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The Day After 68.0: Oilers inability to put themselves in good position leads to 6-3 loss to Maple Leafs

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Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
19 days ago
If the Edmonton Oilers started every game like they finished Saturday nights against the Maple Leafs, we wouldn’t have to keep writing these kinds of articles.
Yet, after another sluggish start in which the Oilers had too many defensive breakdowns, gave up too many scoring chances, and couldn’t capitalize on their own, here we are again analyzing what went wrong in their 6-3 loss.
While they may have had a good first 10 minutes, they were still facing a deficit after Bobby McMann got alone in front four minutes into the game with defencemen Vincent Desharnais and Darnell Nurse caught out of position and lackadaisical getting back to it.
William Nylander would add a goal of his own with under two minutes left, as the Pontus Holmberg would score twice and McMann would add another before the second period was up.
“It sure didn’t feel like 5-0 going into the third,” said Nurse. We gave them a little too many Grade A opportunities. They’re a good team, they’re going to capitalize off them. But we battled back there in the third and made a game of it.”
They battled back, but it was too little, too late this time. Overcoming a 5-0 lead against the Leafs is a different mountain to climb than being down 2-0 to the Sabres, as they were on Thursday night. Zach Hyman would inch one goal closer to 50 scoring his 49th five minutes into the frame, before Corey Perry and Leon Draisaitl would add markers of their own.
“We have to play hard the whole time,” said head coach Kris Knoblauch after the game. “I thought we came out hard, and the mistakes we made were too costly.
“We didn’t make many mistakes, but when we did, they were big ones, and they capitalized on them. It was unfair for Stu. I’m not sure any of those chances he’s gonna have. I think the chances we gave were too big.”
The Oilers have developed a penchant for these frantic thirds this year. When trailing after two, they’ve mounted seven comeback wins—the second-most in the NHL — and 13 wins when tied after two, the most in the league.
It’s not like this style of play is conducive to success in the playoffs, either. In the last decade, of the 2016 playoff games, teams that trail after two periods have a combined record of 113-653. That’s a winning percentage of 14.8 percent, for those counting at home.
There are lessons to be learned, no doubt.
“Just the attention to detail it takes for a full 60 minutes as we come down the stretch,” said Nurse of those lessons. “We know, but at this point in the season, everything is heightened to some extreme as everyone gears up for the biggest part of the season. That’s what you take from it.”
Draisaitl, meanwhile, said they hoped to build some momentum late in the third, to “take that to the next game.”
The good news for the Oilers is they can have a short memory of the final result, as they visit the Ottawa Senators for a 4 p.m. puckdrop.

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.

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