The Edmonton Oilers (28-18-6) were in Phoenix in the first game of a one game (weird) road trip to take on the Arizona Coyotes (26-21-7) in a pivotal Pacific Division match up. Edmonton has been on a roll of late, going 7-1-2 in their last 10 after hanging an eight-spot on the Calgary Flames on Saturday night. The Coyotes, meanwhile, are going the opposite way after losing 5 straight and posting an uninspiring 2-5-3 in their last 10 games.
Connor McDavid’s line — featuring Josh Archibald rather than Tyler Benson for no good reason — started this one for the Oilers and managed to generate a little offense at the game’s outset.
After that? Nothing.
The Oilers sleepwalked through the remaining 19 minutes, with the host Coyotes doing most of the shooting and creating most of the chances. Mikko Koskinen had to be alert on a number of occasions en route to a solid 12-save effort, and it was this effort alone that kept the score 0-0 and his Oilers in the game.
Kailer Yamamoto, still playing beside Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, may have made the play of the period after his first time back heel pass just missed its target in front. He did draw a penalty in the ensuing chaos but that was so close to being so sweet.
Unfortunately, the Oilers PP was equally lethargic, and they couldn’t generate much of anything as the first period came to a close.
The Oilers were more lively to start period two but it didn’t matter. Despite clawing themselves about level on the shot clock, Arizona struck first.
A failed clear by Ethan Bear was collected at the left point by Jacob Chychrun, who found Taylor Hall on the left wall. As Bear committed toward him, Darnell Nurse was left to defend two players in front. He chose to defend neither, and Hall’s pass found Conor Garland wide open to tap into the open net. 0-1.
I normally don’t give opponents’ goals love like that, but it’s Taylor Hall. He was a murderer in this one and the pass (and primary assist, for his 18th point in 20GP as a Coyote) to setup the goal was wonderful.
Edmonton was given a power play after Phil Kessel dragged down Kailer Yamamoto, but the Oilers couldn’t establish themselves or generate much of anything for the first minute.
And then disaster.
A blocked Klefbom shot went the other way with Lawson Crouse leading the two on one. He opted to pass but it deflected off a diving Klefbom’s foot and fooled Mikko Koskinen. Short-handed goal against. Unfortunate. 0-2.
The remainder of the period saw no more scoring, with each side fending off a power play. After the second goal, the Coyotes were content to sit back a bit and prevent the Oilers from getting in behind. Consequently, Edmonton couldn’t really test Raanta, and the score remained 0-2 after forty minutes.
Dave Tippett opted to start Connor McDavid with Draisaitl and Yamamoto to start the third, but it didn’t change the Oilers’ fortunes much.
At no point in this contest were the Oilers able to sustain pressure for longer than half a shift. The Coyotes were flat out better from start to finish in this one, and being down two goals against a Pacific Division rival in the thick of the playoff race wasn’t enough to spark Edmonton to life in period three.
Their best look was probably a Leon Draisaitl chance from in tight after a nice pass to find him in Kenny Loggins territory. But Raanta was able to get in front of it and after that, the chances dried up. Edmonton managed a paltry five (5) (!!!) high danger looks at 5v5 all night. Arizona had 7 such chances in the first!
Koskinen headed to the bench with 3:21 left in the game, but Arizona scored into the empty net about a minute later and put the game to bed for good.
Two crucial points dropped in the division after a listless effort against a team that hasn’t won since January 9. Better flush that one quick, because it was a turd.
Mikko Koskinen was good when he really needed to be in the first period and couldn’t possibly be blamed for either goal in the second. He deserved better on this occasion and it’s unfortunate that the team in front of him couldn’t seem to find their sea legs. Granted, they played in the desert, but still. Whatever legs they needed, they forgot.
Against a team like Arizona it’s imperative to get on the board first and Edmonton did everything they could to oblige their hosts the first goal. Given the current context in the standings, to start in such a way can only be considered unacceptable for a team with their aspirations, and it’s important that they right the ship quickly to stay near the top of the thick of it. Even if they’re coming down from the emotional high of the last three games. You’ve gotta find it. You can’t play three hard games and totally mail in the fourth if you want to be worth a damn come April.
All numbers 5v5 and courtesy Natural Stat Trick.
CF%: 51-47 — 51.55%
FF%: 35-34 — 50.72%
SCF%: 18-28 — 39.13%
HDCF%: 5-11 — 31.25%
Shots: 23-20 — 53.49%
XG: 1.71 - 1.89 — 47.50%
Golazos: 0-1 — 0.00%
The Oilers welcome the San Jose Sharks (23-27-4) to Rogers Place for another key Pacific Division game on Thursday night. Til then.