The Edmonton Oilers (3-3-0) hosted the Pittsburgh Penguins (3-1-2) in a Thursday night thriller. Both sides were full of goals tonight, and as a result this was one of the more entertaining Oilers losses we’ve seen in some time. I know that sounds like a moral victory, and there probably are some to take from tonight, but those alone don’t get you to the playoffs.
Tonight, the Edmonton Oilers skaters were probably good enough to win on their own, but their goaltender went 25/31 for a garish .806 SV% tonight, which proved too much to overcome on a night when the Oilers had good performances seemingly throughout their lineup.
The Oilers were the beneficiaries of the first real high quality chance of the game, and it came early. On the first shift, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins found Kailer Yamamoto with a nifty little pass into space. Young Kailer had acres of room and was occupying prime real estate, but he opted to defer to the captain, Connor McDavid, to his right. This would prove a poor decision as they could not connect and the chance went begging.
The Oilers were also the beneficiaries of the first man-advantage of this contest, with the Penguins flipping the puck out of bounds shortly thereafter. This power play was otherwise unremarkable, but for how remarkable it is to see a powerplay with such good players look so awful.
Luckily the powerplay didn’t really suck too much life out of the building, or momentum out of the Oilers. Pittsburgh did begin to push after their successful kill, but while the Oilers bent a little, they certainlty didn’t break. And, after weathering a brief storm, they began to acquaint themselves quite nicely in the game and were effectively matching the Penguins like for like for the first half of the period.
This Oilers push back was in full swing with Ryan Strome’s line causing some havoc in the Penguins’ zone. Evgeni Malkin came back to defend, and gained body position on Strome, who was forced to foul. Perhaps the refs missed a call on Malkin just prior, but no matter, as the Oilers headed to the PK.
Heading into this game, Sidney Crosby had not yet scored this season. The Oilers tend to be slump-busters for the also-rans, nobodies, and former-Oilers of the NHL, so it certainly didn’t bode well that one of the best ever was in the midst of a dry spell. Sure enough, the Penguins power play scored relatively easily, with Crosby left untouched to Talbot’s left to deflect a point shot home and put the visitors ahead 1-0.
This goal ignited the Penguins. They began to take over at even strength and were able to take the game into the first intermission without incident. Milan Lucic had a great chance spurned by Murray, but otherwise the second half of the first period was almost all Pittsburgh.
The first period ended with the visiting Penguins ahead 1-0. They controlled play at evens, out-attempting the home side 20-13 but only managing 11 shots to Edmonton’s 11. The Penguins had the SC% edge at 11-5, but the Oilers had the edge in HDSC% at 3-1.
The second period began with a thorough Oilers squad putting the boots to their guests. McDavid got it started with a majestic rush through the center of Pittsburgh’s defense, carrying two Penguins with him, but he couldn’t convert.
The next shift, the Oilers would equalize. Leon Draisaitl, who has not put his best foot forward at even strength so far this year, found a loose puck in the slot and made no mistake for his third of the season.
And the Oilers would keep coming. At this point, they were seeing every line find joy in the Penguins zone. This was some entertaining stuff from the home team. A few consecutive shifts worth of pressure culminated in the fourth line, specifically, Alex Chiasson - who had himself a night - gather the puck in the corner and walk out to fire it toward Matt Murray. The Penguins’ goalie was equal to the first, but the rebound bounced to Chaisson again, who corralled and then - as he was stumbling - rifled it bar-down for his first goal as an Edmonton Oiler. 2-1 good guys!
The Oilers weren’t done. Or, at least, their aggressive, positive, attacking play wasn’t. Not yet. The hosts continued to pressure at 5v5, firmly wrestling any momentum the Penguins might have had away from them during the first half of the period. They continued to roll their lines, and roll their opponents. At one point, the shots were 21-11 in favor of the Oilers, meaning they were outshooting Pittsburgh 10-0 in the frame!
And then, it happened. Just after the seven-minute mark, Malkin found Penny Oleksiak’s brother wide open in front - and against the run of play - who promptly beat Talbot to tie it at 2-2. This was the first shot on goal for the Penguins in the period. It was a bit of a gut punch, and even though Oleksiak was literally all alone behind the Oilers defenders, you’d really like to see Talbot make that save to preserve the Oilers’ considerable momentum.
But alas, that didn’t happen, and we were all square again. Yamamoto had a real nice look after the ensuing faceoff, but Murray was equal. After that, the Penguins began to play some hockey again, and the Oilers’ push was finally met with some resistance. Play normalized for the next few minutes until the visitors got their noses in front through Patric Hornqvist. Some work down low to take possession from Kris Russell resulted in a pass from behind the goal line, past a splayed out Russell, to an oncoming Hornqvist who made no mistake from three feet away and beat Talbot short side. This, too, was a bit of a gut punch, as the consensus seemed to be that Talbot was cheating to the middle and shouldn’t have conceded like that. Of course, Russell didn’t cover himself in glory there either, but some fans preferred to blame Nurse for the back-to-back icings in the lead up. My response? More than one thing can be bad at once.
So at this point, the Oilers, after arguably their best spell of hockey all season, found themselves no closer to victory, down the same margin they were at the start of the period. Frustrating.
After their third goal, the Penguins once again began to assert themselves. This wouldn’t deter the Oilers, however, as Alex Chiasson - who, again, had a GAME tonight - finished off a wonderful move that began with another excellent two-line pass from Adam Larsson. A nifty give-and-go between Tobias Rieder and Chiasson later, and the puck was behind Murray and the game was tied 3-3!
This goal would prove to be somewhat against the action, however, as the Penguins continued their ascension after Chiasson’s tally and would not be denied their fourth goal of the game. With just under a minute to play in the period, the puck worked toward net and Matt Cullen deftly deflected it onto Talbot. A scramble followed and the puck found Hornqvist’s right skate and ricocheted beyond the Oilers keeper. 4-3 Penguins.
An entertaining middle frame, to be sure, but disheartening for the Oilers and their fans alike. The home side certainly deserved better than to be down one a pretty good effort for most of the period. Score after two was 4-3 Penguins, with the Oilers destroying them on the shot clock 28-19. The Oilers out-attempted, out-shot, and out-chanced their guests in what was certainly their best period of the season (other than the giving up three goals, of course).
The Oilers began the third period looking to erase an unfortunate, but very real, one-goal deficit. This involved Alex Chiasson going inches away from his first career hat trick, drawing iron from the right hash mark. On the same shift, he took a clearing attempt off of his ear, and headed immediately down the tunnel. Given the Oilers are already suffering through a couple of injuries, this was somewhat of a concern.
That the Oilers need to be concerned when a guy like Alex Chiasson heads down the tunnel is for another day, but he was having a night tonight, so it was shaping up to be a loss of some significance. At the tail end of the same shift, the Oilers were rewarded with another penalty as Carl Hagelin tripped Lucic.
The Oilers power play is so curious right now. It often looks poor, but is among the most productive in the league. This PP was no exception. The first unit struggled to set up but finally managed to string together a few passes inside the Penguins’ zone. The puck eventually found Connor McDavid at the right point and he took a few steps closer before beating Matt Murray with a trickler underneath his right arm. Tie game!
Strome’s line was back out after the PPG and continued the Oilers’ positive momentum with another good shift played mostly in the Penguins zone. They, too, were rewarded with a penalty call and the Oilers were heading back to the PP.
And again, their disjointed mess of a PP managed to find pay dirt. This time, the Oilers transitioned the puck up-ice with some intent after Draisaitl gathered the puck in front of Talbot. He played a brief give-and-go with RNH through the neutral zone before finding McDavid on the right side. McDavid - as per usual - returned the favor to Leon and the good doctor made no mistake to put the Oilers in front 5-4!
The Oilers had mostly taken this game over from the start of the second period and had stormed back in front in what was fast becoming a barn burner. Entertaining AF, though.
The Penguins are one of the best in the NHL for a reason, though, and Matt Cullen with a heads-up play to put a low shot on target from the right corner. Talbot spilled a juicy rebound through the slot to a waiting Penny Oleksiak’s brother, who walked into one and beat Talbot over his left shoulder. 5-5. What an awful rebound to give up. Sure, the Oilers had some guys whiff on their clearing attempts, but that Cullen shot cannot produce that Talbot rebound in that situation. Ever.
The third period ended without real incident, and the Oilers, while surely able to stomach a point in yet another game they failed to score first, were also likely disappointed that they were unable to get a ROW from a performance that saw them shoot 45 (!!) shots on net against one of the better teams in the league. Oh well, off to overtime.
Shots after three were 45-29 Oilers, with the score tied at 5-5.
What a juicy matchup. Connor McDavid + time + space versus Sidney Crosby + time + space. Any hockey fans still awake were probably licking their chops in advance of this one.
And certainly, the action did not disappoint. The Penguins created the first chance through Letang who walked in untouched and drew a sharp save from Talbot. The Oilers responded as Klefbom waited for a Penguin to change before finding McDavid at the Penguins’ blue line. The captain did what he could, but couldn’t find the GWG.
Not long after, Crosby found himself out against Ryan Strome. Strome, who had, by my eye at least, a pretty good game up until this point, was tasked with defending Crosby down low. In what would quickly become a masterclass by Crosby, Strome was left looking for his jockstrap as he watched Crosby go wide to Talbot’s left and beat him just over his pad, but just underneath his glove. Ugh. Gut punch, the third.
To be fair to Talbot and Strome, Sid was doing what Sid can do: be incredible. That GWG was an all-world finish and, while Strome does look the fool on this one, Crosby has done things like this to better players for over a decade now. Sometimes you just have to appreciate excellence.
The Oilers’ second period was probably their best all year. They deserved to head into the second intermission at least level, but unfortunately, Talbot wasn’t at it tonight. He let in 2 goals on his first 3 shots of the second period and, sure, while the Oilers did him no favors on those plays, you really do need your goaltender to come up big in those moments. And tonight, Talbot didn’t.
At 3-3-1, the Oilers have come through a pretty brutal opening schedule to sit in the middle of their division at Bettman .500. Given that the Oilers have relied far too heavily on one man and played maybe two games worth of good periods all season, things could be a lot worse. On the bright side? This gauntlet is almost over, and after they get through Washington and Nashville this week, might have an opportunity to gain ground in the standings as they start to play more games within their pretty weak division.
feels like a 6-5 OT loss. Talbot just doesnt have it tonight. 97 probably creates a goal in the 3rd and I will take Leon with a 2nd— Dennis King (@DKingBH) October 24, 2018
As mentioned, the Oilers get the defending champion Washington Capitals (4-2-2, 3rd Metropolitan) on Thursday before taking on Nashville (7-2-0, 1st Central) again on Saturday in a matinee game. As per, we’ll have you covered on the website. ‘Til next time.
*ALL non-boxcar stats courtesy NaturalStatTrick.