The Edmonton Oilers (14-12-2) played host to the traveling Minnesota Wild (15-11-2) who spent their Thursday evening getting shut out and beat up a few hours down the QE2. The Oilers were coming off a nice little comeback victory in St. Louis that saw the return of Connor McDavid to the lineup and the return of form to Cam Talbot. Tonight marked the debut of Peter Chiarelli’s latest (and arguably among his least incorrect) acquisitions, Valentin Zykov.
Before your faithful post-game writer was able to get his laptop powered up (thanks, Toshiba) the Oilers were off the mark.
Less than five minutes in, Connor McDavid gathered the puck along the Oilers right wall. He then proceeded to flash through two zones, gain the Minnesota blue with ease, and find Leon Draisaitl for the game’s first goal. Vintage. If that wasn’t textbook, they need to revise the current textbook.
A brief scare followed as Jason Zucker caught Adam Larsson flush with an incidental elbow as he was flying by the crease. Larsson dropped like Lucic’s production over the last calendar year but fortunately remained in the game.
Those feelings of concern were soon replaced, however, as the Oilers managed to extend their lead via Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Jujhar Khaira, looking like a new man with a proper center on his line, combined with our favorite pre-pubescent prince to get the puck toward goal. Devan Dubnyk failed to corral it - which, really, isn’t his fault as he was traded before the Oilers picked up their very own cowboy - and Nugent-Hopkins made him pay during the ensuing scramble. 2-0 Oilers early.
At this point, it looked like Minnesota’s game last night happened during the warmup. The visitors looked sluggish, and at least a full step behind their hosts. And the Oilers would capitalize, through their captain. McDavid had control just inside the Wild blue before dropping a shoulder, stepping to his left and wiring one past Dubnyk. 3-0 Oilers, and that would be the end of Dubnyk’s most recent return to Edmonton. Alex Stalock would finish this contest.
Not long after, Cam Talbot finally had some work to do. Sure, prior to this, Minnesota had funneled some pucks toward him, but none of them were of a variety you’d expect him to let in. The first shot he faced with some actual menace to it squeaked by him and cut the Oilers lead down to 3-1.
The Wild managed to find another level after this, and played the Oilers more closely for the remainder of the period. When the clock reached zeroes, the score remained 3-1 with Edmonton enjoying a lead on the shot clock as well.
Minnesota started the middle frame with more impetus, and Cam Talbot was forced into action early via Eric Staal and a Wild 2-on-1. McDavid’s line started the period for Edmonton, and they managed to generate a few half chances of their own.
On their next shift, they forced a real good save from Alex Stalock after managing to combine well in the Wild zone. Later in that same shift, McDavid went blueline to breakaway - as he oft does - but couldn’t bury. This was the culmination of an excellent shift by that unit, and the crowd gave them some love as they headed for rest.
Shortly after, Zykov would get on the scoresheet via the penalty box. Two minutes for holding in the neutral zone and the Oilers would have to kill their first penalty of the evening.
Thankfully, Minnesota’s powerplay was toothless, and they barely managed a shot. Easy kill. Still 3-1.
Jesse Puljujarvi, the third member of the Khaira Nugent-Hopkins line, almost had a glorious opportunity but found himself a bit further outside the center lane than perhaps he needed to be to get on the end of a dangerous Nugent-Hopkins feed.
At the other end, a scrum ensued after Talbot gathered up and froze a routine shot. Darnell Nurse and J.T. Brown had some words for each other but nothing really came of it. Until the ensuing DZD, where the puck found Zach Parise in front with enough time to take not one, not two, not three, not four, but FIVE whacks at Talbot’s near post. But a strong left leg and just the right amount of Edmonton panic combined to keep it out. Still 3-1.
Unfortunately, Oscar Klefbom took a penalty for holding the stick in the melee. The Oilers would have to kill another. And this time, the Wild would make it far more difficult on them. They fired four pucks on target but were far better set up in the Oilers zone and looked far more likely to get one. Their best chance fell to Parise again as Leon Draisaitl lost Mikael Granlund on the back side. Matt Dumba found him with a wonderful leading pass, and he in turn found Parise all alone in front. This time, he was only able to get 1-2 whacks. Total. Far fewer whacks, and that was pivotal. The Oilers would excape without conceding, and it was - you guessed it - still 3-1.
The remainder of the period was relatively nondescript, with the highlight being a Milan Lucic on goal sighting after a very nice feed into space from Zack Kassian. Unfortunately, Lucic couldn’t even finance a goal right now, and he hit Stalock right in the middle of whatever the hell you consider the Minnesota Wild logo to be.
After 40 minutes, the Oilers remained ahead 3-1, but Minnesota managed to squeak in front on the shot clock thanks to some better 5v5 work and a couple of power plays.
Two-goal leads and the Edmonton Oilers typically give me indigestion, so I was equal parts excited and full of dread for the start of the third. The Oilers didn’t share my cynicism on this occasion, however, and managed to extend their lead in short order. Lucic picked up the puck just before half and found Kassian in full flight. He gained the zone and fired a wrist shot off the left bar and in, past Stalock - who probably should have done better. But, he didn’t, and the Oilers were up 4-1.
Ty Rattie went close soon after, thanks to a nice rush up ice by Ryan Spooner. Unfortunately, Rattie’s one timer just missed to the left.
A neat little sequence for Matt Benning followed. Minnesota giant Jordan Greenway - a 6’6’’, 230lb behemoth - found himself thoroughly owned by Benning on two separate occasions in about a 30 second stretch. First, with a nice play to recover the puck and avoid his forecheck, and then by dumping him in the neutral zone with ease. Is Matt Benning actually Superman?!
Those feelings of being impressed were very quickly erased, however, as Minnesota found their second goal via Nino Niederreiter. A failed clearance led to a bouncing puck and a couple of brain farts, as neither Kris Russell nor Darnell Nurse noticed the wide open Swiss in front, who calmly collected a pass and beat Talbot from in close. 4-2.
Minnesota would push for a spell on the back of that goal. Back to back icings for the Identity Fraud Line and another walkabout sequence from the Nurse-Russell axis shortly after. Not ideal. But it wouldn’t last.
Connor McDavid gained the Wild blue, threw arguably the worst pass he’s ever attempted into the middle before corralling the deflected puck and finding Draisaitl with a nifty little five-footer as he coasted into the slot. The Good Doctor would make no mistake, and he had his second of the night. 5-2 Oilers.
A few moments later, Khaira put in another excellent shift alongside Nugent-Hopkins and Puljujarvi. Some fantastic work below the Wild goal line to sustain the attack by turning over the Wild defender to start, before eventually finding Alex Maurice Richard Chiasson for his 12th of the season. One shy of his career high, way back in his first full season with Dallas. 6-2 Oilers.
And they weren’t done.
A wonderful goal. Truly fantastic. Connor McDavid drew three Wild defenders before finding Draisaitl with an outrageous hooking drop pass. Draisaitl followed that up with a brilliant demonstration of patience to allow the space to develop and Darnell Nurse to attack it. He found the oncoming defender with a beautiful pass into that space and Nurse promptly buried along the ice to make it 7-2.
Which is how this one would end. A four goal third period and a victory against the Minnesota Wild. Exactly how we knew it would go all along, right?!
Nothing to add. The Oilers were good enough to take advantage of a road-weary Minnesota team for most of this contest, and whenever they weren’t, their goaltender bailed them out. As it should be. They scored SEVEN goals at 5v5 tonight. I’ll let them have that.
All numbers 5v5, all courtesy NaturalStatTrick:
CF%: 58-57 50.43%
FF%: 43-43 50%
SF%: 29-30 49.15%
SCF%: 30-28 51.72%
HDCF%: 13-12 52%
The Oilers are back at it on Sunday for a 6PM edition of the Battle of Alberta. Mark Giordano will miss out through suspension for the Flames (18-9-2), and I feel great about that. Let’s get those medicine stealing idiots.