not laughing.
- Shots: Canucks- 12 Oilers- 7
- Oilers start the second period on the PK, because the refs prefer the Kootneys over the Rockies.
- The Oilers threaten to score their first shorthanded goal of the season, with good opportunities from Riley Sheahan and Oscar Klefbom, but just settle for killing the penalty instead. Canucks 0/2 on the PP. Special Teams are life.
- Koskinen robs JT Miller, who’s been flying all night, on a late spring in the slot. He is a very good goaltender so far this season.
- The fourth line putting in some solid work, keeping a solid cycle going.
- Yeesh, Benning blocks another shot that shakes him up. He’s having a rough go out there tonight.
- Josh Leivo scores. But this weak Vancouver crowd doesn’t even seem to care so why should I? Whatever. 2-1 Canucks.
- Loui Eriksson is so mad that he didn’t end up getting traded to the Oilers for Milan Lucic that he takes it out on poor Darnell Nurse and high-sticks him as they chase down a clearing attempt. Bad form, Loui.
- What do you get when you cross an elite-passer and a German on a goal-scoring mission with a numbers advantage? Another powerplay goal. Special Teams are life. 2-2.
- Wow, Loui, we get it. You’re jilted. Eriksson takes another penalty on Nurse, this time an interference call. Oilers back to the PP late in the period.
- Oilers can’t convert, but have some PP time spill over to the third.
- Shots: Canucks- 23 Oilers- 13
- Oilers start the period off on the powerplay because the refs have to throw us a bone every once in awhile or then it’s too obvious.
- LEON! Draisaitl scores in the dying seconds of the PP to close to gap to Marco Sturm as the highest-scoring German player of all-time to 126 points. 3-2 Oilers.
- Lots of back-and-forth action, with the Oilers putting a little more pressure on the Canucks.
- Ethan Bear takes a spill behind the net, which helps set up a Canucks scoring chance, but Koskinen robs them of any glory with that once-notorious glove-hand, and it’s beautiful.
- Chiasson has a nifty little backhand pass into the slot for Joakim Nygard but can’t get it past Markstrom.
- Draisaitl has a shot at the hattrick on the empty net, but can’t convert on the McDavid pass.
- The defense and Mikko Koskinen stand tall as the Canucks can’t score with 6 players on the ice.
- Oilers Win! Final Score: 3-2
|09:09||Edmonton||Josh Archibald (1) ASST: Darnell Nurse (11), Connor McDavid (31)||1-0|
|15:34||Vancouver||Brock Boeser (11) ASST: Quinn Hughes (21), J.T. Miller (16)||1-1|
|12:06||Vancouver||Josh Leivo (4) ASST: Jordie Benn (4), Bo Horvat (16)||1-2|
|13:51||Edmonton||PPG – Leon Draisaitl (17) ASST: Connor McDavid (32), Alex Chiasson (5)||2-2|
|00:46||Edmonton||Leon Draisaitl (18) ASST: James Neal (4), Alex Chiasson (6)||3-2|
For a team at the top of the Pacific division, this was still a must-win, even in December. Allowing the Canucks to creep back up the standings is something that could end up being catastrophic down the stretch-run to the playoffs. The whole team played with pace, and as the heat map above indicates, concentrated the majority of their chances close to the net, which yielded ideal results even when they were severely down in the shot clock earlier in the game. This team has shown a lot of things so far this season, but resilience might be the most important intangible one.
But even with McDavid and Draisaitl reaching 50 points each, Mikko Koskinen was the star once again. His .938sv% was the result of a goaltender who would not allow a bad goal past him, which was particularly crucial when the team was getting the crap kicked out of them in the High Danger areas in the first two periods. The Canucks had 3 HDCF chances in the first period, 4 in the second while the Oilers had zero through two frames. Kosk kept them in it, and the superstars took over when the opportunity presented itself, when they won the HDCF battle 4-0 in the third period and closed the shots on goal gap.
The Oilers are now 17-9-3, giving them 37 points, three clear of the Arizona Coyotes for the Pacific division throne.
On to the Senators.