That’s how you rebound, fellas. Final Score: 5-1 Oilers
After missing out on their chance to clinch home-ice advantage on Sunday against the Blue Jackets, the boys were looking to get the job done against a Pittsburgh Penguins team that has stumbled a little bit down the stretch. Coming into tonight’s game with a 4-5-1 record over their last 10 games, the Pens are limping their way into the finish line and I saw that as the perfect opportunity for our boys to grab home ice while also sweeping the season series. That said, even though the Penguins may be struggling, the Oilers needed to come up with a solid effort at both ends of the rink if they were going to get back in the win column and set themselves up for round one. And from my side of the TV screen, I don’t know that you could have put together a better road period than our boys did apart from obviously picking up more than the single goal. Either way, the boys were flying from the get-go, and it was a lot of fun seeing them do their thing and get rewarded with an early lead because of that hustle.
Heading into the second period, I didn’t see much of anything the Oilers needed to change apart from maybe getting a little more traffic in front of DeSmith to make his life more difficult. Outside of that, I just wanted more of the same. Of course, I also knew that the Penguins weren’t going to be happy about their start, and I was hopeful the Oily Boyz would be ready to weather any storms that rolled their way. As hoped, the Oilers picked up where they left off by putting all kinds of heat on Pittsburgh’s defence from the moment the puck dropped, swarming the zone with waves of consistent pressure. Had it not been for Bouchard’s second goal of the night being disallowed because of an offside review, it wouldn’t have been crazy to think our boys were setting the table to run away with it. Unfortunately, the goal was called back and the decision gave the Pens the life they needed to pull themselves back into a tie game. The tie didn’t last long, though, as Evander Kane was able to quickly restore Edmonton’s lead on the back of a beautiful passing play that was not only fun to watch but also kept his heater going.
Up by a goal with a period to play, the Oilers needed to avoid a repeat of what happened on Sunday in Columbus and that meant having everyone rowing in the same direction without anyone looking past the task at hand. I’m talkin’ short shifts, attention to detail, and never flying the zone until absolutely certain that the play was moving the other way. As much as Smith has been dialed in lately, I’d rather not have to rely so heavily on the guy to lock in this win, ya know? Thankfully, the boys didn’t seem too interested in allowing Pittsburgh much room to operate, and rather than sitting back in some flavour of prevent defence, the visitors kept attacking with purpose. As a result, the Penguins could barely get out of their own zone for the bulk of the period, and it was almost bad luck in a way that the Oilers were only able to tack three more goals on the board because they were absolutely dominant. Regardless of what else could have ended up on the scoreboard, the important part of the story is that the Oilers rebounded after Sunday’s loss in Columbus and locked in home-ice advantage for the playoffs. 80 games down, two left to go.
THE BRIGHT SIDE
- The Oilers picked up their first back-to-back wins over the Penguins in 16 years!
- Evan Bouchard opened the scoring (1-0) with a sneaky little wrister from the high slot that made its way through a Yamamoto screen before beating DeSmith up over the shoulder. Bouchard nearly added another goal early in the second period on a very similar play, but the goal ended up getting called back on an offside review. I can’t be the only one that thinks the Oilers should extend dad to a long-term contract sooner than later because bridging this guy would get expensive.
- Only 25 seconds after Pittsburgh tied the game, Evander Kane restored the lead (2-1) after taking a pass from Yamamoto in the slot and pounding the puck past DeSmith with authority. The dude just can’t stop scoring goals right now and I hope this heater lasts forever.
- Zach Hyman gave the Oilers some insurance (3-1) with a power play goal that came after he found RNH’s rebound in front of the net and pulled a nice little move to slide it through DeSmith’s legs.
- Connor McDavid extended the lead to three goals (4-1) on the power play with a ridiculous goal from an impossible angle, and I’m honestly still confused how he was able to get that thing in the net from where he shot it. Either way, how about a casual four-point night to give him 14 in his last six games? Jonathan Huberdeau didn’t really have a chance, did he?
- Zack Kassian ended his 28-game goalless drought with an empty-netter (5-1) to seal the deal.
- Mike Smith has been incredible for the Oilers over the month and change, and they were going to need another dose of that magic tonight against the Pens as the team was looking to lock down home-ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs. From buzzer to buzzer, Smith was rock solid for his team once again and he laid a foundation that allowed his teammates to create offence freely without having to worry that their goalie wouldn’t be able to bail them out if needed, and ultimately his stead play was a huge part of this win. Put another way, the only thing Smith didn’t do was land the goal he tried to bag at the end of the night. Smith finished the night with 33 saves and a .971 save%.
- How good has the PK been for the Oilers lately? After struggling mightily for a stretch midway through the year, the boys have done a full 180 lately and that success continued tonight as they killed off four of four shorthanded situations.
- Not to be outdone, the power play came through with a pair of key goals on four chances with the man advantage. You’ve gotta love a big special teams sweep!
- I need to take a minute to pump Brett Kulak’s tires again because the dude just keeps giving us quietly steady outings on the back end, and I absolutely love it.
- Another defenceman I wanted to point out was Duncan Keith because I thought he had a whale of a game, and made a handful of early plays that kept the Penguins off the board. Solid game for the future HHOFer.
- Oilers dominated the Corskis after outshooting the Penguins by a 42-34 margin.
- The spreadsheet society offers good news after the Oilers finished with a 52.81 CF% and a 56.40 xGF%.
THE FACE PALMERS
- Shortly after the Oilers had their goal reversed, Jeff Carter tied the game (1-1) from the side of the net after the point shot bounced off the backboards and right to his stick near the post. As far as easy goals go, I’m not sure Carter will get one easier than that. Carter, unfortunately, remains an Oilers killer as he has been for his entire career.
- I really wanted Mike Smith to get a goal and it just didn’t happen. So funkin’ close, though!
- It wasn’t all good news, my friends, because the Oilers only won 48% of the faceoffs?
It's mixed with his usual prune juice
— Ryan (@IAmByks) April 26, 2022
Agreed. Maybe the Oilers throw in a sign for his front lawn telling kids to stay off his grass.
— Shawn (aka Enrico Pallazzo) (@borbandy) April 27, 2022
Old man almost has had two today
— dangersuede esq. (@dangersuede) April 27, 2022
But Smith goal watch is back on!
— x-TommyGuns (@big_Tobias4) April 27, 2022
— x- la bamba Dan – Feel Good, Why Not (@theDanalytic) April 27, 2022
BETTER LAIT THAN NEVER
How can you not be excited about what’s going on with the Edmonton Oilers right now? With Clinchmas upon us, I dove into what’s working, what I’m excited about, and how Jay Woodcroft has turned this team around in a way I didn’t think was possible. Subscribe on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts.