With defenceman Andrej Sekera back from a seven-month injury layoff, Thursday marked the third straight game where an Edmonton Oilers regular returned from injury.
So the scenery is becoming familiar again. The right guys are back in the right dressing room stalls, and suddenly the Oilers have three wins in a row — for the first time all season.
Also arriving on the scene of late? A resiliency shown in a 3-2 win over St. Louis that showed up like a long lost family member coming home for Christmas.
“The resiliency on this team right now is at a level that we saw last year,” said goalie Cam Talbot, spectacular in logging his sixth straight win. “It is good to see it coming back. When we are playing with that kind of confidence, it is great to see from our group.”
This was not only the type of game these Oilers have lost more often than not this season, it was a carbon copy of games that have somehow refused to fall their way. Like that night in Toronto where they dominated the Maple Leafs with 41 shots, hit four or five goal posts and lost 1-0.
On Thursday against the Blues, Edmonton struck iron no less than five times in a game that was scoreless through the first 49:30. It was looking like another one of those lost nights in a lost season, and that was before Tage Thompson fired his first career National Hockey League goal past Talbot.
For Edmonton, that goal represented one of those moments where you either succumb to recent history, or revise it.
Their answer: Mike Cammalleri scored 38 seconds later to tie the game.
Then Patrik Berglund one-timed home a beauty with 6:38 to play. It was time to quit, or time to ratchet the effort up another notch.
Well, just less then three minutes later Connor McDavid buried a Leon Draisaitl feed to make it 2-2. Credit head coach Todd McLellan for giving the two a rare shift together, and being rewarded with a goal.
Then, on a night when they’d had absolutely zero puck luck, the game-winner fluttered off of Drake Caggiula’s stick, a bad-ice change-up that soared past goalie Jake Allen’s arm and into the net with 50 ticks left on the clock, one final dose of good luck on a night full of posts and crossbars.
“Sometimes, in an 82-game season, there are just some games where you shake your head at the end of the game — dating back to that Toronto game,” said fourth-liner Zack Kassian, whose line has been good for a goal per game during this recent run. “(This game) could have been one of those. Very proud of the group, for sticking with it.”
Oilers fans keep looking for signs of the team that took them into May last season. It may yet prove too late, but those traits are starting to become visible.
“There’s that confidence there. We’re gaining that swagger back,” said McDavid. “It’s something that we didn’t have early, and something we had a lot of last year. You can feel the momentum building.”
McLellan and his staff have been working overtime, trying to piece back together the confidence of a team that only Thursday climbed over Colorado and into 13th place in the West.
Does he see some signs that his work is beginning to take?
“It’s not so much what I think. It’s what the players think,” McLellan said. “They’re telling you a little bit, like they feel like they’re getting it back. I haven’t heard anybody talk about our team being too slow,” he said. “We didn’t go out and make 15 trades. We just play the game now. We’re not cheating as much; there’s better support. We take defending a little more seriously…
“It’s not so much about what I think, it’s about what they think. When they grasp that, we’re better off.”
Their game is better. The standings are still not a pretty sight.
That, we suspect, will take every inch of the schedule to correct.