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GAME RECAP: Oilers 8, Senators 5.

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Edmonton’s PP1 gets its groove back as the Oilers give Stuart Skinner plenty of run support in his first NHL start.

Ottawa Senators v Edmonton Oilers Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images

The Edmonton Oilers (4-6-0) welcomed the struggling Ottawa Senators (1-6-1) to Rogers Place for their second game in as many nights, looking to win two straight for the first time this season. Edmonton would have to rely on the extremely unproven — and #19 in this year’s Top 25 Under 25 — Stuart Skinner in net as Dave Tippett tried to sneak Mikko Koskinen his first night off in 2021. Ottawa came in searching for anything, going winless in seven straight after a surprise win in their season opener.

First Period

The Oilers got themselves a lead almost immediately. Eight seconds (!!!) in, on an offensive zone faceoff to Matt Murray’s right, Leon Draisaitl pulled it back to Dominik Kahun. His shot hit something on the way and floated over a fooled and helpless Murray’s outstretched glove hand. 1-0.

Edmonton looked to build on their dream start and went to work down low. Gaetan Haas drew a holding the stick penalty on Mike Reilly and the Oilers’ improving power play went to work.

Nothing doing for the first minute before Connor McDavid got assertive. After gathering along the near wall from a Ryan Nugent-Hopkins miss, he cut in and attacked the high slot before deferring back to Nuge. He fired a laser beam through a few feet and onto the tape of James Neal about a foot from the goal line and Neal did the rest. 2-0.

Ottawa managed to stem the tide shortly after. Zack Kassian was forced to take a faceoff to Skinner’s right. The Senators won possession before working it back to the right point. The shot went behind the net and a weird sequence followed, ending with Colin White jumping and batting a puck in from at least shoulder height. While jumping. The goal was reviewed but, somehow, stood. 2-1.

Less than a minute later, Drake Batherson took a holding penalty while forechecking against Tyson Barrie. Edmonton went back to the PP and, once again, made it count.

One of the more dynamic power plays of the season — at least anecdotally, and at least in terms of player rotation — culminated with Leon Draisaitl putting one on a platter for Barrie to step through from the top of the slot. Murray never saw it and it snuck underneath him. 3-1, and that would be it for Matt Murray.

Just before the halfway mark, James Neal struck again. Again immediately off a faceoff, but this time to the left of the Ottawa Net. Neal was first to act on the loose puck before taking a step and flicking one past Hogberg. (Marcus Whoberg?) 4-1.

Ottawa began to push a little bit as the Oilers eased off some, likely content to rest on their laurels with such a big lead that seemed to come easy to them tonight. This push didn’t last long, however, as Erik Gudbranson flung a puck into the bleachers and the Oilers would go back on the man advantage.

And again, they made it count.

Again, McDavid attacked the slot from Hogberg’s left. Again, the puck fell to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins with space. This time, Nuge decided to have a crack himself, beating Hogberg near the blocker. 5-1.

Ottawa continued to try, though, and closed the gap a few minutes later. Brady Tkachuk found himself leading a 2-on-1 after Caleb Jones got caught out. Adam Larsson tried his best while Connor McDavid sprinted to take away Tkachuk’s passing option. That didn’t help, however, as Tkachuk beat Skinner clean with a laser underneath the bar. 5-2.

92 seconds later, Ottawa struck again. Edmonton found themselves killing a Darnell Nurse tripping penalty and Drake Batherson found himself wide open at the edge of the high slot. He squared up and fired it past Skinner’s glove. 5-3.

With just over 30 seconds left in the period, Tkachuk took a penalty for holding Lagesson. Edmonton couldn’t find one before the end of the frame, but would start the second with a power play.

Second Period

Though we often see teams struggle to manufacture anything out of power plays like this, the Oilers’ top unit had other ideas. Leon Draisaitl found Connor McDavid with a beautiful pass into a fairly tight window. McDavid did the rest, taking a couple of touches to evade hopeless Senators before sneaking one through Hogberg’s legs for Edmonton’s fourth PPG in four tries. 6-3.

Ottawa pressed at even strength for the next few minutes and managed to draw a couple of penalties of their own, but to Skinner’s credit, he settled down a little bit and made a few good stops and Edmonton killed them both. He was rewarded shortly after.

A quick transition that started with a Skinner save, featured a quick break from Draisaitl and some lovely individual work by Connor McDavid to gain the zone, maintain possession, draw a penalty, and find Darnell Nurse (!!!) with a whole theatre to himself. Nurse made no mistake and snapped it past Helple Hogberg. 7-3.

Edmonton actually controlled the flow at even strength for a couple of shifts after the Nurse goal before drawing another penalty. This time, however, the PP couldn’t find one.

But it didn’t matter. With time running out in the second period, Barrie collected on the near wall and played a nice pass to Draisaitl on the opposite side. Draisaitl took one touch to settle it before firing a perfect pass to Kailer Yamamoto on the left dot. Yamamoto adjusted and fired it first-time past Hogberg. 8-3. Poor Hogberg.

Third Period

By this point, Edmonton’s top priority was surely to escape the third period both without injury and with the two points. Given their massive five goal lead, you had to like their chances.

But Ottawa did make it somewhat interesting. They controlled the flow from the very start of the period, a commendable effort given the game was pretty clearly over. Their hard work soon paid off, though, and they drew a penalty through Josh Archibald.

On the ensuing power play, 2020 third overall pick Tim Stützle made a nice play to drive wide around Adam Larsson and beat Skinner clean from a curious angle. 8-4.

Less than a minute later, Austin Watson collected a little chip pass from Gudbranson before rotating and firing from distance. Skinner reacted as though he never really saw it. 8-5.

Uh oh.

Just kidding. This game was over midway through the first period. The rest was basically academic. Sure, the Oilers had to kill themselves another penalty with a shade over six minutes remaining, but they saw the rest of the game out without incident. No injuries, no problems.

Final Thoughts

Weird game. Given the way it ended, with what you might charitably describe as a limp to the finish by our heroes, I’m finding myself a little less excited than perhaps I should be given the Oilers’ offensive explosion tonight.

And, of course, the underlying 5v5 numbers look pretty rough tonight but that’s going to happen most of the time when you race out to a 5-1 lead without needing your best stuff at even strength. The only line that posted a positive CF% was the new-look fourth line, anchored by a sorely missed Gaetan Haas. He looked sharp in his season debut, by the way.

This is the least kind the numbers have been to the McDavid, Nugent-Hopkins and Jesse Puljujarvi trio since they’ve been put together. Hopefully Tippett doesn’t read too much into a game so heavily influenced by score effects and overcorrect. Coming into tonight that line was chewing NHLers up, and even tonight they could have scored a couple with both Puljujarvi and Nugent-Hopkins seeing good looks go begging.

I know this horse is extremely dead, but what the hell does Evan Bouchard have to do to get a game over Kris Russell? Or William Lagesson, for that matter? For me, the ideas ‘good coach’ and ‘prefers moving Kris Russell to his off-side and dressing William Lagesson over Evan Bouchard for some fuckin’ dumb reason’ just aren’t compatible whatsoever. I know they’re winning games almost half the time, but I just can’t get with it. It says something about either Bouchard or Tippett and, in either case, I’m unnerved.

That said, the Oilers are going streaking and they get these same Senators on Tuesday night and then twice more in the three games after that. If they can make cake during this stretch, they’ll be right back in the thick of it.

Game Flow

Courtesy Natural Stat Trick | https://www.naturalstattrick.com/

Heat Map

Courtesy Natural Stat Trick | https://www.naturalstattrick.com/

SigDigs

1-0-0.

That’s Stuart Skinner’s NHL record. There’s every chance he finishes the season undefeated.