The Edmonton Oilers (24-29-5) welcomed the Arizona Coyotes (26-28-5) to town on a balmy Tuesday evening in the provincial capital. The Coyotes, having played last night, were looking to right the ship after being on the receiving end of a powdered palm to the mush at the ... hands ... of the Calgary Flames last night. The Oilers, having lost most of their last every game, announced just prior to warm up that they’d be without their Captain, their Heart & Soul, the venerable Connor McDavid, due to - and this is in no way confirmed and only an assumption based on what’s going on around the league - diarrhea of the mouth and butt. It would be a tall ask for the Oilers to beat another NHL team with their best player. Without him? A monumental task. Let’s get weird.
The first period was boring. Truly boring. It offered a brief, but grim, look at life without The Young Pope and let me tell you it was not pretty.
The best early chance fell to Arizona, but the action was back and forth, with neither side able to generate much of consequence.
The action was sloppy, which you might have expected when think about an NHL team playing their second in two nights taking on an AHL team with a couple of ringers.
Honestly, I barely even tweeted during the first period because it took most of my energy to stay conscious.
The Oilers managed to draw an early penalty from their visitors but soon nullified their advantage with some can’t-count-to-five silliness of their own. Luckily, Arizona is also pretty bad - and also pretty decimated by injuries to important players - and the Oilers were able to kill off their first 4v5 work of the evening.
The rest of the period was about as nondescript as the first bit, and the first period would end as it started: at nil, with a ton of empty seats. It would not end, however, before Adam Larsson would take a penalty for being more Team Iceland than Clayton Keller.
Regardless, we were all square after one with it all to play for.
The second period was less boring. Truly, less boring. It was, however, just as grim. Arizona dominated the middle frame virtually from start to finish, with their all-too-accommodating hosts standing idly by as their guests trashed their AirBNB.
Arizona peppered Mikko Koskinen over and over in the first ten minutes, requiring Edmonton’s most recent overpay to stand on his head just to keep his team in it. For the most part, he did.
Unfortunately, Josh Archibald managed to cash in on a rebound from in front to put the Coyotes in front 1-0.
Kris Russell wasn’t able to clear the zone after gaining possession in the left corner. This led to a weird, dribbly effort from the point that hit a couple of objects before arriving at Koskinen, who fought it off but couldn’t corral the rebound. Cue Archibald.
It was after the goal that the Oilers finally managed to offer some form of resistance. The home side began to right the ship and regain a bit of a foothold in the proceedings. Perhaps a combination of Arizona being content to sit on their lead against a McDavidless Oilers. Perhaps Edmonton tired of having their show run.
Either way, the Oilers managed to forge a bit of positive momentum heading into the break, and would only need one or two more big saves from Koskinen to get there still down 1-0.
Encouraging. The Oilers picked up where they left off to finish the second period and continued to show initiative.
Soon enough, they were rewarded, as a nice OZ sequence culminated with Draisaitl finding Adam Larsson at the point to fire past a screened Darcy Kuemper to tie the game at 1-1.
31 seconds later Sam Gagner got the gate for tripping, but the Oilers PK continued to show their resilience. Not long after the big kill, the boys went to work and earned two calls within a minute. 5v3 for about a minute! Can they do it?! Do they do it?! Let’s find out.
Unfortunately, Arizona are an excellent penalty killing team, and they were able to weather Edmonton’s two-man advantage. This would prove important, as soon after we returned to 5v5 the Coyotes would find the lead again. This time through Vinnie Hinostroza. Vinny? Vinnie? Vinne? 2-1 Coyotes. Surely, that would be it.
Surely, asking the Oilers for TWO whole goals without their lifeblood is too greedy.
But, dare we dream?
After all, the Oilers have been pretty good since the middle of the second. They’re pushing here, and they’re only sending the Colby Caves of the roster out now with *checks notes* LESS THAN FIVE MINUTES LEFT IN A MUST-MUST-MUST-WIN GAME IF YOUR GOAL IS THE PLAYOFFS?!?! WHAT IS THIS WIZARDRY, MR. HITCHCOCK!??!
And, wouldn’t you know it?!
I’m just kidding. Colby Cave did not factor in to this result any more than my high school athletic achievements factored in to my most recent job interview.
BUT. Resident Prince Ryan Nugent-Hopkins did. And so did Leon Draisaitl, in what was a pretty excellent effort without his Maverick. Or Goose. TBH, I’ve never seen that movie, I don’t know who is who or what the hierarchy is there.
Either way, with just over ten seconds left, Draisaitl whipped a delicious pass through the Danger Zone to RNH, who only needed two whacks to sneak it under Kuemper’s right stump and tie the game 2-2. Magic.
The stoic RNH went apeshit. Think Nail Yakupov against the Kings but with way more Fentanyl.
I’m just kidding. He was about as happy as you’d expect your best little boy who’s still young but old enough now to know when you have enough money to take him to Chuck E. Cheese and when you don’t to be. What a player though.
3v3 is a heart attack and my arteries and ventricles can’t take it even in a season where all is lost. Suffice it to say, everything happened and nothing happened. All at once. Andrej Sekera did play a 2-on-1 with aplomb at the last second to help Koskinen into making a big save as the clock wound down toward 0:00.
Draisaitl did his part. Gagner and RNH, unfortunately, did not do theirs. Koskinen managed a stop of his own but couldn’t deny one Vincent Hincentstroza on this, the day of his daughter’s wedding.
Even when it’s bad, it’s still so good sometimes. Even if it’s bad again immediately after. We’ll always have those very brief moments from 0:11 left in the third to as soon as the shootout ended. Memories.
The Oilers, having managed a single point this evening, now require a humble 41 of a possible 46 left to hit 95 for the season. When we look back on these months in the years that follow, it will be as a montage set to “The Climb” by everyone’s favorite Miley Cyrus, Miley Cyrus.
Oh, and they play the Islanders (35-17-6) on Thursday. Til then.