Things were tense in Edmonton Sunday morning.
Only five minutes into their game against the Carolina Hurricanes, Oilers superstar forward Connor McDavid took a mean high-stick to the face. Immediately, he doubled over on the ice heading to the locker room and fans held their breath.
Was it just a cut, or did McDavid lose some teeth? Even worse, could he have suffered a broken jaw?
“McDavid took one to the jibs there and there was a laceration and some dental work and that type of thing,” said head coach Jay Woodcroft after the game.
“Phew,” a collective fanbase sighed.
He returned to the game for the second period, but it wasn’t quite enough to topple the Carolina Hurricanes. What the team was able to do, however, is walk out of that game with their heads high.
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Edmonton opened the scoring just 51 seconds into the game with a beautiful McDavid shot, but it was called back with Warren Foegele having jumped offside. While the Oilers ended the first frame down two, they were recharged with their captain back in the second.
Derek Ryan stayed hot with his fourth goal in the last two games, but it wasn’t enough for the Oilers to get the win.
That resurgence, however, tells you exactly what you need to know about where this Oilers team is at. While they walked out of a three-game swing through Tampa Bay, Florida and Carolina with just two points, they come out of it with a lot more.
The Oilers showed they can compete with anyone in this league. They lost 5-3 to the Lightning in a game that saw an empty-net goal, some terrible goaltending by Mike Smith, and some great play by the rest of the Oilers.
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Against Florida? Well, they fought back, they weathered the storm and they walked out with two points.
They did the same against the Hurricanes, but just couldn’t buy a goal when they needed it.
“I thought we had a chance to win every game we played on this road trip,” said Woodcroft after the game Sunday. “For me, the competitiveness in our team has impressed me through these three games. The level of opponent has been excellent and each one of those opponents presented different issues for us as we went into that game.
“I thought we tried to do some things through the first three games that I saw positive responses with our team. We had a chance to win each one of those games. Just like we don’t overly get high, we’re not going to do anything more than process this game. We’re going to work on some things in practice and get ready for a very game Philadelphia Flyers team Tuesday.”
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The Oilers schedule lightens up, relatively speaking. They go from a murder row to a trio of teams well on the outside looking in. Philadelphia Tuesday, Chicago Thursday, Montreal Saturday.
Edmonton, however, can’t afford to let off the gas pedal in anyway shape or form. The Oilers lost in embarrassing fashion to the Blackhawks days before Dave Tippett was fired, and the Philadelphia Flyers stole a 5-3 win in Edmonton earlier in the year.
Call it a redemption tour, if you will.

Backhanders…

  • Kailer Yamamoto missed Sunday’s game with some “bumps and bruises,” as described by Woodcroft. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins also sat out the game following a high hit against Florida.

What they’re saying…

Hurricanes hold off high-flying Connor McDavid and the Oilers, win 5th game in a row
Sometimes, it is just a matter of inches.
The Carolina Hurricanes were seemingly on their way to a comfortable victory Sunday over the Edmonton Oilers. A sellout crowd at PNC Arena was on its feet and loud as defenseman Brett Pesce blistered a shot past goalie Mike Smith off the rush.
Then, in a matter of seconds, it all turned. The Canes won, but it was anything but comfortable, a hard-earned 2-1 victory that Carolina’s fifth in a row.
Teuvo Teravainen had a goal and assist to extend his personal point streak to eight games, Sebastian Aho scored a power-play goal and goalie Frederik Andersen had 29 saves in his 29th win of the season. The Hurricanes (37-11-4) were flawless in killing penalties Sunday and held two of the most skilled players in the world — Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl — without a point.
The Pesce goal, which would have given the Canes a 3-0 lead three minutes into the second period, was disallowed after the Oilers challenged for offside on the play. After review, Canes winger Andrei Svechnikov, who was trying to straddle the Edmonton blue line, was ruled to have been an inch or two offside on the entry.
No goal, no 3-0 lead. Instead, it would be a tight game the rest of the way.
“It’s crazy how that happens, right?” Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “It’s 3-0, we’re playing pretty well. That would have been maybe a different kind of game. But they had the same thing happen early in the game. It might have been different if they get it, so I guess those kind of cancel out.
“It was weird. For the amount of high offensive players in the game there wasn’t a ton of Grade-A opportunities but there were a bunch of almosts.”

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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 protected]