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Photo Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

The Day After: Oilers need to learn how to play Habs’ game

If there’s one thing that’s become evermore clear, it’s that the Montreal Canadiens pose the biggest threat to the Edmonton Oilers in the North Division.

Much like last week, the Oilers were clearly the inferior team last night against Montreal and were lucky to pull out a point in a 3-2 overtime loss.

You can give those Oilers credit though as they built a solid 2-0 lead heading into the third period, but letting it slip away against a good Montreal team is unacceptable.

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“I thought the first five minutes we weren’t on our toes as much as we should,” said Oilers bench boss Dave Tippett of the third frame. “Then they got the first one, we got back to playing a little bit, and a mistake cost us the second one. Best way to protect the lead is to play in the other teams end.”

Edmonton’s spent the majority of their season learning how to win different games. They’ve come from behind, they’ve separated in tight games, and they haven’t shied away from blowing teams out.

But if they have any hopes of making serious noise come playoff time, playing the Habs is the type of game they have to learn how to win.

Montreal plays hard. Not to be too cliché, but they’re the epitome of a lunch pail team in the North Division. The Oilers? Well, they don’t seem to know quite how to handle it. The Habs weren’t shy of playing keep away from the Oilers early in the first as Edmonton mustered all of two shots in the first 18 minutes.

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While yes, they got themselves into the game in a serious way, Montreal put its work boots on and took it to the Oilers in the third.

“That’s the way it’s going to be, it’s tight checking hockey,” said Tippett. “That’s the way they are. The other team isn’t going to give you space to do stuff, you have to earn that space.

“I think this is the kind of game you’re going to see night in and night (down the stretch). you have to be ready for it, because that’s what playoff hockey is.”

It’s not like the Oilers aren’t built for that style of play, either. They’ve got the size and the speed, as well as much more skill, to keep up with Montreal. Now they need to learn how to close that game out.

Edmonton has a chance to learn squaring up four more times with Montreal before the end of the season, including what will surely be two huge games right at the end of the schedule.

Backhanders…

  • Meant to do a full piece on this yesterday, but more Oilers games have been rescheduled. Edmonton’s Friday road game against Ottawa has been moved to Thursday meaning the Oilers play them back-to-back Wednesday and Thursday on the road. Edmonton also had a May 7 matchup against the Flames bumped up to April 10th with the Oilers travelling down the QE2 for the game.
  • Caleb Jones didn’t look great on the Habs’ first goal against, but I can’t blame him at all. He was looking to make a play to bat down the puck behind his net, and got caught out of position. Despite that, Tippett went back to him the rest of the way in the third period. Good sign of growing trust right there.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at [email protected]

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