On a night in the middle of of a cold spell here in the City of Champions, it was hard to image that fans would be in a position to have a good time. I have a hard time envying anyone who has to tale public transit to the arena, go through the TSA, and watch a game that the Oilers are likely to lose. The Lightning are the best team in the league, after all. That is serious commitment. Luckily for all of those fans who fought off the sleeping hobos to secure spot on the LRT, to get to the game, — where they would wait in 20 minute lineups to use the washrooms after drinking $11 beers — every part of it was worth it. Here’s how it all transpired.
Ryan Strome fights off a defender in the neutral zone, muscles his way into the slot and puts a hard shot off Andrei Vasilevskiy. It’s not a goal, just a really good chance.
Nikita Kucherov gives Strome a slash and goes to the box. Given the Oilers’ powerplay struggles this year, it’s very hard to imagine this going well.
GOAL!!! Connor McDavid from Leon Draisaitl and Oscar Klefbom. As mentioned above, I was not expecting a goal on the powerplay. Excellent.
Shortly after the goal, Jesse Puljujarvi puts in some excellent work algon the boards, steels the puck, and sends a backhand pass to Milan Lucic in front. They made Vasilevskiy work for that save.
Half way through the period, Yanni Gourde takes the puck into the Oilers zone, centers the puck, Darnell Nurse has a hard time breaking it up and Alex Killorn ties the game. Not exactly what anyone wanted to see. The arena went from loud on the TV, to dead silent.
Leon Draisaitl gets a good chance five minutes later. He grabs the puck in the neutral zone, rushes into the O-zone off the wing and fires a hard shot. Although the save is unfortunate, it turns out that Steven Stamkos had tripped Kris Russell on the play and we are going back to the Powerplay.
Two powerplay goals at home!! I guess you could say: Lightning strikes twice. This one is Leon Draisaitl from Ryan Strome and Connor McDavid. I love seeing this cross crease pass by Strome. This kind of a powerplay setup, and unit, might be exactly what the Doctor ordered.
The Refs immediately start huddling after this goal, but intelligently decide that people watching would rather see a game of hockey than the striped men running a carnival. They decide against any sort of review, and just like that, this game will end five minutes sooner.
With eleven seconds left in the frame, Leon gets called for interference. We get to start the 2nd period with the L formation against the league’s best powerplay. Yikes.
To absolutely everyone’s surprise, the L formation killed off that penalty. I have no idea how it happened, but they got the puck out of the zone easily and didn’t give the Lightning a chance to set up. This is the most unlikely thing possible in this game. Even knowing full well what comes next, I stand by this claim.
As soon as we kill it off, McDavid does this:
I am not a good enough writer to put that play into words. I can tell you that he got the puck in the neutral zone, went wide on a defenseman, and then went upstairs on Vasilevskiy, but it doesn’t do it justice. In real time, when he had that puck way out to his side and managed to put the puck where he did, well... It gives killing off that penalty a run for it’s money on unlikely events. It was the kind of goal that makes you yell in shock before remembering that you can cheer because the Oilers scored.
Here’s another angle. A goal like this deserves two Gifs:
Half way through the period, Jake Dotchin trips McDavid and we’re getting another powerplay.
Unfortunately, this one looks more like an Oilers powerplay than the others. We get one high quality scoring chance that Drake Cagguila had a good crack at, but after that, the couldn’t get anything going.
How about an Anton Slepyshev and Iiro Pakarinen two on one? Well you got it, Iiro opts to shoot, and scores.
That’s 4-1. Gotta love it.
The Lightning end up getting called for that really stupid faceoff violation rule. It’s that rule that only exists because the NHL decided they didn’t have enough ridiculous rules to enforce, and the refs would need to stay busy. So Vladislav Namestnikov goes to the box for two.
The Oilers powerplay is back in its typical for for this one, no chances for, one against. Ugly stuff. Luckily, I can live with 4-1 after two periods of hockey.
Tampa has decided that Vasilevskiy has seen enough for the night, in goes Louis Domingue for the third.
Ryan Strome gets called for holding less than a minute in, send out the L.
The L looks bad... Oscar Klefbom had a tough time clearing the puck and Yanni Gourde gets the Lightning within two. For the record, no one expected the L formation to go 2/2 against the Lightning powerplay.
McDavid makes an awesome play in the neutral zone just outside his own blueline. He faked passing it back into his own zone so that his team could get a change, Stamkos bites and McDavid changes direction and sprints off for a scoring chance. No goal, but my favorite part isn’t even the Houdini, it’s watching Stamkos take one stride and lolly-gag back to his own end. He didn’t even consider the possibility of catching McDavid.
About a minute late, McDavid gets what must have been his sixth breakaway of the game and... Well:
Make it 3 for #97.
Actually, make it four:
He just tries to get Leon the puck, it goes off of Chris Kunitz and it’s in the net for the captain’s first 4-goal-game.
6-2 Would be your final.
- Connor McDavid showed exactly why he’s the best in the world. He was unstoppable tonight with 4 goals and an assist. He also had nine shots. Because it’s McDavid, and you’ve seen his reluctance to take shots unless he thinks he going to score, I don’t need to tell you whether or not they were good chances. He could have had 7 goals tonight.
- Ryan Strome had an excellent game. He had two assists on the powerplay but that really doesn’t do him justice. He was creating plays all night, getting shots and generating high quality chances through great work on the forecheck. Games like this remind me of why he was drafted so high. He needs to bring it like this every game.
- Oscar Klefbom continued his strong play again. Hopefully he can continue this, his bobble on the goal against wasn’t pretty, but he had an assist and played a solid game.
- Cam Talbot was ok. 32 saves on 34 shots. He stopped a few good chances. One step at a time.
- Leon Draisaitl had 3 points and is now up to 45 points in 47 games this year. I wonder if the Blackhawks would be happy with production like this out of a center. Nah, they prefer paying a worse one 10.5 Million per year.
- The powerplay looked so much better. They were going cross-seam as often as they could, cycling in tight instead of along the wall and to the point. This leads to more wins.
- The real winners here, were the fans. After that disaster against Buffalo, it was hard to stay engaged for a while. Not only were they losing, they were doing so in disgraceful fashion, all while being boring. Since then, the Oilers have played a fast and exciting brand of hockey that people enjoy watching. The Avalanche game, the Flames game, this one. I have all the time in the world to watch games like these, win or loss. When it’s a win like this, especially against the best in the leauge... Well, everyone got their money’s worth. That one against Buffalo, no one did. The paying customers were ripped off, the people paying for cable were ripped off, the people illegal streaming but still paying for internet were ripped off, hell, James H Brown injury attorneys were ripped off having to advertise over that. A game like this though, this is what we want, this is why we’re hockey fans. No Oilers fan went home disappointed tonight. Great game.