Welp… Onward and upward. Final Score: 3-1 Lightning
If ever the Oilers were presented with a best-case scenario for beating the Tampa Bay Lightning, it had to be tonight with Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Ryan McDonagh, and Anthony Cirelli out of the lineup. By no means did having these guys out of Tampa’s lineup suggest that scoring two points was a slam dunk, far from it, but it sure as shit had to help, right? Even so, the Lightning are a very deep team that’s on a ridiculous heater (20-2-1 since December 23rd) and it was going to take the Oilers playing at their best if they were going to take advantage of the depleted roster, and that goes even more so with Connor McDavid on the shelf with a quad injury. What I kept asking myself all day was whether the Oilers would be able to grind out another win for the captain to make sure that he’s coming back to a team that’s well in the mix for the playoffs? Instead, we all got a good look at what a real contender looks like.
In the early going, the Lightning looked like they were shot out of a cannon and not at all feeling the effects of missing some of their best players, and their energy was a major challenge for the Oilers to handle. Had it not been for Mike Smith and some love from the post, Tampa could have been up by a goal or three in the opening moments and the visitors were lucky to come away unscathed. And while things settled down a little bit as the period went on, the Oilers too often looked like they were hanging on for dear life far and it was painful to watch. If we’re being positive, however, you have to call it a win that the boys were able to bend without breaking, leaving the game scoreless as they headed back to the room for the intermission. In the second period, the Oilers did a better job of countering with the Lightning as they traded early goals and scoring chances. That was until, for the second game in a row, the Oilers gave up a shorthanded goal after failing to gain the offensive zone, derailing any momentum they were building at that moment.
Heading into the third period down by a goal, the Oilers were going to need to manufacture more offence while also being aware of Tampa’s ability to turn the puck around. Obviously, that’s a tall order to handle and it wasn’t exactly surprising that the Oilers were unable to make that happen. To put it another way, the Lightning were just too good, too deep, and too fast for the McDavidless Oilers to handle, which made the shorthanded game winner that much tougher to swallow. Though they had some excellent chances to get back in it, the Oilers just couldn’t beat Vasilevskiy and sometimes, you just have to top your cap to a strong goaltending performance.
THE BRIGHT SIDE
- Caleb Jones tied the game up at one apiece (1-1) after taking a pass from Nugent-Hopkins in the high slot, having his initial shot blocked, finding the loose puck again and ripping it past Vasilevskiy. For my money, Jones is turning into a fine option for the third pairing and I think he’s going to force management into some interesting decisions when the offseason rolls around.
- Mike Smith was back in net for his 29th start of the season and I was looking for him to keep the good times rolling as he has yet to lose in regulation since the calendar flipped to 2020. To put it lightly, Smith was bar far and away the best Oiler tonight and a major reason they were in it until the very end. Had it not been for Smith, this game likely would have been out of control in the first period and I think he deserves a bunch of props for the way he stood tall in net.
- Props to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for the nice little stop/pass he made to Caleb Jones on the goal.
- At least Leon Draisaitl added another assist to his totals? The big man now has 90 points in 57 games which is absolutely ridiculous.
- I’m sure you guys are sick of me talking about him in at this point, but I love the way Ethan Bear moves the puck. Based on his ability to fire passes up ice, he’s almost a unicorn in this defensive group and I’m really enjoying the way he’s progressed this season.
- I love me a 5pm start! Eastern road trips forever.
THE FACE PALMERS
- Pat Maroon opened the scoring for the Tampa Bay Lightning to give them a lead that we probably all saw coming for a period or more. Are you surprised? He hadn’t scored in 10 games before tonight. You’re probably not surprised, are you? No, I didn’t think so.
- For the second straight game, the Oilers gave up a shorthanded goal after being unable to enter the zone and this time it was Yanni Gourde who was the beneficiary of that sloppiness. Gross play, gross result.
- Cedric Paquette got the empty netter (3-1) to put the final nail in the coffin even though the score likely should have been way worse than it ended up.
- The Oilers really need to go back to the drawing board when it comes to zone entries on the power play. For some reason, they’re still trying to carry it in the way they would have when Connor is on the ice, but it’s just not working the same way without him.
- You have to think Zack Kassian is going to get a call from the NHL’s Department of Player Safety for the kick he dished out in the first period, right? I mean, I know there was a dogpile going on in the moment but you can’t kick a guy off of you, and it will be very interesting to see what kind of punishment he gets for this one. Dumb play imo.
- I thought it was a tough night for Oscar Klefbom as he finished the night with a -3 (I know it’s not a great stat) and a handful of costly giveaways that really cost his team.
- Matt Benning took a high hit from Cernak in the third period and all I could think about was how it was the last thing that Benning needed considering the time he’s already spent on the shelf with concussions.
- Did anyone else feel like it was insanely dark in Tampa’s arena? What’s up with that? Someone not paying the power bill or what? I felt like my TV was on power save mode or something.
- Game two without Connor McDavid. I don’t like it.
- Oilers really needed their powerplay to come through with a goal tonight, but instead, they gave up a shortie that ended up being the winner. Ugly.
- Only 44% in the faceoff circle tonight. Tough to start most shift chasing the puck against a team like Tampa.
- Outshot 37-30 even though it seemed like the shot clock would be a lot more lopsided than that, especially in the early going.
|04:39||Tampa Bay||Pat Maroon (7) ASST: Cameron Gaunce (1), Luke Schenn (1)||0-1|
|09:36||Edmonton||Caleb Jones (3) ASST: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (27), Leon Draisaitl (58)||1-1|
|13:01||Tampa Bay||SHG – Yanni Gourde (8)||1-2|
|19:04||Tampa Bay||EN – Cedric Paquette (5) ASST: Brayden Point (35), Alex Killorn (21)||1-3|
It is dark and quiet in Tampa’s arena, reminiscent of the death that will one day come for us all. Happy Valentines Day.
— Alice Moran (@Alice_Moran) February 14, 2020
The Stamkos/Kucherov/Cirelli/McDonagh/Rutta – less Lightning are on pace for about 75 shots on goal.
— Jason Adams (@AdamsOnHockey) February 14, 2020
— Surveyor Brett (@BLuchanski) February 14, 2020
Cernak just stopped Ryan Nugent Hopkins with a well placed lay down. Nuge somehow avoided kicking him in the chest. #Oilers
— FatDad69 (@fat_dad69) February 14, 2020
WIN A TRIP TO THAILAND
Our friends at Oodle Noodle and AMA Travel want you to win a trip to Thailand! To enter the contest, all you have to do is follow @oodle_noodle and AMATravel on Twitter, share the post, and tag your travel buddy — it’s just that easy! The contest runs from February 1st to March 15th so get your entries in today.