8

The Day After: Oilers fall in deflating bout

Far from perfect.

It’s the best way to describe the 60+ minutes the Edmonton Oilers put on in a New Years Eve matinee against the New Jersey Devils.

Ultimately falling 6-5 in overtime, the Oilers fought hard and kept themselves in the game almost the whole way. But once again, the little things lost the game for the Oilers.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

A few Oilers, however, played some of their best games. Ryan McLeod, despite playing an inexplicably low 8:41, was around the action all night. He notched primary assists on goals by Connor McDavid in the first, and another great goal in the third scored by Devin Shore. His pass to Shore was the most impressive, firing a no-look backhander from the corner right to a wide-open shore in front.

Kailer Yamamoto also had one of his best for the Oilers scoring two goals and adding an assist. One tipped in front, and another to give the Oilers a late lead in the third.

Duncan Keith, too, looked solid for the Oilers. He made a beautiful stretch pass to a streaking McDavid in the second when the Oilers captain made no mistake scoring.

But one key player didn’t look very sharp: Mike Smith.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

In just his second game back after a lower-body injury that kept him out of the lineup for two months, the rust was clear. It doesn’t all fall on him, no, but at key times he couldn’t come up with. All but the second and fifth goals are ones where the Oilers could really use a big save. Sure, he stopped a few nice ones in overtime, but he ultimately let in a squeaker.

Edmonton should be happy walking away with any points they can get as they did yesterday afternoon, but it’s far from ideal. The Oilers are anxiously close to dipping out of the top wildcard spot they hold and teams below them in the standings are surging and the top spot in the Pacific is a whole seven points away.

Another key game comes this afternoon with a 12 p.m. MST start against a struggling New York Islanders club. It’s a game that’s a must-win for these Oilers.

Backhanders…

  • See? I can say nice things about Duncan Keith.
  • Very happy for Ryan McLeod, his brother Michael, and the McLeod parents who were in attendance yesterday afternoon. It’s special to see any of your kids play in the NHL, let alone two at once as they got to see.
  • William Lagesson dressed as a seventh-defenceman for the Oilers and ended the afternoon with 2:45 TOI and an assist.
  • Darnell Nurse, meanwhile, didn’t miss a beat jumping back into the lineup. He played 29:09, but his on-ice results were some of the worst on the team.

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]