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The Day After 65.0: Oilers, Avalanche deliver in Saturday night thriller

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Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
3 months ago
Connor McDavid. Nathan MacKinnon. Mikko Rantanen. Leon Draisaitl.
Sean Walker? Warren Foegele? Sam Carrick? Artturi Lehkonen?
The goal scorers Saturday night weren’t the ones the sold-out crowd at Rogers Place hoped for when the Edmonton Oilers and Colorado Avalanche stepped onto the ice, but boy — they didn’t disappoint. And when it came to it, half a second was the difference maker.
That’s thanks to a great feed from Nathan MacKinnon finding Lehkonen in overtime, which sealed Colorado’s 3-2 win.
“It was a tight game,” said Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl, who lost his mark on Lehkonen on the fateful final play. “We played well for the most part, just need a half second more awareness at the end of the game there.”
While his losing of his man was the ultimate nail in the coffin, it was far from the only thing that ended up costing the Oilers the game. In fact, if anything, it could be a sluggish second and third period, typically Edmonton’s strong suits.
Either way, fans of both teams were treated to a marquee playoff-esque matchup between two of the NHL’s best and fastest teams.
“It was awesome,” said Carrick, who scored his first goal with the Oilers, of the game. “Saturday night, Hockey Night in Canadaand all that, it’s pretty special being a Canadian kid. Two really good teams, two really fast teams going at it. We’re getting down the stretch here where things are starting to really pick up, and we’re getting close to that time of year. It’s a fun time of year.”
The thing about games between these two teams is that they don’t feel like any other kind of hockey you see. Sure, some teams can play with pace and speed, zipping up and down the ice and trading chances with their opponents, but those are often sloppy hockey games — ones where there are noticeable breakdowns as both sides try to cheat for offence.
Meetings between the Oilers and Avalanche are similar, in a sense. It has all the speed, pace and chaos, but it’s a game elevated to a whole other level. That’s because the cheating for offence isn’t there, and the sound, structured play is. Colorado remains the perennial example of it, displayed in MacKinnon and Lehkonen’s ability to combine for the game-winning goal.
Play to the zeros.
And where the Oilers were able to excel were in some of the other areas of the game. Take Warren Foegele getting to the front of the net just under six minutes into the second, for example, as he got rewarded with a goal. Or better yet, take Corey Perry losing his stick behind the Avalanche net six minutes later, for an even better example.
He kicked the puck to linemate Mattias Janmark to keep the play alive, with the latter finding Carrick down low. A quick turn, and Carrick wins the battle to get into position to score.
It’s these kinds of games, goaltender Stuart Skinner says, that will help prepare them for a post-season a little over a month away.
“We hope to see this team later on, because that means we’re making it to the third round,” he said. “That’s definitely something we’re looking forward to. I think it’s just another game to measure ourselves and the way we play. I think they’re a great team and will give us a great test every single night we play them.
“That’s kind of where we get to just learn and keep growing as a team, and battle through games like this… Games like this is really good preparation for us as a group.”
While Sean Walker was the star for the Avalanche, scoring twice to force overtime in the first place, the Oilers were still able to walk out of the game with a point. Is it two? No, everyone counts.
But it’s not like the Oilers won’t have a shot at redemption against Colorado, even before the post-season rolls around. These two teams will meet again on April 5th and 18th, and Oilers head coach Kris Knoblauch said he and his staff will have some work to do.
“Next time we play them at home or there, i think there’s some questions or things the coaching staff has a lot to discuss,” he said.
Before those games arrive, the Oilers will have a tough stretch to navigate. Edmonton will welcome the Montreal Canadiens Tuesday, before embarking on a one-day on, one-day off run of games that will conclude in a back-to-back against the Avalance and Calgary Flames on April 5th and 6th. They may have to do some of it without defenceman Vincent Desharnais, who missed the third period being evaluated for an injury that may have occurred during a second-period scrap with Josh Manson.
Buckle up, folks: there’s lots of hockey to be played.

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 zach@thenationnetwork.com.

THE DAY AFTER IS PRESENTED BY BETWAY

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