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Three Key Things: Ebbs and flows, the third period comeback, and a great night for Ryan McLeod

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Photo credit:Tom Kostiuk
baggedmilk
2 months ago
With three straight losses on the books, the Edmonton Oilers were back in action against the New Jersey Devils and hoping for a repeat performance of the 4-1 win they picked up on December 10th at Rogers Place. While it wasn’t quite as smooth as the first meeting with the Devils, the result was indeed the same as the Oilers scored four straight goals in the third period to lock in a 6-3 win.

ON THE GAS, OFF THE GAS

I’m not sure you can draw up a better start than the one the Oilers got last night in New Jersey. Up by two goals after only 5:24, the Oilers were all over the Devils in every facet, to the point of chasing Akira Schmid after only six shots on goal. Before the period was even halfway through, the Oilers were outshooting the Devils 7-1 and very much looked like they wanted to end things early. After that, however, the game took a drastic turn. Over the final half of the frame, the Devils outshot the Oilers 11-2, and we were honestly lucky that they weren’t able to claw back more than the one goal. I don’t know why the Oilers felt like they could hang the “Mission Accomplished” banner after starting out hot, but it very much felt like they were hanging on until the buzzer. Then again, I guess the way the first period ended was the perfect amuse-bouche for what was to come in the second.

HOW ABOUT THAT COMEBACK, THOUGH?

Just when we were all getting frustrated after a brutal second period that saw the Devils not only tie the game but grab the lead, the Oilers responded in the third period with three goals in a span of only 1:09 before the frame was even three minutes old. It was as beautiful as it was unexpected. If I’m being honest, I had to re-write a fair chunk of this article because the initial opening was much darker after the way the first 40 minutes played out. So to see the Oilers come roaring back with four straight goals and lock in a win that was anything but certain was the kind of finish you can build upon. I mean, how could you not love seeing the Devils fans that were leaving early and the ones that were staying kept booing the home team? It was a fantastic way to end, and I don’t know that many of us saw it coming. That’s good sports.

A BIG GAME FROM RYAN McLEOD

Ryan McLeod opened the scoring only 24 seconds into the first period after driving to the net and finishing his chance, which gave the Oilers an early lead and the quick start they desperately needed after a pair of disappointing outings against the Panthers and Islanders. For McLeod, the goal was a big one not only for the team but also for himself, but the amazing thing about confidence is that he wasn’t done with one. In the third period, McLeod scored a beautiful tally after waiting out the goaltender and sinking his shot just inside the far post. For a guy that hadn’t scored in forever, he had two pretty finishes in the same game and you love to see it. I know McLeod hasn’t had the start to the season we would have liked offensively, but you have to appreciate the way things have looked up for him over the last few weeks.

OTHER THINGS WORTH MENTIONING

  • Only five minutes after McLeod got the Oilers on the board, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins extended the lead with a chip shot near the crease after a rebound kicked out to him, and he beat the defender to the loose puck. Nuge also picked up an assist on McDavid’s three period marker to make it seven points (3G, 4A) in his last five games, and 13 points in his last eight contests overall.
  • Connor McDavid picked up a goal and an assist on the evening and now amassed 27 points in the 15 career games he’s played against the New Jersey Devils.
  • Leon Draisaitl now has goals in back-to-back games after a spectacular backhanded finish in the third period, which is a beautiful site for Oilers fans everywhere as we can only hope that he’s starting to heat up the way we know he can.
  • Make it another multi-point night for Sam Gagner as Papa Oiler continues to provide depth scoring at an amazing rate from the fourth line.
  • I’m not trying to take shots at Calvin Pickard by any means here — it was never the plan that he’d be starting meaningful games for the Oilers this year — but we’re never going to climb out of this hole with so much inconsistency between the pipes, and I say that fully knowing that the Oilers won. The team went on a run when Stuart Skinner was on top of his game, and that’s obviously not a coincidence. As much as I believe in Skinner, the reality of this current season is that he’s been hot at times, cold at others and ultimately inconsistent, a common issue among NHL goaltenders that was supposed to get smoothed over by Jack Campbell and we all know how that’s going. My point being that we while the Oilers were able to outscore Pickard’s .885 save%, that hasn’t always been the case this year.
  • I’d love to know what Evander Kane is battling right now because he doesn’t look quite right. Even though he’s still banging and crashing, he’s not as explosive as he was earlier in the year when everything was going in for him. Gregor mentioned that there’s something happened in Tuesday’s Game Notes, and now I’m wondering what’s going on there.
  • It was a weird night for the special teams as the Oilers went 0/2 on the power play but were never tested on the penalty kill. Surely there were more than two calls on the night for either side, but that’s NHL referees for you.
  • Do you love possession numbers? You’re in luck, friend. The Oilers dominated the possession game against the Devils as pointed out by the 56.52 CF% and 52.1 xGF%.
  • Looking at the shot clock, the Oilers dummied New Jersey by a 36-26 margin.
  • I love faceoffs and that’s why I’m disappointed to tell you that the Oilers won only 47.3% of them. Not horrible, but there’s certainly room for improvement.
  • Frank Seravalli interviewed Kris Knoblauch this week, and there were some interesting tidbits about team identity and handling the pressure of being an NHL head coach. Check it out here.

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