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Photo Credit: © Matt Blewett-USA TODAY Sports

The Day After: Los Angeles and Vegas both gain ground on the Oilers

On Saturday, the Oilers proved that they can hang with the top teams in the league when they’re playing at their best.

On Tuesday, the Oilers showed what happens when they put forward a sloppy effort against one of the league’s top teams.

The 2-1 shootout loss to the Colorado Avalanche over the weekend was one loaded with positives, as the Oilers put up a whopping 50 shots against a team fighting for the Presidents’ Trophy. This performance in Minnesota was quite the letdown, as the Oilers appeared loose and easy to play against.

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The Oilers nearly doubled the Wild in shot attempts, 50-to-26, but Minnesota’s forwards were able to capitalize on whatever they were given while their defence kept Edmonton to the outside for the majority of the game. The high-danger chances were 7-to-3 in favour of the Wild, which does a better job at telling the story of what went down.

The Wild brought a relentless forecheck to the table on Tuesday night and the Oilers simply couldn’t handle it, as their defencemen struggled to break the puck out of the zone and the team was never really able to get themselves into a good rhythm. Minnesota scored early on after a Duncan Keith giveaway and never looked back, ultimately winning the game by a score of 5-1.

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Mikko Koskinen wasn’t sharp, stopping just 18 of 23 shots, but he would have had to stand on his head to keep the Oilers in this game given how many prime opportunities the team gave up. On the other side, former Oiler Cam Talbot was excellent when called upon, as he stopped 27 of Edmonton’s 28 shots.

Edmonton’s lone goal came on the power-play in the third period when Leon Draisaitl buried his 51st of the season, a new career-high.

Other notes…

  • The Wild have dominated the Oilers as of late. Tuesday’s win gave the Wild a season-sweep over the Oilers for the second consecutive season (not counting 2021 as the two teams didn’t play each other). You have to go back to February of the 2018-19 season to find the last time the Oilers beat the Wild.
  • The L.A. Kings picked up a win over the Chicago Blackhawks while the Vegas Golden Knights lost in overtime to the Vancouver Canucks. The Kings are now two points back of the Oilers, though Edmonton has a game in hand, while the Golden Knights are five points back. Vegas just welcomed Mark Stone back from the Long-Term Injured Reserve, which should give them a late-season boost.

What they’re saying…

“Deep.”

Deep at the goaltending position. Four forward lines deep and a deep D-corps “made up of different ingredients.”

That was Jay Woodcroft’s glowing assessment of the Wild on Tuesday morning and why he was curious to see how his Edmonton Oilers, riding high with 12 wins and points in 14 of their previous 16 games, would fare against them.

“I think anytime you’re playing a team of the caliber of the Minnesota Wild, it helps prepare you for the type of hockey that’s going to be played in the month of May,” the Oilers coach said. “They’re big, they’re heavy. They’re going to make you earn everything that you get out there. Every inch of ice will be contested. And we have to learn how to be comfortable in those types of games.”

Hours later, the Oilers didn’t look comfortable, which doesn’t bode well, considering superstar Leon Draisaitl said Tuesday morning he wouldn’t want to be an opponent having to face them in the playoffs.

The Wild’s forecheck was unrelenting, and the Oilers frantically threw away pucks like they were allergic to them during a one-sided 5-1 Wild win at Xcel Energy Center to stretch their home point streak to 10 games (9-0-1).

Michael Russo, The Athletic