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GDB 40.0 Wrap-Up: Koskinen Comes up just short in 4-2 Christmas Heartbreaker

Mikko Koskinen did his absolute darndest to give the Edmonton Oilers their shot to potentially head into the holiday break first in the Pacific Division.

Some unlucky bounces, a controversial goal, and a deflated third period worked against his best efforts, though. So although the Oilers got themselves off to a fairly nice start against their divisional rivals in Vancouver, they ultimately skated away from their Monday night game sporting a 4-2 loss and a disappointing 3-6-1 record in their last 10 games.

The lovely folks over at Oilers Nation had their holiday party tonight at the same time that the game was being played, so I offered to pick up the recap for them and give you guys something fun to read. It’s been a bit of a flu-riddled, hectic week over here in Backup Goalie Writer Land, but I’ll give it my best – and hopefully give you guys a bit more than just a giant sad emoji to mull over after a frustrating game to kick off the Holiday Freeze.

THE RUNDOWN

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The first 40 minutes of the game between the Oilers and the Vancouver Canucks seemed to be perfectly poised to be a nice, fairly smooth win for Edmonton with good goaltending on both sides, but just a slight offensive edge for the visiting Oilers lineup.

Neither team managed to get on the board through the first 11 minutes of play, trading zone time and keeping the pace fairly even-keeled between both rosters. But while the Canucks would get on the board first with an unassisted effort by Tyler Motte, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins would answer less than five minutes later to enter the second period tied at a goal apiece.

Oscar Klefbom would score Edmonton’s one and only go-ahead goal early in the second period, capitalizing on a power-play caused by Antoine Roussel taking an interference penalty against Caleb Jones.

Roussel would mix it up again later in the period with a bout against Darnell Nurse, but neither team would manage to get anything else converted before heading to second intermission – and Koskinen’s play looked strong enough that it was hard to picture a situation where he would falter enough to cost them the game.

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It’s not a true Holiday Season game without a healthy dose of controversy, though, and the game-tying goal for Vancouver in the third period brought a nice helping of it thanks to a bizarre ‘non kick’ from Bo Horvat.

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Mikko Koskinen, who had been white-hot throughout the game up to that point, allowed a fairly juicy rebound off of his right pad and towards the empty space opposite of where he was facing.

Bo Horvat was in no position to get his stick on the puck, but had been trying to stop in the crease and instead made contact with the puck via his skate and knocked it back into the net. It wasn’t a ‘distinct kicking motion’, but his foot had been turned sideways just before the puck connected and he was clearly moving forward when it made contact – which made it a bit of a murky situation, and certainly one that didn’t go over well on a game-tying goal.

From there, things got even more controversial when the Oilers were called for a questionable too many men penalty, which left them playing a man down against the re-energized, fired up Canucks. Bo Horvat (and Oscar Klefbom, if we’re being perfectly honest) set up a perfect screen for Koskinen, and a clapper from the blue line by Quinn Hughes beat Koskinen cleanly to give the Canucks the lead.

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From there, everything pretty much went downhill. The Oilers attempted to make a late-game push and even pulled Koskinen in the end, but an empty-net goal from Loui Eriksson (who has only scored twice this year, both times against the Oilers) sealed their fate. The final buzzer sounded on a disappointing 4-2 final score, with the Oilers staying in the division’s third place spot as they head home to enjoy some time with family.

THE NUMBERS

The Edmonton Oilers certainly didn’t look like they gave up late in the game, but the Canucks – possibly buoyed by their somewhat-controversial game-tying goal early in the third period – took fairly decisive control of the game over the final 20 minutes of action. They managed to keep the game flow in their favor even as the Oilers tried to make a handful of valiant pushes to get themselves back in things, and their own excellent goaltending helped to keep the Oilers from getting themselves on the board a third time and potentially getting some energy back themselves.

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It didn’t help, either, that the Oilers just couldn’t get much sustained pressure inside the hashmarks when facing Markström at even strength:

Not a horrendous effort from the Oilers, and some pretty suspect officiating certainly didn’t help give them much of a chance to swing things back their way. But ultimately, the quality of shots – and the pace of play – was slightly tilted in Vancouver’s favor from the third-period on, and the final score reflected as much.

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THE BEST TWITTER DISCUSSION

About halfway through the game, I came to the horrific realization that both goaltenders in the game – Edmonton’s own Mikko Koskinen and Vancouver’s Jacob Markström – wear almost completely all-white setups on the ice.

It’s two days before Christmas, I still have roughly 6,000,000 presents to wrap for my daughter before the Big Day, so I’m mailing it in a bit here by pulling a trick from the old Jason Botchford book for an Oilers-Canucks recap. So let’s talk a bit about the elite engagement level you guys brought for the Scourge of The White Goalie Pads™ discussion during the game:

This is bad! This is super bad. Someone talk to the guy. Better yet, someone have Mike Smith talk to the guy. Smith gets good set-ups.

And perhaps the best take of all: