Photo credit:Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
The Day After 13.0: Sixty minutes of work sees Oilers crush Kraken
By Zach Laing3 months ago
These Edmonton Oilers have been here before, with their backs against the wall and no choice but to fight out of it.
It happened for them recently, in the Heritage Classic weeks ago against the Calgary Flames, where they had no choice but to play their best, most complete game they could.
The Oilers found themselves there Saturday night once again. As the rumour mill churned late in the week about a potential coaching change in the midst, Jay Woodcroft’s players fought for their coach’s life.
It started with a natural hat trick from Zach Hyman in the first period — Edmonton’s first since Wayne Gretzky did so against the Quebec Nordiques in 1986 — and ended with Oilers playing arguably their most complete game of the season.
“I’ll tell you what… it’s nice to get a result. It’s nice to be rewarded on a good effort,” said Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft after the win, coming short of saying his players went to bat for him. “I think our players played to win the game tonight, which is where the focus should be.
“We came out and tried to dictate the play, and not wait and see how the game was going to play out. We did a good job of that, and critical to that was that save that (Stuart) Skinner made early in the first period… It’s a credit to Stuart, but it’s also a credit to the shooters that went out and were able to give our goaltender some run support.”
THE DAY AFTER IS PRESENTED BY BETWAY
Each of the Oilers’ four goals was scored similarly, with Hyman cleaning up loose change three times, while Dylan Holloway did the same for his first goal of the year. Two of the hardest-working players on this team got rewarded and rewarded kindly.
Holloway, meanwhile, came an assist short of a Gordie Howe hat trick in what was possibly his best game as a pro. A thorn in the Kraken’s side early in the game with his usual get-up-and-go play style, Holloway laid a hit from behind two minutes into the third period that saw Seattle defenceman Brian Dumoulin head face first into the boards. He suffered a cut and would return six minutes later, but Holloway would head to the box.
Around the time the former of the two would return to the game, Holloway was hard on the forecheck in the Seattle zone when defenceman Vince Dunn got the better of him with a big hit into the boards. However, Dunn was far from done, returning at Holloway with a few crosschecks.
“I saw he was coming, but I was kind of in a bad spot,” said Holloway. “Got hit pretty hard into the boards, was a little winded and got up, I saw him coming again.
“He kept asking me to go, and eventually was like, ‘yeah, let’s do it.'”
It seems only fitting that on a night when the Oilers needed to outwork an opponent, Hyman and Holloway led the charge.
Make no mistake, however, as it was a complete effort to round this game out for the Edmonton side. Taking the 4-0 lead into the first intermission, the Oilers knew they wouldn’t have to score to win the game: they had to play in their zone. And they did just that, limiting the Kraken to the outside while playing their best defensive hockey this season.
The only question, now, is if they can roll it forward, unlike what happened after last month’s outdoor game.
“One game at a time, I think that’s kind of the mindset,” said Hyman after the game. “We’re just worried about today, and today was a good day to get back in the win column and kind of just breathe.
“Now, you enjoy the night and take it and get ready for Monday night. We’re at the point in the schedule now where it’s going to be pretty much every other night. You want to be feeling good, and this was a good one to put us in the right direction.”
Every other night, indeed, as the Oilers now embark on a 10-game-in-16-day stretch that includes two two-game homestands, a four-game road trip, and a one-off trip to Winnipeg.
That road trip will see the Oilers head out for a spin of the eastern seaboard, kicking off against the Tampa Bay Lightning, before visits to the Florida Panthers, Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals. But before that, the Oilers play host to the New York Islanders Monday and see Seattle roll through town on Wednesday.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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