The Day After 11.0: Leaky defence costs Oilers late
Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
By Zach Laing1 year ago
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With a little over three minutes to go in the third, things were looking good Thursday night for the Edmonton Oilers.
On a night where they named franchise legends Lee Fogolin and Ryan Smyth to a newly minted Hal of Fame, they had a 3-2 lead. Minutes away from a six-game win streak.
Instead, the Devils scored two goals in seven seconds flipping the game on its head. Ryan Graves drove to between the faceoff dots taking a weak shot catching Stuart Skinner off guard. Off the next draw, Jesper Bratt broke between Markus Niemelainen and Tyson Barrie and wired one home.
It was far from a perfect game for the Oilers, but it had never felt like one of those games where a seven-second collapse would flip things on its head. But that’s just what happened.
The collapse started sooner, however.
Edmonton entered the third frame with a 3-1 lead. Connor McDavid had scored early in the game, and Miles Wood responded three minutes later with one of his own. In the second, it was Derek Ryan with his second in as many games and Leon Draisaitl who had helped extend the Oilers’ lead.
But it was Wood who managed to get the Devils back into it early in the third. Right off an offensive zone draw won by Erik Haula, he grabbed the puck and ripped it into the Oilers’ net through a screen. Not much the Oilers could’ve done on that one.
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After that, it was all New Jersey. They peppered the Oilers’ net in that third frame and made things uncomfortable for the hometown crowd. While New Jersey hadn’t met an offensive juggernaut like the Oilers, it was Edmonton’s leaky defence that ultimately cost them.
You can’t beat teams 7-4 every night.
But not all of it falls on the Oilers players, either. Jay Woodcroft and co. learned a hard lesson about which pairing should be on the ice with 3:00 left in the game coming off a goal, and it’s not Markus Niemelainen and Tyson Barrie.
While Evan Bouchard and Brett Kulak were on the bench after being scored on the previous shift, it had already been a minute of play after Darnell Nurse’s and Cody Ceci’s last shift.
You need your dogs out there in the final minutes of a game, and not Niemelainen and Barrie. The rookie leftie bit far too hard thinking Bratt would head up the wall and was far too many steps wide when the Devils forward cut up the middle of the ice. It was a brutal mistake.
At the end of the day, you’re not going to win them all, but squandering a 3-1 lead heading into the third period is unacceptable no matter how you cut it.
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@example.com.
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