For much of the season, slow starts have plagued the Edmonton Oilers, as they’ve often found themselves behind early and playing catch-up throughout the game.
That hasn’t been the case during the team’s three-game winning streak.
The Oilers went up 4-1 over the Anaheim Ducks and 2-0 over the San Jose Sharks through 20 minutes earlier this week en route to lopsided victories. Against the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday, despite being on the second leg of a back-to-back, the Oilers again came out of the gates flying, as Mattias Janmark scored 45 seconds into the game and Leon Draisaitl scored again under one minute later.
From there, it was a battle that featured the Golden Knights trying to claw back and the Oilers shoving them down.
Keegan Kolesar cut Edmonton’s lead to one before the end of the first frame, but Leon Draisaitl made the score 3-1 in the second. Paul Cotter again brought Vegas to within one goal, but Klim Kostin restored Edmonton’s two-goal lead seconds later.
In the third period, the Oilers completely slammed the door and walked out with a 4-3 win. The final 20 minutes were perhaps Edmonton’s most impressive, as they dominated Vegas 18-to-9 in shot attempts and 4-to-1 in high-danger chances while protecting their lead.
“Without being under siege, without taking a foot off the gas, I think we just played our game in that third period,” head coach Jay Woodcroft said after that game. “So credit to our players. We talked a lot about continuing what we were doing to build the lead, making sure that their defense had to go back and fetch pucks and work through five of us in order to get back to our end. So I thought it was a really competitive, entertaining hockey game. There were some moments we’d like to have back in it on the defensive side, but for the most part, I thought we controlled most of that game.”
With the win, the Oilers are now seven points behind the Golden Knights in the standings. There’s plenty of work to do, but Edmonton will face Vegas twice more this season, so the gap isn’t insurmountable.
“If I have to emphasize we’re playing a divisional team, shame on the guys,” Golden Knights head coach Bruce Cassidy said. “That’s the way I look at it. We know who we’re playing. We may not know every place in the standings of every team. Most players don’t. But understanding the value of divisional points and coming out ready to play, it’s disappointing.”
THE DAY AFTER IS PRESENTED BY BETWAY
- Edmonton’s road trip started off poorly with the loss in Los Angeles to the Kings but the team got the job done the rest of the way. They capitalized on their easy opponents in Anaheim and San Jose and they took advantage of a banged-up Golden Knights squad to finish the trip 3-1-0. Next up, the Oilers will have another important Pacific Division game as they host the Seattle Kraken on Tuesday in Edmonton.
- The Kraken might actually be the team to beat in the Pacific. Their last loss came all the way back on December 30, the 7-1 thumping by the Oilers. Since then, Seattle has won eight in a row, with their most recent coming in the form of an 8-5 pounding of the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night. They’re two points behind Vegas for the division lead with two games in hand, and they’re five points up on the Oilers with three games in hand.
- Jack Campbell stopped 27 of 30 shots against Vegas and picked up his third straight victory. It’s great to see Campbell finding his game. As great as Stuart Skinner has been, the Oilers can’t ride him all season. Campbell becoming a reliable option will give Skinner some much-needed time to rest.
- Rookie Vincent Desharnais had another impressive showing against Vegas. He logged 11:37 at even-strength and was in the green at 13-to-9 in shot attempts and 7-to-2 in actual shots on goal. Jay Woodcroft trusted Desharnais enough that he saw some time in the dying minutes when the Oilers were defending their 4-3 lead.