The Edmonton Oilers [10-5-2], struggling of late with one regulation win in their last nine games and going 3-4-2 in that span, welcomed the also struggling New Jersey Devils [4-6-4] to town Friday night. The Devils were a few hours south last night, having their lunch fed to them by the Flames to the tune of 5-2, while the Oilers were looking to rebound after a tough loss against the defending champion Blues by the same scoreline.
What a snoozer. At least, if you’re an Oilers fan. The home side failed to generate anything of note, with their best looks being fired wide from point-blank, and even those coming sporadically.
Their counterparts managed to own the bulk of the first period, dominating the important 5v5 rates in part thanks to Taylor Hall’s excellent opening frame. The former Oilers’ saviour was buzzing up and down the ice and managed to draw iron on his best chance.
The Devils would go close on one other occasion as Nico Hischier and others were involved in a scramble in front as the puck sat in front of the open net but a quick whistle saved both the Oilers — and Mikko Koskinen’s — blushes.
Both sides would enjoy one power play with the Oilers being wholly unsuccessful in their attempt and the Devils doing only slightly better before the intermission interrupted them after 100 seconds of 5v4. They’d begin the second period with 20 seconds remaining in their man advantage.
After 20 minutes the score remained 0-0 with the visitors outshooting the Oilers 8-5.
The Oilers came out swinging in the middle frame after killing off the remainder of the Devils’ power play.
A few good shifts in a row before Ryan Nugent-Hopkins picked up the puck above his own circles (not a euphemism) and fired a wonderful stretch pass to a streaking Leon Draisaitl. Draisaitl bore down on whoever the poor soul is in New Jersey’s net tonight and beat him clean, putting the Oilers in front 1-0.
The Oilers rode the momentum from their goal for a few more shifts before New Jersey found some pushback of their own and directed the next nine shot attempts toward Mikko Koskinen, who stood tall.
A few moments later, a penalty to Oscar Klefbom for closing his hand on the puck sent the Devils back to the man advantage. Once again, the Oilers’ PK proved too stout, and no damage was done.
Shortly after, P.K. Subban got the gate for slashing Connor McDavid. The Oilers top unit, very much cooled off from their blistering 45% start to the season, couldn’t do any damage either. But the momentum gained from it would prove crucial.
On the very next shift, Matt Benning collected the puck at the offensive blue before wiring a low shot toward net. Gaetan Haas, who was having himself a nice night, got his stick on it en route and redirected it home for his second career NHL goal. 2-0.
And, maybe two shifts after that at most, the Oilers were buzzing again and a Joel Persson shot that Alex Chiasson got a piece of fell to James Neal, who made no mistake from in close and tapped home for his 12th goal of this young season. 3-0.
The rest of the period was academic as the Oilers managed to leap in front of the Devils after a relatively capable 20 minutes, leaving the score 3-0 after two.
The third period was mostly academic. The Devils were facing down the cold, cold reality of being outscored 8-2 in their last 5 periods in Alberta, and were pretty underwhelming for a team that should be pretty desperate for a result right now.
The Oilers came out of the break the stronger side, and, despite having to kill a couple of penalties, never really broke a sweat trying to defend their lead.
They managed to draw a penalty of their own, too, and this time they made it count. A furious scramble in front of the New Jersey net led to the puck coming free around the wall, where Connor McDavid chipped it into the path of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. He walked into the danger zone and ripped a snapshot that Alex Chiasson managed to redirect home for his first goal of the year. 4-0.
The Devils were so spent in this period that the Oilers managed to claw all the way back in terms of CF% despite carrying a three-goal lead into the third. They offered nothing. It may have been in part due to playing their second game in as many nights, but this one was over after 40 minutes. The final score at the final buzzer would read 4-0 in favour of Edmonton, with Mikko Koskinen getting the shutout.
Good enough. New Jersey is far from a good team but we’re only a few games removed from seeing the Oilers punt one in Detroit, so it’s nice to see them handle their brown tonight.
Taylor Hall was an ephemeral force in the first period, but he, like his charges, faded toward the end. It was wonderful to watch him attack up and down the ice with speed early, but very disheartening to watch him and his bad team languish. In Edmonton, too. Poor guy. Come back in July.
Nice to see the Oilers get a result with Connor McDavid playing such an ancillary role. What I mean by that is, by my eye, he’s far less involved in the Oilers neutral zone play this season than in years past. It could be me reading into something that isn’t there, but it really feels like Draisaitl is the primary puck carrier for most of their controlled exits and entries. Now, Draisaitl is going off this year so that’s whatever, but it feels like one of the things McDavid is truly otherworldly at - carrying the puck in transition - isn’t really a feature of this year’s Oilers. Something to watch, perhaps.
Nice to see Gaetan Haas get a bit of burn on the PP2 before scoring his second 5v5 goal of the season. He’s been one of Holland’s better acquisitions (apart from Neal, of course) so far this year.
All numbers 5v5 and courtesy Natural Stat Trick.
CF%: 47-46 - 50.54%
FF%: 31-37 45.59%
SCF%: 18-26 - 40.91%
HDCF%: 8-7 - 53.33%
Shots: 25-22 - 53.19%
Golazos: 3-0 - 100%
The Oilers [11-5-2] head west, where they’ll begin a two-game California road trip in Anaheim to take on the Ducks [9-7-1] at 7PM MST. See you then.