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GAME RECAP: Oilers 3, Golden Knights 2

Edmonton adds distance between themselves and Las Vegas despite no points from the Big Two, largely thanks to some timely goals and a very stout performance from Mikko Koskinen.

Edmonton Oilers v Vegas Golden Knights Photo by David Becker/NHLI via Getty Images

The Edmonton Oilers (14-5-0) were in Las Vegas on Saturday night for a big divisional matchup with the Golden Knights (12-8-0). Mikko Koskinen (10-2-0, 0.912%) was in goal for the visitors while Robin Lehner (9-7-0, 0.913%) got the start for the hosts. Dave Tippett again opted to swap Zack Kassian and Jesse Puljujarvi to combat the loss of the team’s ‘top two’ LD and hopefully find a bit of something from the bottom half, but this time he split Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl up, too.

First Period

Vegas started this game on the front foot and Mikko Koskinen had to be sharp early. On the first shift of the game, Connor McDavid lost it behind the Oilers net and Koskinen was forced to stop a point-blank one-timer mere seconds after the opening faceoff.

Colton Sceviour and Tyler Benson manufactured Edmonton’s first chance after a great play on the wall by the latter to turn the puck over and send the former in for a partial breakaway. Unfortunately, Lehner was equal to the task.

Vegas kept pushing, though, carrying the bulk of the play and eventually drew the game’s first penalty, a no-doubter to William Lagesson for throwing the puck into Row 12. They were able to create a few glorious opportunities but Koskinen answered every question they posed on the man advantage — including a phenomenal glove stop on Max Pacioretty. At the end of the PP, Derek Ryan and Sceviour used whatever they had left in the tank to generate a 2-on-1, but Sceviour again couldn’t find a finish.

Unfortunately, Edmonton didn’t gain a ton of momentum from their big kill, and Vegas kept pushing. The very next shift, Koskinen had to make a phenomenal double save on a one-timer from between the hash marks and then the resulting rebound. Edmonton could have been buried early in this one if it weren’t for Koskinen.

Thankfully, they found a bit of respite thanks to a PP of their own after Marchessault slashed Leon Draisaitl. The Oilers’ best chance on the man advantage probably fell to the second unit, with JP denied on the doorstep twice.

Edmonton did seem to gather some momentum from their PP, though, and began to carry the play themselves. Their positivity eventually led to the game’s first goal, a lovely snipe from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as he gathered Tyson Barrie’s exit pass before looking off Kailer Yamamoto on a 2-on-1 and sniping off the opposite bar and in. 1-0.

A couple of minutes later, Edmonton extended their lead. This time, through a dogged effort from Zach Hyman, who fought off Mark Stone for two zones before beating Lehner with a nifty backhand up high. 2-0.

So, somehow, despite being outplayed for most of the period, the Oilers carried the momentum — and the lead — after 20 minutes. Shots were 16-14 Edmonton after one.

Second Period

The second period started a little more evenly, with both sides trading Corsis for the first five minutes or so before Vegas started to turn the screws once again. Koskinen stood tall and kept the Oilers’ lead intact, and then it happened. Jesse Puljujarvi scored his first goal in 9 games. A lovely stretch pass from Evan Bouchard found him in flight at the Vegas blue line and he made no mistake from there, opening up Lehner and tucking it through his five-hole. 3-0.

A couple of stagnant minutes passed before Vegas got their first of the evening. Tyson Barrie couldn’t hold the blue line and Mark Stone capitalized on the loose puck. He looked north and found Chandler Stephenson streaking up ice and Kris Russell caught in no-mans-land after trying to compensate for Barrie getting beat. He couldn’t recover, and Stephenson beat Koskinen. 3-1.

Edmonton went on the power play almost immediately following the goal via a Brayden McNabb hooking penalty on Connor McDavid. Unfortunately, the league’s best PP couldn’t find one to extend the Oilers lead.

After the PP, the rest of the second played out without incident — though RNH found himself on another breakaway with only a couple of minutes left, but he couldn’t beat Lehner — and the Oilers carried a two-goal lead into the third. Shots were 12-9 VGK in P2, and 26-25 VGK overall.

Third Period

It only took a few minutes for Vegas to find their second goal. After a four-wide entry with Shea Theodore in possession, the puck worked its way into the Oilers’ slot and eventually fell to Marchessault. He swiped at it with his backhand and somehow managed to hit Reilly Smith’s leg and sail it over Koskinen’s left shoulder. 3-2.

That was it for the goals, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. Vegas thoroughly dominated P3. It was one-way traffic for a solid 15 minutes, with Edmonton opting to focus on defending more than playing hockey. Vegas feasted, generating a few high quality looks and forcing Koskinen to make some big saves along the way. Thankfully, he was equal to the task, and the Oilers managed to stave off the hungry hosts and hold on to the win. 3-2. Final. In regulation.

Final Thoughts

That’s two ugly wins from two tries in Vegas this season, a nice set of results despite performances that maybe don’t deserve them. Mikko Koskinen was this game’s first star, for me, and was the main reason the Oilers were in this game at all.

Dave Tippett’s doing his best with a flawed roster — especially with Darnell Nurse out — but the results have been mixed. Sure, Zack Kassian and the two MVPs had great games against the AHLizona Coyotes, but the McDavid-Kassian-Hyman line got absolutely spanked tonight.

The inclusion of JP in the third line with Ryan McLeod and Warren Foegele has yielded, with that line owning 5v5 play in each of their last two games and JP getting a big goal tonight. That’s all well and good, but JP is the team’s third-best skater and should be playing more than he is.

Tyler Benson and Colton Sceviour have been positive contributors to the fourth line and should probably stay there for the rest of the season. Frankly, Benson has the hands and brain to play up the lineup, but for some reason the powers that be feel Zack Kassian is a better fit there. I disagree.

Philip Broberg played more than any other D last night, and got absolutely tuned out. There very well could be a player there, even a good one, and his first couple of games have been good. But last night, he was absolutely part of the problem and looked out of his depth for most of the game.

Good thing JP and Evan Bouchard are elite, elite, elite.

Game Flow

Courtesy Natural Stat Trick

Heat Map

Courtesy Natural Stat Trick

SigDigs (5v5)

CF - 42.27%

FF - 40.58%

xGF - 35.37%

GF - 60%

OVR - 14-5-0

Up Next

The Oilers have a few nights off before welcoming Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins to Rogers Place on Wednesday night. Puck drop slated for 8PM MST.