The Edmonton Oilers (21-17-5) were in Boston to take on the Bruins (24-7-11) Saturday morning, looking to rebound after blowing a 2-0 lead and losing 3-2 in overtime to the Buffalo Sabres last time out. The Bruins have been struggling a bit lately as well, having lost two straight to Columbus and New Jersey coming in.
Full disclosure, I had some errands to run this morning so I missed this period live. I did watch it at 2x speed during the first intermission to get the gist though.
Around the three minute mark, Leon Draisaitl caught Torey Krug with a stern elbow and earned two minutes for his trouble. And it proved costly.
From the first faceoff of the man advantage, Krug found David Pastrnak above the right circle. He collected and fired one through traffic toward goal. It ricocheted off of Kris Russell en route and soared past Smith’s shoulder into the top corner. Russell couldn’t have tipped it better if he tried. 0-1.
The Oilers settled in some after that, however, and proceeded to do their best impression of taking a game over over the next fifteen minutes. Edmonton had more attempts, more shots, and more scoring chances than their hosts in the first period, though Boston did own a slight 2-1 edge in high danger chances.
Edmonton had to kill another penalty with about five minutes left in the frame, after Gaetan Haas slashed Brad Marchand. This time, the Oilers were able to successfully fend off Boston’s power play.
Jaroslav Halak made a couple of key stops in the frame, and one stood out in particular on Connor McDavid after a 2-on-1 chance with Leon Draisaitl at around the two-minute mark.
That was about as close as they’d come through 20 minutes, with Edmonton trailing 0-1 after one period.
A bright start to period two meant Edmonton was able to draw their first power play of the contest, thanks to a Sean Kuraly trip on Haas.
Edmonton couldn’t make good on the man advantage, but were able to get themselves established and generate a few chances. This likely helped them maintain their momentum, and to continue their strong play at even strength after the penalty expired. And it wouldn’t be long before that told.
After Joakim Nygard got the puck inside the Bruins’ zone, Jake DeBrusk attempted to start the transition. But, he fanned on the pass, and the puck fell to Gaetan Haas alone in front. He slapped his stick on the ice to fake a shot and open Halak up, then deftly slid it through his legs to tie the game. You could see the relief in his celebration. 1-1.
Boston began to press a bit more at evens after the goal, and forced the Oilers to defend for a spell before taking another penalty and sending the league’s second-best (now) power play over the boards once more. Once again, however, the Bruins managed to kill it off.
Once again, however, the Oilers were able to generate momentum at even strength afterward. Edmonton stormed back at 5v5, out attempting Boston 12-3 to close out the period. And they were rewarded.
As the seconds ticked down below 10 on the game clock, Darnell Nurse carried the puck in along the left boards. He skated himself to a tough angle and threw a wrist shot on net, likely looking to draw a whistle and generate an offensive zone face off with a few seconds left. But Halak had other ideas, forgetting how to goalie for just long enough to let Nurse’s effort squeak through him. 2-1.
Nothing of note over the remaining 7.1 seconds, and the score remained 2-1 Edmonton after 40 minutes.
Given the Oilers recent struggles with defending leads of any size, you couldn’t help but be a bit nervous heading into period three.
Enter Connor McDavid. The Oilers luminary found himself the beneficiary of a wonderful spinning pass from Zack Kassian along the right boards, and the space such genius can afford you. He made no mistake with all that room, and cleanly beat Halak to put the Oilers ahead by two. 3-1.
After that, though, it was mostly yikes from our heroes.
Boston pressed, hard, and the Oilers were doing their level best to stay simply afloat. The Bruins threw everything AND the kitchen sink at the Oilers, but Mike Smith was sharp and the Oilers were fortunate on this day. Probably mostly because Mike Smith was sharp. Boston threw 23 attempts at goal to Edmonton’s 10 in the final frame, and even as the hosts pulled Halak inside the three-minute mark, the result still felt anything but guaranteed.
Then Leon Draisaitl made a wonderful chip play along the right wall to give himself space against an open net, and from there made no mistake. 4-1.
Two great periods in a matinee game in Boston. The Oilers were full-value through 40 minutes and posed Boston more questions than they could answer through two periods. Jaroslav Halak had to be good to keep Edmonton’s lead at 2-1 and when the Oilers are on their horses like that they’ll compete with anyone in the league.
And all of that is great. Excellent, even. Something to go over in the film room on a regular basis as an example of how to be successful against good teams in the NHL.
But that third period. Wow. Yikes. Man. Holy. Rough.
I’ve never understood why teams so often seem so content to soak up pressure in the name of protecting leads like this. Keep playing the way that allowed you to build the lead, and further build the lead. That’s what I say. It feels like courting pressure creates more opportunities to get unlucky. I hate it.
But, of course, it worked today, so who can really complain?!
(But it’s worth noting that, of Boston’s 6 total high danger chances on the afternoon, 4 of them came in the third.)
All numbers 5v5 and courtesy Natural Stat Trick.
CF%: 44-49 — 47.31%
FF%: 33-38 — 46.48%
SCF%: 22-13 — 62.86% (!!!)
HDCF%: 6-6 — 50%
Shots: 23-27 — 46%
Golazos: 3-0 — 100%
The Oilers head to the core of the Earth itself, Toronto, to take on the Maple Leafs (23-14-5) Monday night. 5PM. See you then.