The Edmonton Oilers (37-24-8) welcomed the Las Vegas Golden Knights (38-24-8) to Rogers Place for a bigtime hockey match on Monday night with first place in the Pacific Division on the line. An Edmonton win would move them ahead via tiebreakers. A Vegas win would give them some breathing room at the top. Edmonton came into this one having won 4 of 5, while Vegas has kept pace, winning 4 of their last 6.
News broke shortly before puck drop that Oilers captain Connor McDavid would miss out due to illness. Caleb Jones drew the short straw on defense as he made way for Matt Benning’s return to the third pair. Kris Russell, inexplicably, kept his spot in the lineup.
Mikko Koskinen, fresh off a billion-save performance against Columbus on the weekend, got the nod for Edmonton. Marc-Andre Fleury started for Vegas with Robin Lehner working the night before in Calgary.
With Connor McDavid out, the fans were nervous to start this one. Both teams appeared to be, too, with only 2 shots on goal combined in the opening 5 minutes.
That would change around the halfway mark, as the Oilers were able to establish themselves with possession in the Vegas zone. The puck worked back to the point, and then from Adam Larsson to Oscar Klefbom on the left. He fired a shot toward goal where Alex Chiasson was waiting in front of Fleury to redirect home and put the Oilers in front. 1-0.
That was about it in terms of joy for Edmonton in the opening period. From then on, Vegas controlled proceedings, and Edmonton failed to register another shot on goal.
Yes, you read that right. The Oilers failed to register a single shot on goal for the remainder of the first period. 11 total minutes of game time.
Vegas, for their part, managed 15 of them in the period. A couple of those came on the period’s only power play, after Oscar Klefbom got the gate for a borderline hit on Nick Holden with just under 5 minutes to play.
The Golden Knights were able to take advantage, testing Koskinen on the PP before eventually breaking through thanks to a Nate Schmidt blast from the point and some help (maybe even a deflection) in front from Nicolas Roy. 1-1.
The score stayed that way over the last couple of minutes, with Vegas again pressing and the Oilers fortunate to get out of the period without conceding another.
More of the same to start period 2, as the Oilers inability to generate shots continued for almost 10 more minutes. In total, the Oilers managed to go a full 20 minutes of game time without offering a single shot on net. This is a team fighting for first in the division, against the team they’re fighting with. Inexcusable, really. I don’t care who’s got what virus, there’s no excuse for such inadequacy from a team with Edmonton’s aspirations.
Vegas continued to fully throttle the Oilers for about the first half of the period, but once Edmonton broke the invisible forcefield around Fleury, they started to play better.
The broadcast showed the chances at 12-1 against at one point in the period, right as Zack Kassian was bullying his way to goal from the right side and forcing a good save from Fleury with a backhand from in tight. The sequence continued and Adam Larsson had a good look too, but he couldn’t score.
It appeared to be the sequence that woke the Oilers up, however, as they stabilized some at even strength afterward. Vegas then went without a shot for a few minutes themselves, but managed to get their game right again before the period’s end. By the end of the frame, both sides were looking up for it. For the first time in 40 minutes.
Shots were 30-14 in favor of the visitors, but the score (somehow, miraculously) remained 1-1. Mikko Koskinen was really sharp.
A more lively start from the Oilers in the third period saw them accumulate 3 shots on target in the first two minutes, including a scramble in front of Fleury caused by an Ethan Bear lob into the danger zone.
Vegas wasn’t having that for very long, however, and started to push back again, drawing a couple of really, really nice saves from Mikko Koskinen.
And those saves would prove pivotal, as they provided a platform for the Oilers to go out and get the lead.
Ethan Bear walked the blue line before getting the puck toward goal. It took a deflection en route and fell in behind the Vegas net. Kailer Yamamoto — the actual answer — did the yeoman’s work to win the battle behind the net and funnel the puck in front, where Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was waiting for it. He took one touch and beat Fleury clean to put the Oilers ahead once more. 2-1.
On the very next shift, Alex Chiasson took a bonehead tripping penalty to put the Oilers PK back to work. Koskinen was called upon to make a couple of massive saves, and he answered those calls, allowing the Oilers to escape the PK without conceding.
A couple of moments later, however, Vegas found their equalizer. A faceoff to Koskinen’s left that Riley Sheahan actually won to Andreas Athanasiou. He tried to bump it into the corner but Oscar Klefbom couldn’t deal with it, and both Athanasiou and Adam Larsson lost track of Marchessault in front. The pass came to him and he made no mistake from in tight. 2-2.
Squeaky bum time followed with Vegas pressing a bit harder than Edmonton coming home but neither side could find the breakthrough in regulation. This game would require overtime.
Real end to end action, with both sides getting looks early. Leon Draisaitl found himself out for the entirety of the OT, however, and was absolutely gassed at the end of his shift. The Oilers gained possession in the corner and he flew the zone, waiting for the Ethan Bear delivery. Unfortunately, Vegas doubled up on Bear and turned him over. Draisaitl was cooked, nowhere to be found to assist and Shea Theodore was left all alone to walk into one and end the game. 2-3. Final.
Who does Mikko Koskinen have to fellate to get some goddamn run support? The man deserves a Netflix Special for the work he’s done of late, stopping more than 40 shots for the third consecutive game. Another in which he, and he alone, stole a point for the Oilers. They had no business even being in this game after 20 minutes, and Koskinen provided them with an opportunity to take home all the points in the extra frame. Credit to him on this night, for sure.
Kris Russell has no business being in the lineup with the D group healthy. None whatsoever.
Connor McDavid’s absence was felt throughout this one, but it’s worth remembering that even with McDavid in tow, the Oilers got pummeled to the tune of an 0-3 shutout loss the last time these two teams met in Vegas. Right now it feels like the Oilers need 2 McDavids to compete at evens with these Golden Knights, who were even missing Mark Stone. Edmonton looked levels behind them for most of this one, and for all of the last one too. Hopefully Vegas won’t be their first round matchup come April.
They were all bad. Like otherworldly bad. Trust me.
The Oilers have a day’s rest before playing host to the Winnipeg Jets (36-28-6) on Wednesday. Puck drop is scheduled for 7PM MST. See you then.