You can’t win ‘em all if you don’t win the first one.
Goaltender Cam Talbot helped the desperate Edmonton Oilers weather a one-sided third period, then Leon Draisaitl set up Connor McDavid for the game-winner in overtime. The Oilers opened a four-game Eastern road swing with a 2-1 overtime victory, and on Thursday in Newark they’ll have another shot at winning back-to-back games for the first time this season.
It wasn’t a masterpiece, but nobody in Oilerville is taking quality over quantity where wins are concerned this season. The Oilers are still just 5-8-1 with the win, 11 points back of the Pacific-leading Los Angeles Kings.
Here are some quick takes from the game:
• Is it the road? Is it the twins at home?
All we know is, Talbot was fabulous Tuesday, stopping 36 of 37 Islanders shots for another solid road performance. Talbot now sports save percentages of .894 at home and .937 on the road. His goals-against average is 3.54 in Edmonton and 2.03 elsewhere. Talbot allowed just five goals (one in overtime) on a recent three-game road trip, and opens this four-game roadie with an absolutely stellar night’s work in Brooklyn.
With the current pop-gun state of the Oilers offence — dead last in the NHL — it is imperative that Talbot play this well until the cavalry arrives. On this night, he was every bit good enough.
• Speaking of that cavalry, another game passes where nobody with a surname other than “McDavid” or “Draisaitl” scores for Edmonton.
Perhaps the biggest issue in Edmonton this year, with annual 25-goal man Jordan Eberle dealt away and scoring the Islanders’ only goal Tuesday, is the lack of offence in Edmonton. McDavid is now on pace for the same 100 points he had last season, and Draisaitl scored his 10th point in 10 games.
It’s nearly everyone else on the forward ranks who has to pick up the pace. Milan Lucic (two goals), Drake Caggiula (one), Anton Slepyshev, Zack Kassian and Jussi Jokinen (zero) — all have to start chipping in some offence.
• Speaking of Kassian, his game is slowly coming back with more chances created off the forecheck, his bread and butter last season. But is it just me, or did he score most often last year by rifling a wrist shot while moving at top speed, leaving goalies standing still as the puck whistled past?
Again this season he found himself walking in on a goalie, New York’s Thomas Greiss, and again Kassian dangled rather than shot. He’s still looking for his first goal of the season, and we’re not here to dissect scoring chances as much as to say, when they were going in, he was firing in stride. That might be worth revisiting.
• Another sign of returning health: The penalty kill, dead last in the NHL at 67.4 per cent heading into the game, shut the Islanders down on three power plays Tuesday. It’s a perfect example of how, in a game that went into overtime tied 1-1, a perfect penalty kill can earn you two points in the standings. Let one in, and it’s another sad night for the Oilers, who have already had more than their share of those this season.
• It’s no surprise to see McDavid lead the Oilers in ice time (24:28), but it should be noted he was coming off a third-period benching in his last game, when he charted his lowest ice time in the last two seasons (other than Game 82 last April).
But watching Darnell Nurse lead all defencemen in ice time with 22:19, that doesn’t happen every day. It’s a sign of a maturing young D-man, as the 22-year-old continues to improve in a season in which he appears to be making a major step. He led the Oilers with four shots on goal and was second to Iiro Pakarinen in short-handed ice time.