The Edmonton Oilers (20-17-4) invited the New York Rangers (19-15-4) to ring in the New Year over a game of hockey on Tuesday night. New York came to town riding a two-game winning streak on the back of 10 goals (5 twice) in their last two games in victories over Toronto and Carolina. The Oilers are going the opposite way, with two losses in a row to Vancouver and Calgary. A win tonight would put them into wildcard territory, which is quite something considering their position atop the division as recently as US Thanksgiving.
11 seconds. 11 whole seconds. That’s all it took for the Oilers to win this game. After winning the opening faceoff, Ethan Bear dumped it in behind the Rangers net. The puck travelled around the end wall before being shoveled back deep by Oscar Klefbom. Zack Kassian, waiting behind the net for it, collected and wheeled it right in front to a passing James Neal for the easy tap in. 11 seconds in. 1-0.
A couple of good shifts followed the early goal and it was clear that Edmonton had their legs to start this one. Unfortunately, Sam Gagner caught his stick in between some Ranger legs and the Oilers had to kill the game’s first penalty. Which, they would, thanks to a stout effort by the PK units and some good work from Mikko Koskinen.
The Rangers seemed to gain momentum from the power play despite not scoring, and pressed the Oilers for a few consecutive shifts. But the pressure would yield nothing and break quickly, and the Oilers earned their first power play with 11:22 remaining in the period.
Before the PA guy could announce the penalty, James Neal scored his second of the game. Leon Draisaitl won the power play’s first faceoff and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins bundled the puck to Klefbom at the point. He took a step sideways and blasted one on net for Neal to deftly touch past Alexandar Georgiev. 2-0.
Less than three minutes later the hosts struck again. This time, a nice play by Jujhar Khaira to keep the puck in and set up Ethan Bear just inside the OZ blue line led to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins tipping home Bear’s shot to put the Oilers ahead by three. 3-0.
The rest of the period saw the Oilers continue to press, putting a bow on one of their best periods of the season before the buzzer finally sounded to give the Rangers a much-needed reprieve.
Neither side was able to offer much, with the first few minutes of the middle period featuring sloppiness above all else. The best early chance came at the tail end of an Artemi Panarin rush that led to some chaos in front of Koskinen.
At around the five minute mark, the Oilers were pinned in their zone for almost a full shift, which led to a Ryan Nugent-Hopkins hooking penalty.
During the penalty, former Oiler Ryan Strome got his stick high on Ethan Bear, drawing blood. The ensuing double-minor somehow both killed the rest of the Oilers penalty and gave Edmonton a power play of their own. Unforunately, they couldn’t score after a fairly lackluster two minutes.
Shortly after, Jujhar Khaira went digging for a rebound in Georgiev’s glove, leading to a fracas. In the aftermath, Khaira and his opposite, Ryan Lindgren, were given offsetting penalties for cross-checking. Much to everyone’s surprise, Lindgren was given an extra penalty for roughing, and the Oilers had another power play.
This time, they’d capitalize. A much better effort in terms of zone time and pressure finally told, with James Neal corralling the puck to Georgiev’s left before finding Nugent-Hopkins across the crease. He kicked it to Leon Draisaitl in front to scoop into the open net. 4-0.
By this point, Rangers coach Dan Quinn was upset. Perhaps justifiably, given the NHL’s reluctance to ever send one team to the box over and over like this. His rant cost the Rangers a bench minor and gave Edmonton another opportunity at 5v4.
And again, they’d capitaize. This time, James Neal was the beneficiary of Connor McDavid’s seamless entry and wonderful pass to the slot. Neal wasted no time and his first touch found the back of the net to complete his second hat trick of the season. 5-0.
90 seconds later, Edmonton found another. A simple flip dump from William Lagesson sprung Josh Archibald on a breakaway. Georgiev met him in the high slot with a desperation slide and managed to put him off. But the play continued, and New York couldn’t clear the zone, leading to Riley Sheahan finding Archibald in front to slot in and end Georgiev’s night. 6-0.
Henrik Lundqvist came in to see out the rest of the period, and the Rangers managed to find a consolation goal near the end of the frame thanks to Artemi Panarin’s excellent pass to Chris Kreider and Darnell Nurse’s reluctance to cover the open man. 6-1.
That’s how it would end after 40 minutes, with Edmonton in total control of the result and looking to avoid injury above all else in the third.
The Rangers came out determined not to be embarrassed in the third period, with their obliging hosts content to sit back and see out the game on the back foot. This continued through the first four minutes as Artemi Panarin backed Kris Russell into the Oilers’ zone before firing a pass to Adam Fox. Fox then found Strome wide open in front with no Oiler close, and he beat Koskinen to give New York some life. 6-2. Russell. Yikes.
A few minutes later, Marc Staal carried the rock from DZ to OZ before dumping off to Panarin on the left. He creeped down low before delivering a delicious little backhand sauce to Strome in front to one-time home. Credit was given to Staal, so it must have hit him en route. 6-3 either way. Uh oh.
38 seconds later, the Rangers found another. This time Panarin didn’t need any help. After taking the space afforded to him by Lagesson in the high slot, Panarin kept and rifled one over Koskinen’s shoulder. 6-4. Mother of god.
Four minutes of squeaky bum time followed as the Rangers continued to press and the Oilers continued to panic. Nothing resembling the team that galloped out to a 6-0 lead through two periods. And New York knew it. In a sequence that resembled -- too much, in fact -- a penalty kill, the Rangers were established in Edmonton’s zone and flinging it around with ease. Eventually, the puck found Mika Zibanejad with acres of space in front and he made no mistake. Koskinen actually caught this one, but his glove was behind the goal line. 6-5. They’re gonna blow it, aren’t they?!
Well, when I saw RNH out with Jujhar Khaira and Kailer Yamamoto to kill the game with 90 seconds left, I thought they might, and began writing a tweet questioning that very deployment. RNH’s line was getting creamed at evens for most of the night, so it felt like Tippett was inviting pressure at the death. But Yamamoto proved his mettle, making two wonderful defensive plays -- tying up Zibanejad’s stick before intercepting Panarin’s seam pass -- en route to collecting the game-sealing empty net goal with just over a minute left. 7-5. Breathe.
That’s how it would finish, as the Oilers managed to take away any of the good feelings one might normally associate with a seven goal home victory. Maybe next year they’ll let us enjoy one of these.
One thing the above doesn’t scope is Oscar Klefbom’s leaving the game in the third period after taking a Jacob Trouba wrist shot off the left instep. He tried to gut it out, but couldn’t, which usually means there’s something broken in that boot. Typically, whenever Klefbom misses significant time, the Oilers fall off the map. Here’s hoping it’s something fairly innocuous like a bone bruise or, even better, nothing.
As alluded to earlier, this might the least satisfying seven goal performance I’ve ever seen. For all of the positivity after 20 and 40 minutes, the only feelings I have now are adjacent to relief. Not even happy relief, necessarily. More like, well at least that’s over and I can stop thinking or caring about it. My goodness.
It’s nice that the Oilers were able to take advantage of some pretty curious officiating tonight. I can’t remember the last time I saw the Oilers come out that far on the right side of the refereeing, but at least they didn’t let that go to waste.
CF%: 41-66 - 38.32%
FF%: 31-43 41.89%
SCF%: 21-26 - 44.68%
HDCF%: 5-12 - 29.41%
Shots: 21-29 - 42%
xGF: 1.43-1.28 - 52.89%
Golazos: 3-5 - 37.50%
The Oilers head due East to take on the Buffalo Sabres (17-17-7) on Thursday night at 5PM.