VANCOUVER — Ken Hitchcock wants Edmonton Oilers fans to brace for a wild ride.
Edmonton’s head coach thinks games will get tighter through the second half of the NHL season and look more like the intense action that saw the Oilers beat the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 in a shootout on Wednesday.
“You’re going to be in a battle and there’s going to be a lot of emotional times. And for me, if you’re a fan of hockey, you’re going to love this,” said Hitchcock. “If you’re just looking for wins, you’re going to go through a roller-coaster ride.
“But if you’re looking for great hockey with people pouring everything in it, you’re going to be looking at this for the next 40 games.”
Edmonton hockey lovers could be in for some excitement if that’s the case. A heart-racing overtime saw breakaways at both ends of the ice on Wednesday.
Darnell Nurse swiped the puck from Edmonton’s crease half-way through the extra time to keep the Oilers in the game. The play resulted in an Edmonton rush where Leon Draisaitl put a shot into the logo of Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom.
“I thought for sure we’d score for sure twice and then next thing I know, I couldn’t believe they didn’t score. Overtime was really exciting,” Hitchcock said.
The shootout went into the fifth round before Alex Chiasson scored, who said watching Draisaitl’s attempt helped him read Markstrom.
“I thought if I could come with a little bit of speed and go just above (his glove). It worked out,” Chiasson said.
The Oilers can take a lot from tight games, said the right-winger.
“We’ve got to learn how to play in these types of games, make good decisions, play until we have to,” said Chiasson, who won a Stanley Cup with the Washington Capitals last season. “I thought tonight was a good example of making good decisions and building our game as it went on. Even though we had ups and downs, we kept going. And that’s what we need.”
Edmonton (23-21-3) had not strung together two wins in a row since early December, and had lost their two previous match ups with the Canucks (21-21-6).
“It’s a tough building to play in. We’ve always had struggles,” said Oilers captain Connor McDavid. “At least we were able to take advantage of it and get the two points.”
McDavid and Jujhar Khaira scored in regulation for Edmonton. The game saw Khaira move back to the left wing alongside Jesse Puljujarvi and Colby Cave, a centre the Oilers picked up off waivers from the Boston Bruins earlier this week.
Hitchcock said he thinks Khaira does better on the wing and the native of Surrey, B.C., showed what he’s capable of on Wednesday with a spinning wrist shot for a short-handed goal midway through the first period.
“It was one of those things were it just kind of presented itself,” Khaira said. “For myself, I need to be more of a shooter, so I’m just trying to focus on that right now. It’s nice when it pays off.”
Sutter was happy with the way his team played against the Oilers, despite the result.
“It’s fun hockey to watch and a little more nerve wracking to play but I like our game tonight,” he said.
“It was a grinding game, kind of that playoff feel against teams that are fighting for it and that’s what they are going to be like down the stretch so I thought we played really well.”
Both the Oilers and Canucks are currently in on a multi-team race for the Western Conference’s two wild card playoff spots.
Next up, the Canucks host the Buffalo Sabres on Friday. The Oilers will kick off a three-game homestand on Saturday when they host the Calgary Flames.
NOTES: McDavid extended his latest points streak to six games on Wednesday. He has six goals and three assists across that stretch and sits fourth in the NHL’s scoring race with 70 points on the season. … The Vancouver Canucks traded defenceman Michael Del Zotto to the Anaheim Ducks for Luke Schenn and a 2020 draft pick on Wednesday. Canucks coach Travis Green says the deal frees up a spot on Vancouver’s roster.