The Day After 8.0: Edmonton Oilers look like oldselves in commanding Heritage Classic win over Flames
Photo credit:Edmonton Oilers
By Zach Laing28 days ago
When the Edmonton Oilers arrived at Commonwealth Stadium, they did so in style.
A team discussion led them to don outfits similar to those working the rigs of Northern Alberta. The mindset, forward Zach Hyman said, was to bring a “hard work, blue-collar” feel to their game during Sunday night’s Heritage Classic.
In captain Connor McDavid’s eyes, that was what they brought to the table and what helped lead them to a 5-2 victory in front of 55,411 fans in the sellout crowd.
“It was a tribute to the hard-working Albertans out there,” he said, after a night he returned from injury to play 23:26, take two shots, and add an assist. “It’s a hard-working province, and we tried to bring that here tonight, and I thought we did that.”
Couple that with the talk around the Oilers ahead of the game that they needed to put in a full sixty minutes while sprinkling in Woodcroft’s expectation of his club to play with a sense of urgency, and you’ve got the fixings of a team that can win a game.
Consider the memo sent and received because the Oilers played with a sense of urgency they hadn’t yet all season.
THE DAY AFTER IS PRESENTED BY BETWAY
The first period kicked off with a bang as the Oilers took the first five shots on goal. The sixth saw Brett Kulak score, cleaning up a rebound 4:19 into the frame. Edmonton’s blood kept pumping, as five minutes later, it was Leon Draisaitl feeding Zach Hyman on a two-on-one where the latter tapped home a clean pass across the ice.
Edmonton’s issue, however, was penalty trouble early in the game. Evander Kane boarded Nazem Kadri 6:46 into the game, and then Draisaitl got dinged with the rare playing with a broken stick call.
They successfully killed that 5-on-3 off, and Hyman’s goal came shortly after that. But more duelling penalties — one where Ryan Nugent-Hopkins held up Flames forward Dryden Hunt, then another where Darnell Nurse roughed up Hunt, who was digging at the pads of Stuart Skinner.
Agree or disagree with the calls, Calgary got themselves on the board when Nazem Kadri tipped home a Weegar point shot, but it didn’t waver the Oilers’ game. They came out in the next shift with their lunchpails in hand, and a minute later, was Draisaitl feeding Evan Bouchard, who scored his third of the year on a big blast from the point.
Come the second period, the Oilers kept up the pressure, with the only mark against them coming on a defensive breakdown as a soft Vincent Desharnais interference penalty left them a man short. As time expired on the penalty, Mattias Ekholm lost his mark as Weegar broke into the offensive zone, and A.J. Greer got to the slot, getting a rebound off Skinner’s pads and finding the back of the net.
Down one heading into the third, the Flames pushed, but the Oilers remained steadfast, with Skinner slamming the door shut. Desharnais, meanwhile, scored the first NHL goal of his career 6:16 into the third. A wrist shot from the point appeared to deflect off Kane’s stick and in, but credit was later given right to Desharnais.
“We thought it was him at first… but when he came out of the box, he came to me and said ‘hey, that’s yours,'” Desharnais said, “But no one really knew it was my first one.
“It’s a pretty cool environment to get your first goal, and especially with this game being very important to us. I’m very happy we got two points out of it.”
Photo Credit: Edmonton Oilers
Looking at the game, the sixty-minute effort was much more resemblant of where the Oilers want to be. They want to play with pace, they want to push the opposition, and they want to put the puck in the back of the net like they did 325 times in the regular season last year.
“That’s more the hockey that we expect out of ourselves,” said Draisaitl after the game. “Throughout the entire lineup, I thought we were really, really good.
“They pushed a little bit in the second there, we weren’t as clean with the puck, but I thought our third was exceptional. We didn’t give up much, we kept playing forward. Pretty complete effort.”
Head coach Jay Woodcroft saw it the same.
“I thought we played a mature third period,” he said. “I really liked our first period, as well.
“The way we came out and asserted the way we wanted to play, it looked like us. I think we have a lot of proud people in our organization, amongst our player group, our coaching staff, our management, and no one has been happy with the way we started this season, collectively.
“I just think we got back to playing a certain way, we got good contributions, we played fast, we played hard, and we’re going to look to build on it as we go forward.”
For the Oilers, going forward looks like a few more days without a game, as the club won’t play again until Thursday night when they host the Dallas Stars. Then, on Saturday afternoon, the Nashville Predators come to town, and we all know what those games look like.
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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