Austin Watson was salty.
Salty because he just had his world spun upside down by Milan Lucic behind the Oilers net. Salty because he was just embarrassed in front of hundreds of thousands of hockey fans.
So, with his team already down a man on the penalty kill, Austin Watson knocked Lucic down after the whistle and took another penalty. Lucic would tie the game on the ensuing power play with 4:29 left in regulation, and that goal, combined with Cam Talbot's 42-save performance, was just enough to salvage a point for the Edmonton Oilers in an eventual 3-2 loss to the visiting Nashville Predators on Friday night.
On a night when the Oilers were outshot 42-24 in regulation, the result of the game felt more like stealing a point through the brute force of Lucic than losing one unfairly in a shootout, a timely late goal once again rescuing the game from the jaws of a regulation loss. The one point gave the Oilers (25-15-8) 48 points on the season, three back of the Anaheim Ducks, who have won nine of their last 12, and the same as the San Jose Sharks, who have two games in hand.
The past two games, which featured an Oilers team that managed to salvage 3 of 4 points despite not being at their sharpest , have seen goals from players in prolonged slumps that the team will need in the next few months if they are serious about making a playoff run--Zack Kassian and Jordan Eberle scored on Wednesday, and Milan Lucic scored a huge goal after going goalless in his previous 12 games, providing a crushing physical presence in a game that featured a surprising amount of nastiness and hits.
Cam Talbot stressed the importance of Lucic to the team, and the need for what he brings every game. "I think that's what we need from him night in and night out," he said, "He was a force out there, you could tell he was laying the body, playing physical, creating space for guys, then he got the big goal there to give us the extra point. I think that's what we need from him every night, and we know that he can do that."
Lucic himself spoke about his mindset in trying to contribute in ways not obvious on the scoresheet while in a scoring slump, which led, in this case, to success getting on the board.
"I think it was a much easier game to kind of get into just because of the way both teams were playing," he said. "There was a lot of emotion from both sides, and when things aren't going well for you as of late in the scoresheet you have to sometimes get yourself involved physically and emotionally, to kind of break the drought that you're on."
The unusually erratic rhythm of the game may have been one of the reasons why physical players like Lucic were able to stand out, as it was hard to get any sort of rhythm going.
"We were on our heels a lot-- it was a game that unfolded that probably favoured a team that played the night before," said Coach McLellan after the match. "They were a little bit quicker and I thought they were a lot harder, but the rhythm of the game was start, stop, scramble, we never got into a skating-type game where we could tire them out. I think there were 80, maybe 90 faceoffs in that game, so it was an astronomical amount-- we weren't very successful in the faceoff circle, we ended up chasing the puck a lot, and even when we won draws we didn't do a lot with it."
The start-and-stop game remained scoreless fifteen minutes into the second, and it quickly became a test of which goalie would blink first, the Predators with a 20-16 edge in shots at that point despite having five power plays already just past the midpoint of the game.
It was Nashville who broke through first at 17:12 in the second, when Viktor Arvidsson tapped in a rebound after outbattling three Oilers to keep the puck in the zone.
The 1-0 lead did not last long, however, as just 41 sesconds later, it was Matt Hendricks whose shot just trickled past Pekka Rinne and across the goal line to make it a tie game. After a failed clearing attempt forced by pressure from Zack Kassian in front of the net, Kassian was able to wrestle possession and get the pass across to Hendricks for his second of the season.
Ryan Ellis, whose beard is so gross even Nugey's Barely Beard beats it, gave the Preds a 2-1 lead at 6:55 in the third, aided by a perfect screen from Brandon Davidson, inadvertently blocking his own goalie's ability to make a save on a straightforward shot.
Milan Lucic tied the game on the power play with 4:29 left in regulation to once again bring the Oilers back into the game from the fray, his first in 13 games. Positioned staunchly in front of the net, he took the feed from Draisaitl from the side of the net, his goal coming shortly after a huge hit on Austin Watson during the initial power play
Just seven seconds into overtime, McDavid pounced and drove the net with a shot that Pekka Rinne was able to stop. Mattias Ekholm illegally grabbed the puck with his glove in the blue paint to swat it away, but no penalty shot was awarded. Ryan Johansen nearly won it with a shot on a breakaway with 32 seconds left but hit the post.
Ryan Ellis and James Neal both scored for Nashville in the shootout to take the extra point in this game, the first of a back-to-back as the Oilers get set for their final game against the Flames tonight.
- Cam Talbot. Cam Talbot is da real MVP of this season, if you ask me. Stopped 42 of 44 shots tonight and stole a point for his team.
- If we get this version of angry Milan Lucic every night, this team is immediately much more effective (and scary). Absolutely destroyed Cody McLeod in his third fight of the season, laid down three hits and scored a very timely goal.
- The Oilers took a lot of penalties, but at least went 5/5 on the penalty kill, which is good, right?
- Soul Patch Nugey is not the Nugey we’ve grown used to— got into a heated shoving match with Viktor Arvidsson in the third, and it was beautiful.
- The Oilers are getting good at overtime— even though they didn’t manage to score in this one, they still dominated possession, outshooting the Preds 8-2.
- On a night when most Oilers were destroyed in the Corsi department, it was surprisingly Brandon Davidson (66.67% 5v5 CF) and Matt Benning (52.17% 5v5 CF) who managed to keep their heads above water despite the lowest Zone Start % amongst defencemen (16.67% and 14.29%, respectively).
- 13 giveaways from the defencemen tonight. Yuck.
- The rhythm of the game was so all over the place— 88 faceoffs all in all- that Todd McLellan had to keep tapping his players on the shoulders and shouting words of encouragement to keep them focused and motivated— it was just a really odd game.
Game in a Haiku
From the waters rose
the menacing outline of
the Loochness Monster.