My poor poor heart.
The Edmonton Oilers squeaked out their fourth straight win to start he season in what was an absolute barn-burner of a game.
Heading into it all eyes were on James Neal. The Real Deal was coming off a 4 goal effort against the Islanders this past Tuesday and fans were eager to see how he would follow it up. The exact same lineup was in against New Jersey, complete with Mikko Koskinen starting in net.
The Devils came out to play in the first period. They drew an early power play and Mikko Koskinen was forced to make 2 highlight reel saves to keep the game scoreless. The Devils would strike first, however, after a shot by Oscar Klefbom was blocked and sprung Kyle Palmieri on a breakaway where he beat Koskinen glove side. 1-0 New Jersey.
The Oilers big stars would respond three minutes later as Zack Kassian passed the puck back on the rush to Darnell Nurse who then feathered a pass to Leon Draisaitl, ending in the German firing the puck past Mackenzie Blackwood for his 2nd of the season. 1-1 after 20 minutes.
The second period started the same as the first, with the Devils pressing hard, but Edmonton’s defence did a decent enough job to keep the game tied for most of the period. They would eventually crack, as Nikita Gusev one-timed a blistering slapshot over Mikko Koskinen’s right shoulder. 2-1 New Joisey with minutes to go in the 2nd period.
Not to be outdone, the Oilers were able to square things at 2 late in the period. A late penalty by Miles Wood allowed Connor McDavid to feed it to an open Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in the slot who fired it on net being tipped home by, the NHL goal leader, James Neal. 2-2 after 40.
This is where the game got intense. Both teams were wheeling and dealing in the final frame, each desperate to get the go-ahead goal. The goaltenders, on both sides, were playing great but it was Koskinen who blinked first. Mikko bit hard on a fake shot by Taylor Hall and Damon Severson was able to place the puck into the wide-open cage. 3-2 Devils with less than 5 minutes to go in regulation.
At this point I was getting that feeling that all Oiler fans have felt at some point in their fandom: Defeat. Yet, this was not the Oilers team of old. Edmonton was once again blessed with a late period penalty, taken by Blake Coleman this time. With the Edmonton net empty Connor McDavid was able to pluck the puck from Mackenzie Blackwood’s pads and put home the equalizer. The goal was reviewed, as the ref blew the whistle rather early, but the play was eventually deemed to be legal. 3-3 and oh baby we are headed to overtime.
Overtime was hectic. I’ll sum it up fast: “AH HALL” “DRAISAITL SO CLOSE” “AH HALL AGAIN” and finally “A SHOOTOUT!? UGH”
A shootout ensued and Edmonton was able to pull out the only goal, supplied by Leon Draisaitl, cementing their undefeated status once again.
- Mikko Koskinen was actually really good tonight. He had two big saves in the first period and was able to weather the storm throughout most of the game. He had to face two overtime breakaways by Taylor Hall but, with some help from the post, was able to decline him both times. He stopped all 3 shootout attempts, the best being a toe save on Jack Hughes.
- Connor McDavid finally scored against the New Jersey Devils. There is no longer a team in the league that McDavid hasn’t scored on. He was his usual dominant self tonight which is fantastic to see. He leads the league in point with 10 in 4 games.
- Darnell Nurse had a very good game by my eye. He did a great job defending down low and was great at picking off outlet passes in the neutral zone. His partner, Ethan Bear, also had a strong game.
- James Neal keeps on doing James Neal things. He was able to get stick on Nugent-Hopkin’s shot in the second period to record his 7th goal of the season. Through the first 4 games of the season, Neal has already matched his goal total from ALL of last season. That is what you like to see.
- Klefbom was shooting that puck today. He had a few good chances on the PP and was the guy who sent the puck on net on the play that resulted in the equalizer late in the third. I am liking what I am seeing from him and I hope he keeps it up.
- Leon Draisaitl was also very good tonight as well. He had a rough shift in the third where he took both a stick and puck to the face. Luckily he was good enough to stay in the game to score the shootout winner.
- The Oilers sit atop the Pacific Division as the only undefeated team in that division. Anaheim lost to the Penguins earlier today to ensure that.
- 4-0 to start the season, get rowdy Oil Country!