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Oh, What a Night

The Oilers started well enough against the Canadiens. Then it got ugly. Then it got less ugly. Then it got awesome.

Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

The Oilers played host to a Habs team fresh off their first loss of the season. Both clubs were looking to bounce back after lacklustre efforts last time out. The Oilers in particular were desperate to get back into the win column, with their three-game winning streak feeling like a distant memory come Thursday night.


First Period

The Oilers started on the front foot and were rewarded for it almost immediately. Some good work down low by the Lander line earned the Oilers their first powerplay less than a minute in. The first unit, anchored by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, won the o-zone faceoff and were able to zip the puck around the Canadiens' zone, generating a few attempts at goal. Nothing too dangerous. The second unit was less successful, and had trouble setting up in the zone, eventually giving up a quality chance against. The Habs killed the rest of the penalty off with little trouble.

Hall took a shift with Letestu's line and they proceeded to generate some pressure in the Habs' zone.  They earned an o-zone draw after some quality forechecking, but nothing came from it.

It was around this time that Gryba and Ference took their first shift at evens and it was a little shaky.  Both players looked a little off the pace.  Ference has the excuse of not being in the lineup every night.  Gryba doesn't, and the Oilers need him to be better.

The Canadiens started to take the game over midway through the first period.  Benoit Pouliot took an awful penalty on the backcheck and the Canadiens capitalized.  The Oilers' PK was doing a decent enough job of keeping the Habs to the outside, but a point shot eventually found its way through and was tipped past Talbot.  1-0 bad guys.

The game began to devolve into pure chaos, with Talbot playing a puck at the top of the circles and Darnell Nurse having to make a not-so-routine glove save.  The Oilers almost hit back on a McDavid-led counter in transition.  That line is a threat to score every time they're on the ice, but didn’t this time.  Shortly after, an ugly turnover at the Oilers' blue line leads to the 2-0 goal.  It could have been saved, in theory, but you can't fault a goalie for letting in a shot from the high slot.  Less than a minute later, the Oilers blow coverage in front, as they often do, and just like that, it’s 3-0 for the road team.  The Oilers couldn't get to intermission fast enough, and were outshot 11-1 in the last 15:42 of the first period. Uh oh.

Second Period

The Oilers started the second period on the powerplay, but created nothing of consequence.  Nurse was trying to get the puck deep but his stick exploded, creating a 2-on-1 as the penalty expired.  Montreal went offside because they forgot the rules.  This was fortunate.  The Oilers didn't take this stroke of luck for granted and began to take the game back from the Habs.  After about five minutes, the Oilers were definitely the better side, causing havoc in the neutral zone and generating some sustained pressure on the back of it.

Connor McDavid and Nail Yakupov continue to impress as a unit, and Yakupov fired a one-timer right at Price from a great position.  This line was pretty dangerous all night. The Hall line began to grow into the game as well and Draisaitl in particular started to adjust to the speed.  Then Pouliot fired just wide from a beautiful cross-ice seam pass from McDavid.

Montreal still created the odd dangerous situation, with Andrej Sekera getting walked by a Habs forward and Talbot having to bail out his defenseman.  The same thing happened to Eric Gryba almost right away, and the Oilers took a penalty.  Solid work by the PK group sees the Habs go without a shot on the powerplay, and the Oilers drew a penalty in their own zone through Mark Letestu.  The Oilers powerplay looked pretty good and the puck found Leon Draisaitl on the doorstep to bat home his first of the year. The Oilers had some life.

The Oilers continued to press and Benoit Pouliot drew another penalty for the home team after some nice work on the backcheck.  The Oilers would start the third on the powerplay, but were still down 3-1.

Third Period

The Oilers’ man advantage was threatening enough to start the third period, and Pouliot looked to have scored if not for some timely stick work from Montreal's defenseman. Taylor Hall's line created some sustained pressure down low and the Oilers continued to be the more assertive team - and the one more likely to score.  Yakupov fired another rocket high and wide, and the ensuing scrum ended with coincidental minors to both sides.

The Oilers lost the puck in the neutral zone and gave up an odd-man rush against. Connor McDavid and Darnell Nurse tried to guard the same guy but fortunately the Oilers escaped unpunished.  In transition, McDavid flew up the ice with the puck, fumbled it into the corner, retrieved it and orchestrated the 3-2 goal as the puck found Brandon Davidson in the slot to hammer home.  The Oilers were coming.

The home side began to play with even more speed, and began to generate more pressure as a result.  An unfortunate turnover threatened to undo the Oilers' momentum but they escaped once more.  Not long after, the McDavid-Yakupov connection almost combined again, with the old double drop pass making an appearance at Rexall. Nothing came from it, but Yakupov then created a turnover on the wall, and then another scoring chance for McDavid.  This line is the business.

The Oilers were finally rewarded for their pretty capable performance: the puck found McDavid on the Habs' blue line, and the young phenom sent a slick short pass through to a streaking Pouliot who fired home on the partial break.  It was beautiful.  Rexall place was electric.  And most encouragingly, the Oilers were full value for their comeback at this point.  They really did deserve it.

Taylor Hall had an opportunity to put the Oilers out front after a neat move with Nugent-Hopkins, but the Canadiens goalie is pretty good.  Not long after, that line gets a nice reward as Nugent-Hopkins makes an incredible play on the forecheck to turn the puck over, circle the net and find an open Leon Draisaitl for the GWG with a minute to go.  It was sublime work by the young pivot and it was great to see him get rewarded on the score sheet for a change.  It was also heads up by young Draisaitl to be in the right spot at the right time.

From there, Cam Talbot had one more save to make off of a scramble in front, but otherwise the Oilers wound the clock down and secured the win without incident.  Taylor Hall made one last nice play to negate an icing and all but seal the victory.  What a comeback!  What a finish!

Deep Thoughts

The Oilers deserved every bit of this victory tonight.  Barring a 20 minute spell in which they were atrocious, the Oilers were far and away the better team for a lot of the night. From about 5 minutes into the second period until the final whistle the Oilers controlled the majority of the play, generated the bulk of the shot attempts, and - at least by my eye - created the more dangerous scoring chances.  It truly was a resilient effort and one the team should be proud of.  Credit to the group for going off-script and taking all the points.  It was a pleasure to watch.