The Edmonton Oilers were in “Chicago” to take on the Blackhawks Friday evening with their season on the line. Edmonton looked to rebound after choking away a 1-goal lead late in the third period of Game 2. Chicago was playing with house money, only 1 game away from turning a 3% chance at a playoff spot (at the time of the COVID-19 postponement) into clinching a berth. Chicago gave Corey Crawford — really their only option, despite his 0.859% save percentage — the start, with Dave Tippett going back to Mikko Koskinen — and his barely-better 0.889% save percentage — despite the loss last time out. The Oilers were without D Adam Larsson (back) and F Tyler Ennis (leg), so Caleb Jones and Gaetan Haas drew in.
Tippett started the game with Connor McDavid’s line, and was rewarded immediately. On the first shift, Josh Archibald combined with McDavid on a lovely little give-and-go, with the go bit resulting in a perfectly placed shot over Crawford’s left shoulder. 1-0. Nice.
The Oilers followed up on that quick start with a couple of good shifts, but couldn’t capitalize on their time on attack. And they’d pay before long.
A DZ draw that Leon Draisaitl won fell to Oscar Klefbom in the corner. He turned the puck over along the far wall and Chicago was able to get a shot through from the point. The rebound came to Brandon Saad, who noticed Mikko Koskinen ever so slightly out of position and wrapped it around the other side. The shot itself was heading across the crease, but Kris Russell was there to tip it over a sprawling — but mostly recovered — Mikko Koskinen. 1-1. Russell’s third goal of the series. For Chicago.
A few minutes later, Chicago took the lead. Another good OZ shift for the “home” side culminated in a Duncan Keith blast from the blue line. Matthew Highmore deflected it down and to Koskinen’s left, and beat him clean. 1-2. Oh no.
Darnell Nurse took the game’s first penalty when he escorted Jonathan Toews onto Mikko Koskinen’s lap. It had all the markings of one of those ‘battles’ you hear so much about, but the result was an Edmonton penalty, which they killed.
Looking for a late spark, Tippett threw McDavid and Draisaitl out together in the last moments of the period, but the NHL’s two leading scorers couldn’t find one before the period ended.
Edmonton did manage to draw a penalty at the 20:00 mark through a Highmore high stick, meaning the Oilers would start the second on the PP.
1-2 after 20 minutes. 40 minutes to save the world.
Nothing doing on the PP, but the Oilers would equalize shortly after. As Highmore was coming back into the play, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins found himself with the puck in the low slot. His first effort went just wide and behind the net, where James Neal was battling for position. Neal dug the puck back out in front, and RNH was able to sweep it home from the edge of the crease. 2-2. Here we go.
Exactly 30 seconds later, Alex DeBrincat pasted Ethan Bear into the near wall from a dangerous distance with a pretty ugly hit. Bear labored off the ice with help and DeBrincat was awarded a major on the play, but not a game misconduct. The Oilers’ league-best power play had a juicy opportunity, but now they were down one of their best defensemen.
After a pretty pedestrian 1:30 to start the PP, Nurse, through a combination of not really thinking and some ticky-tack refereeing, negated the next two minutes of PP time. The Oilers had 40 seconds of 5v4 to work with after a relatively uneventful 4v4 period, but couldn’t capitalize. Their best (and, maybe only?) chance was a drive from the point at the death that Corey Crawford had to parry with his left toe. Not a good sign.
Edmonton did gain some momentum at even strength after the power play, but Chicago was able to weather it, then respond with a good sequence of their own. The rest of the second period played out honors even, but Edmonton drew another penalty with 11 seconds left in the period.
2-2 after 40 minutes, a PP to start the third, and 20 minutes to save the world.
The Oilers couldn’t jump in front on their early power play as Corey Crawford was there to answer every question Edmonton could pose him.
Shortly after, Andreas Athanasiou found himself staring at a bouncing puck and a wide open net from just in front, but he couldn’t bury. His clipped backhand hit the crossbar and the game remained tied.
Crawford’s strong play continued at 5v5 too, which was important for Chicago as the Oilers were finally playing with the commitment and pace you might expect from a team one bad bounce away from going home, and they were starting to get buried a little. Still, Edmonton couldn’t solve Crawford.
A few moments later, Athanasiou — flanking Leon Draisaitl and Kailer Yamamoto in Tyler Ennis’ place tonight — drew a penalty from former Oiler Drake Caggiula for cross-checking to Crawford’s right. The Oilers PP hadn’t scored yet. They were due.
But they couldn’t do. Maybe their worst PP of the night, and again, the chances they could muster were turned away by Crawford, who easily had his best game of the series.
Not long after Chicago killed off the penalty, they took the lead. Jonathan Toews stripped Ethan Bear and fed a sneaky, and admittedly lovely, pass to Dominik Kubalik, who was uncovered at Koskinen’s near post. Kubalik’s one-timer beat Koskinen just inside the post and his right shoulder. 2-3. Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit.
Edmonton’s pace picked right back up again as they began to push for the equalizer. They managed a few really good looks but Crawford was equal to all of them.
Then, with just over 2 minutes left in the game, the Oilers took a bench minor for too many men thanks to some confusion when Mikko Koskinen made his way to the bench for an extra attacker. Surely, that had to be it.
And, it was.
2-3 months to think about it before gearing up for next year.
You know, I really wanted to write this one. I thought, if they win, it’ll be jubilant. And if they lose and it’s going to be the last one of the year, I could really tee off on them.
But I just don’t care to.
We knew the Oilers weren’t good enough months ago. We’ve known that they’re a few pieces in a few places away from being good enough since the summer. We knew that Ken Holland’s probably not the forward thinker they need to shift this club into that conversation before they hired him. We know Bob Nicholson is incompetent. We know Daryl Katz doesn’t actually care. Why should we?
That’s how many playoff runs the Oilers have enjoyed since they drafted Connor McDavid in 2015. That’s the only number that seems significant to me right now.
Til’ next year, everyone. Thanks for riding with us all season. Hope one of you wins $8MM.