The Day After: Now that’s how you close out a road trip

Photo credit:Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
2 years ago
Was it perfect? No, but the Oilers got the win. Final score: 5-3.
Last night’s win was just what the Oilers needed — a chance to close out a massive three-game road trip with five out of six total points.
They came out hot and heavy early in the game scoring three goals in 3:37 in the first five minutes of the game. Leon Draisaitl. Evander Kane. Connor McDavid. Bing. Bang. Boom.
For once, it was the Oilers dominating the early play. While the Caps got one back by the end of the frame, Edmonton was in a good position after one.
Then in the second, they were far from what they needed to be. Washington flipped the game over-controlling 72 percent of the scoring chances. By the early third, things were all tied up at 3. Gut check time.
The third as a whole had a bit of a stagnant feel to it, but this got interesting late. Tyson Barrie took a brutal hooking call forcing the Oilers to be shorthanded, and that’s where Zach Hyman and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins went to work.
The pair had a shorthanded two-on-one and the latter of the pair was able to capitalize on the goal. Edmonton killed off the remaining penalty, and Nuggy sealed it with an empty-net goal.
“He’s awesome. Great player, great guy,” said Zach Hyman of his linemate. “I think we have some good chemistry together. We’re on the ice together a lot, and it’s really fun playing with him.
“I think Nuggy and I just read off each other really well. If there’s an opportunity to go, we go, but it’s defence first obviously. With four minutes left in the game you’re not trying to score a shorthanded goal, but I think we read off each other really well and when the opportunity is there we go.”
And Nugent-Hopkins said much of the same.
“Obviously you defend first and don’t give up anything easy. If you get a chance to go, you got to try to take advantage,” he said. “Usually, it’s just one guy up top, so you can take advantage and get some 2-on-1’s and at least control the puck.
“It’s good even if nothing comes out of it. You kill some time. We kind of have that mentality of if we see some daylight we’ll try to take it. (Hyman) made a great play, super strong on the puck every night, and made a great play to give me the tap in.”
It was a gutty win for this Oilers club and a great litmus test despite the fact the Caps were without their captain, Alex Ovechkin. It reminded the Oilers they can hang with the big guns of the league.
As a whole, it was a big win at the right time. It capped off a three-game road trip that saw the Oilers snag five out of a possible six points. A dominant 7-2 win over the Habs. A tough, but hard fought OT loss in Ottawa. Then tonight.
“We struggled for a while and now we feel like have all our players back,” said Oilers head coach Dave Tippett after the game. “Schmiddy will be back after (the break) here. We’ve got things turned around, and we’re finding enough goals to win and Koskinen has played real solid for us.
“We feel like we’re heading in the right direction. Take a little rest now, and our schedule gets real hectic in February here. We’ll need everybody to make sure we’re ready. It’s only half the season, but it feels like the stretch run already. That’s what we’re going to gear up for.”

The other side…

Oilers Stifle Caps In 5-3 Edmonton Win
Fresh off an overtime win in Pittsburgh, the Washington Capitals headed home to face the Edmonton Oilers at Capital One Arena. This is the first time the Oilers have been in DC since November 5, 2018. The Caps beat the Oilers 4-2 with goals from Jakub Vrana and Devante Smith-Pelly and 31 saves from Pheonix Copley.
Today was a busy news day for the Capitals. The team announced that Alex Ovechkin has tested positive for COVID and is currently in COVID protocol, making him unavailable both for tonight’s game and this weekend’s All-Star Game in Vegas. The corresponding roster moves were recalling forward Brett Leason and goalie Pheonix Copley and reassigning goalie Hunter Shepard to Hershey. With all of those moves, the lines during warmups looked a little something like this:
Here’s Wednesday night’s Plus/Minus:
Plus: Pheonix Copley came into the game after Ilya Samsonov gave up three goals in five minutes and he was great with the exception of the one goal he allowed, especially after going almost three years without an NHL appearance.
Minus: The power play was even worse than usual without Alex Ovechkin. They looked confused and entirely disorganized. It’s been bad all season, but it was atrocious tonight. – Alex Ervin, Japers Rink

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@oilersnation.com.

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