Things were going along wonderfully on New Year’s Eve through dinner and a movie until we got home, and my wife decided to let our dog Jasper lick a couple of drops of champagne out of the bottom of her glass after midnight. Not long after, he was puking like an over-served partier in a nightclub parking lot. Bring on 2020.
It was much the same for the Edmonton Oilers after two periods against the New York Rangers at Rogers Place last night. They built a 6-0 lead and were up 6-1 after 40 minutes. Party on! Four goals later, it was 6-5 with 3:45 to play and the Oilers looked like they might cough it up like Jasper did until Kailer Yamamoto hit an empty net for a 7-5 final. No need to clean the carpet. Hangover averted. Bring on 2020.
While it wasn’t the waltz into the New Year it looked like it would be to close out 2019, and recognizing that his team had turned into spectators as the party-pooping Rangers scored four goals in a span of less than 12 minutes in the third period, coach Dave Tippett wasn’t about to throw it back. Nor should he after watching the Oilers lurch and stumble through December.
“A win’s a win,” he said. “Move on.”
With that third period duly noted and a horrid December now done, the Oilers move on to play five straight games on the road, starting in Buffalo against the Sabres Thursday. As bad as they’ve been lately, they are 21-17-4 for 46 points as they hit the road. While the hideous third period made for much trolling by the usual dimwits in the ON comments section after the game, the Oilers are likely feeling better today than many of them.
“At the end of the day we won the game,” said James Neal, who accounted for Edmonton’s first two goals and then completed his hat-trick with the 5-0 goal in the second period to give him 19 goals for the season. “We’ll never turn down two points. You just move on and take the positives out of the game.
“The first two periods were really good, our special teams were good, I really liked our start. Obviously, our mind wandered and we kind of got ahead of ourselves in the third. It’s a fast league and that’s what happens sometimes. It’s a good win.”
Yes, it is, at least in terms of getting the points. The win, the Oilers’ first in a New Year’s Eve game since 1985, damn sure won’t go in the books as a balanced or consistent effort. The points go in the books though, and while that might be putting lipstick on a pig, the points matter. I shudder to think of what blowing it Tuesday would have meant to this five-game swing to Buffalo, Boston, Toronto, Montreal and Calgary after the way December went.
WORK TO DO
There’s work to do to be sure. Yet, after so many bad starts at home and a 7-11-2 mark in their last 20 games coming in, the Oilers had a lot of bounce early – just not enough late. Neal shook off a tough stretch with the hat-trick on a four-point night. Yamamoto, just called up, didn’t look out of place. Leon Draisaitl, who has been struggling, made it 4-0 on a power play.
“We weren’t saying the sky was falling in, that’s for sure,” Tippett said of the New York rally in the third period. “We were just saying play, make some good plays. When a team is down 6-1, they are just throwing everything at the net. We made a couple of mistakes and they got some momentum and it starts running. But there was no panic on the bench. It was just get the job done, and we got the job done.”
No, it wasn’t a masterpiece to put the finishing touches on a Decade of Darkness. The Oilers set the stage for more drama in the late going than they needed to, but, as was the case with Jasper spewing Dog Chow, they didn’t let it ruin the party. The bottom line on the final day of 2019 is they got the win. Bring on 2020.