Just like they drew it up. Final Score: 5-2 Oilers
Can I be honest with you guys? When I first saw the defensive group the Oilers would be working with against the Penguins, I had an Eakins-era chill run down the back of my spine. It’s not that I’m not excited about the prospects the Oilers are developing down on the farm, but at the NHL level, those duos didn’t exactly fill my tummy with warm and fuzzies, ya know? That said, I also had plenty of doubts on Saturday when the boys rolled into Vegas and it made me think that maybe the Hockey Gords would be willing to throw us another bone. So when Zach Hyman scored on the first shot of the game to give the boys an early lead despite being vastly outplayed, I thought that maybe my Oilers-related worries were overblown and everything would turn out alright. But as the period wore on and the Penguins started winning shift after shift before eventually knotting up the score, I wondered how long into the rope-a-dope the Oilers were going to wait before they started to fight back. Surely this had to be the plan, right? I know that may seem weird to say since the boys were able to finish the period up by a goal, but I had a very hard time believing that advantage would last long unless they found a way to get their legs moving.
As much as I was hoping that the first period shin kicking was only going to be a one-off thing, the Penguins continued their assault in the Oilers’ zone with an early dose of pressure that led to their tying the game in the opening moments of the frame. Even though the score was tied, the play on the ice was a complete disaster and had it not been for Mikko Koskinen’s fine work in net then we probably would have been waving the white flag by the midway point. Instead, the Oilers were able to hang around even though they had no business being in this hockey game and that made me wonder if we were in store for a third-period upset. I mean, we’ve seen weirder shit around here, ya know? With the game tied and 20 minutes to play, it really was anyone’s game to win and I was hopeful that the Oilers would realize the opportunity that was in front of them. Amazingly, the boys stepped to the challenge with what was easily their best period of the game and they threw everything they had at the Penguins, eventually cashing in a trio of goals to give themselves the lead needed to secure an unlikely win. Honestly, the fact that they were able to close this hockey game out with a ‘W’ is absolutely hilarious because this outcome looked impossible based on the first two periods, but I guess that’s what we love about sports, right?
Sometimes you’ve just gotta take the money and run.
THE BRIGHT SIDE
- Zach Hyman got the Oilers on the board first (1-0) after taking a pass from McDavid in his own end, walking the puck all the way down to the high slot, and ripping a wrister up and over Jarry on the blocker side. Only moments after the Penguins tied the game, Hyman scored his second of the night (2-1) on a beautifully executed two-on-one that saw McDavid find his winger with a pass that he made no mistake of burying.
- Kailer Yamamoto restored the Oilers’ lead early in the third period (3-1) after he was able to get his stick on Tyson Barrie’s point shot and deflecting the puck through Jarry.
- Evan Bouchard gave the Oilers some insurance (4-2) with a tap-in goal after he found himself on a two-on-one rush with McDavid and charged towards the net like it was a Home Depot Black Friday sale.
- Giving him four points on the night, Connor McDavid closed things out with an empty-net goal (5-2) to punctuate what can only be described as a spectacular effort from the captain. The guy is a joy to watch and having him put in this kind of game with Crosby in town was a pleasure to watch.
- Considering the performance in Vegas on Saturday, it wasn’t too surprising to see Mikko Koskinen between the pipes for his 13th start of the year in pursuit of his 12th win, and he did exactly that with a spectacular performance for his team. Had it not been for Koskinen, this game would have been a lopsided loss but he kept his teammates in the fight and afforded them the time they needed to get going. Ideally, he wouldn’t have had to do it for 40 minutes but that’s what he had to do to secure the win, and the big man deserves all kinds of love for the way this finished. Koskinen finished the night with 32 saves and a .941 save%.
- Tyson Barrie and Kris Russell each played well over 26 minutes tonight and that’s an incredible stat to see for two guys that were on our third pairing only a couple of weeks ago. Injuries can be a trip to work through, my friends. Wild.
- The Oilers’ PK was excellent again tonight as they were able to handle all three of Pittsburgh’s opportunities with the man advantage.
- Shout out to Markus Niemalainen for playing in his first NHL game which must have been an amazing feeling for the young man. I know he only played 10:19 but I noticed him try to get engaged a few times and I think that’s pretty good for his first taste in the bigs.
- Another shout out goes to Tristain Jarry for rocking an .810 save%.
THE FACE PALMERS
- Jack Guentzel tied the game (1-1) with a one-timer from the high shot after taking a pass from Marino to his wheelhouse and blasting off on a shot that beat Koskinen up high. Honestly, the goal came off of a perfectly executed faceoff play and I think the puck was in the back of the net before the Oilers knew what hit them.
- It didn’t take long into the second period before Teddy Blueger tied the game for a second time (2-2) as the business end of a beautiful passing play that saw the Penguins carve up the defensive coverage before finishing the thing off in style.
- The Oilers got absolutely dummied in the Corskis as they were outshot by a 34-22 to margin. I looked at the shot clock midway through the second period and was absolutely stunned to see that Edmonton had only generated seven shots on goal. It’s like my brain knew it was true because I was watching the disaster unfold, but it took actually seeing the number to fully realize how bad things were.
- If you’re a fan of xGF% then I apologize for letting you know the Oilers had a miserable 34.66% on the night.
- I think the worst part about Zach Hyman’s hat trick goal being disallowed is that there was a tonne of hats on the ice that were thrown for nothing. I feel for you, hat throwers. That’s a tough one.
- The power play went 0/3 on the night, and I actually thought they looked disorganized at time as they struggled to manage the Penguins’ aggressive PK style.
- The Penguins are now 6-1-1 in head-to-head matchups between McDavid and Crosby. Even though the good guys won this round, I need to remember this stat when I get excited about the next Connor/Sid spectacular.
- Don’t ever let anyone convince you that waiting in eager anticipation for the point in the Wrap Up where I tell you about faceoffs isn’t a beautiful thing to get excited about. It’s the small victories, people. Unfortunately, on this night, I regretfully inform you that the Oilers were only able to win 48% of the draws.
- Who’s the genius that thought that the first McDavid vs Crosby matchup in over two years should be an 8pm start? Blah blah doubleheader, I know.
hyman with an even-strength goal 😁 pic.twitter.com/05E3MVVaSA
— s🏒 (@oilygifs) December 2, 2021
So far this week Zach Hyman has lit a 25 foot menorah and has scored two NHL goals whereas I haven't even done laundry
— Machine Gun Ryan (@IAmByks) December 2, 2021
Depends if you’re watching or just getting updates on your phone.
— Big Kiwi (@kiwi_pfitz) December 2, 2021
I don’t even want to look at the Fenskis. #Yikes
— David Shortt (@AdMan0828) December 2, 2021
— Spiced Oil (@Spiced_Oil) December 2, 2021
Yamamogoal giveth and Yamamogoal taketh away
— Andrea (@LeCorbu27) December 2, 2021
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