What the hell was that?!? The Oilers were as rock solid as they’ve been all season in the first period, only to get summarily pounded on in their already-depreciated-but-still-shiny-new building for the next two. I was so moved by their first period performance I spent the bulk of the first intermission re-watching key sequences and making sure I paid them service in my coverage. Just to prove it, here is what I started with..
The Washington Capitals (5-5-1) came into town with their tails between their legs, for a Halloween meeting with the Oilers (3-6-1) after a harrowing beating by the Canucks (no-body-cares). The visitors, losers of two straight and four of five, were hoping to rebound against a home side that finally found some secondary offense - and good fortune - in their last outing.
The game started as most do, with a faceoff at center ice. The Oilers, led by The Young Pope Connor McDavid and The Good Doctor Leon Draisaitl, found themselves in open space early. Unfortunately, some ill-advised passing meant the odd-manned chance went begging without testing the Capitals’ goaltender.
The Capitals fashioned an early chance of their own with Evgeny Kuznetsov having a free look in the slot after some puzzling defending by Darnell Nurse and Eric Gryba.
Not long after that the Oilers were gifted a man advantage with Anthony Peluso - who apparently dressed up as an NHL player for Halloween this year - getting the gate for a pretty soft interference call.
The Oilers couldn't take advantage, however, but shortly after the penalty expired they began to take over the game. A couple of great shifts saw every line getting into the act offensively, with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Zack Kassian looking especially lively.
Capitals forward Lars Eller was able to manufacture a chance of his own, which appeared to infuriate Darnell Nurse as he went as far as dropping his gloves. We couldn't see the conclusion on TV though, because the Oilers were marching the puck up ice and generating a scoring chance at the same time. No complaints.
Then it happened. Leon Draisaitl found Connor McDavid at full speed at the Oilers blue line, and The Young Pope did what he does. Streaking into the Capitals zone, he fired a low shot that forced a rebound Patrick Maroon quickly dispatched. 1-0 Oilers.
This appeared to spur on the home side as the entire group continued to find success on the forecheck, spending full shifts pinning the visitors in their own zone.
And it wouldn't be long before this pressure would tell. Another excellent shift on the cycle by the trio of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Milan Lucic, and Ryan Strome led to the puck finding Adam Larsson in the slot. He meandered into the danger zone and wired a wrist shot past Holtby to put the Oilers up 2-0.
The Oilers continued to play well as time ticked down, however a couple of breakdowns in the last minute led to Cam Talbot first denying Lars Eller on the doorstep, before eventually conceding to a Devante Smith-Pelley one-timer.
All told though, arguably one of the best periods the Oilers have played this season. 2-1 good guys.
The Oilers started the second period so flat that Kyrie Irving believes in them now. A nervy moment early meant Cam Talbot had to be sharp immediately, and thankfully he was. Then, Alex Ovechkin had an early look from the high slot but his one-timer was juuuuust a bit outside.
The Young Pope was able to fashion a chance for the Oilers off the rush, but nothing would come of it, and the Capitals quickly resumed their pummeling. The Oilers were comfortably second best.
It was at this point that my take-out arrived. I'm not going to lie, my notes suffered. Sure, I could have rewound the recording, but I don't owe you people that. So you get what you get.
Luckily, the theme of the Oilers generating the odd chance during the small respites from getting their lunch fed to them repeated for most of the second period. So much so that the visitors managed to find an equalizer. This time through a Lars Eller effort tattooed with such aplomb that he's getting a show on TLC.
With around five minutes left in the frame - and buoyed by a penalty to Eller, the Oilers finally began to reassert themselves and sustain some pressure in the Capitals zone.
That’s as far as I got before the third period started (I was writing during the second intermission). I had fully planned on finishing this recap with similar vigor, detailing the important plays so anyone who didn’t get a chance to watch it might get a sense of the context of the game. Of course, then I returned to the living room, just in time to watch the Oilers get walked and allow the Capitals to complete their comeback. Thirty seconds in. Exactly.
From there, the Oilers were easily the second best team in the game, and thus my interest in it faded. I mean, if they can stop trying and doing the things people come to expect, then so can I. Damnit, so will I. Besides, I have some pizza left. I’m really not sorry for this. Don’t @ me. Don’t call me. Especially do not call me.
Also, Washington scored again in the third. Twice more actually. One through Kuznetsov - a real beauty - and the other one, I mean it was probably an empty netter but full disclosure I stopped watching by then so I could get this obligation to provide (free) content over with as quickly as possible. Again. No calls.
Next up, the Oilers play another team at another time and you have the internet, figure it out.