The Day After 73.0: Edmonton Oilers let it slip away as they fall 4-3 to Vegas Golden Knights in OT
Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
By Zach Laing2 months ago
This one had all the feelings of a playoff game, and boy did it ever feel so good. To me, last night’s game was as close to that feeling as we’ve had all season and it’s coming at a great time.
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The only problem? The Oilers fell to the Vegas Golden Knights 4-3 in overtime. They didn’t play a bad game and it really felt like they were in it all night long despite having to overcome three different deficits. They just couldn’t figure out how to get a lead of their own, and that was frustrating to watch.
Jack Eichel broke open the scoring 1:01 into the game, and you just knew then it would be a battle. Zach Hyman got one back two and a half minutes later, but a Pavel Dorofeyev goal with a few minutes left in the first gave Vegas an intermission lead.
I liked the way the Oilers responded in the second and Leon Draisaitl’s powerplay goal was a beauty. That little backhand reception only to fire a quick shot from the slot like that was a thing of beauty.
It’s just a shame they let it slip away in the third, and they couldn’t quite get their game back.
We’re games away from playoff hockey as the Oilers continue to jostle for position in a tight Pacific Division. It’s not official until the “x-” is beside their name, but they sit with a five-point lead over the second wild card spot and have a nine-point lead over Calgary, who sit just outside the playoffs. That’s an excellent spot to be in.
Back to last night, however, as you really felt things ramp up in the third period. The tension rose with the game tied at 2, and after Brayden McNabb laid a cross-check to the back of Connor McDavid, things ramped up even more. It was great to see Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Leon Draisaitl promptly lay the body on McNabb on the next shift, and even just watching from home you could feel the game’s intensity.
These games are starting to truly matter; for the Oilers, it’s time to start seeing that next level in their play. In fact, we’re already starting to see it from one player, in specific.
…and that’s Leon Draisaitl
Talk about ramping up your play at the right time.
It’s felt like a weird season from Draisaitl. He was still ailing from his high-ankle sprain at the start of this season, and it was reported back in November he was still feeling some discomfort at times. Nonetheless, he’s still had a tremendous year setting a career-high in points last night with his 111th of the season.
We’ve started to see, however, his game ramp up as of late here. In his last six games, he’s racked up three goals and 14 points including a three-assist performance against the Seattle Kraken, then a four-assist night against the Arizona Coyotes last Wednesday and last night, a one-goal, two-point performance.
This guy knows how to ramp it up when it matters most. Through the last 15 games last season, he scored 11 goals and 20 points before his historically productive playoff run. It wouldn’t surprise me to see that continue here.
THE DAY AFTER IS PRESENTED BY BETWAY
Kane in OT
Evander Kane… yeesh.
That was a tough look in overtime. 1:30 into a shift with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Mattias Ekholm, Kane lost his man, Nicolas Roy, who got a beautiful long look in front of the Oilers net and was able to score the game-winner. Kane aimlessly skated back towards the net and even went towards the back of the net. Not good enough in any sense of the term, doubly so in 73 of the season.
Kane’s defensive struggles have been an issue since he arrived in Edmonton, and beyond providing offence on the scoresheet, I’ve questioned his game. According to hockeyviz.com at even-strength, Kane has contributed offence at a six percent rate below league average and defence at a six percent rate below league average. Simply put: beyond chipping in on the scoresheet, he’s not doing a whole lot out there.
He’s still been a physical presence laying 8.4 hits per hour, the fifth most among forwards who have played over 100 minutes, but that number falls a full hit behind what Jesse Puljujariv was doing, and a hit and a half less per hour than rookie Dylan Holloway.
Kane needs to elevate his play-driving and defensive performances like last night cannot happen again.
Campbell against Arizona?
You have to imagine the Oilers go to Jack Campbell here against Arizona. Not pretty, but with Vegas again Tuesday on the second half of a back-to-back, a win against the Golden Knights are much more important.
The Oilers can’t take Arizona lightly, either. At home this season, they’ve posted a .632 points percentage — the 8th-best rate in the league. (On the road they’ve got a .295 points percentage, by far the worst rate in the league.) This will be the Oilers’ first trip to Mullett Arena, but at least they’ll have an idea of what to expect thanks to Nick Bjugstad.
Arizona’s playing some solid hockey as of late. In their last 20 games dating back to Feb. 13, they’re 10-6-4 scoring 62 goals and allowing 64. Edmonton can’t take them lightly.
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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