Oilers already facing must-win games after two losses to open season

Connor McDavid scored his first of the year but the Bruins answered with three goals of their own in the first period to get a 4-1 win over the Oilers.

BOSTON — A bad six minutes, an own goal, a couple of goal posts and a puck that danced along the entire goal line but never sashayed across.

The Edmonton Oilers lost this one fair and square, 4-1 with an empty net goal, to the Boston Bruins. And if you subscribe to old time hockey lore, they lost because they haven’t played well enough to deserve for those bad breaks to turn into good ones.

But, if the Oilers can take their level of play from the final 40 minutes Thursday, and kick it up a notch Saturday in New York, they can expect a better deal from the Hockey Gods against the Rangers. Or, so we would expect.

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"They scored three goals in three minutes there and that’s all she wrote," said Connor McDavid, whose math was just a little off. It was three Bruins goals in 5:53 that erased the 1-0 lead McDavid had given Edmonton.

"I thought we did a good job of limiting the damage. In the third period we got our looks, a couple of bad bounces, a couple of bad bounces go in our net and that’s the way it goes," he said. "We’ve got two games left on this road trip and we’ve got to make the most of it. Not much more to say than that."

The reality is, the Oilers have played two games and lost both by three goals. That is some distance from good enough, especially for a team that has vowed not to repeat last year’s crippling start to the season.

And then there is this stat: through the two season opening losses, Edmonton has scored three goals in total, and their captain has been in on every one of them. McDavid wheeled around a flat-footed Zdeno Chara just 3:43 into the game and scored on the ensuing breakaway, but penalties and a leaky PK nullified that advantage, as Edmonton starts its season at 0-2.

"The true Grade A chances are coming from three, four players," said head coach Todd McLellan. "It has to come from more guys."

Ryan Strome? Leon Draisaitl? Kailer Yamamoto? Jesse Puljujarvi? Ty Rattie?

Where for art thou?

"It’s also Game 2 of the season," said Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who couldn’t buy a break around the net, with a couple of posts and that tight-rope puck that Chara cleared off the line. "We have a long ways to go here. Guys will produce. We have a lot of confidence in this room that we’ll do it.

"A lot of the game we played so well, and that’s frustrating," he said. "But it’s Game 2. We can’t get frustrated."

If Nugent-Hopkins continues to play this well, he will be rewarded. But the Oilers penalty kill, which dragged this team down last season, has gotten off to a brutal 3-for-6 start to the campaign. This team simply can’t take penalties, when half the time the opponent’s powerplay lights the lamp.

"The penalties deflated us," said McLellan. "And the two goals they scored on them."

Cam Talbot gave up three goals and could not be faulted on any of them. The most unfortunate was the 2-1 goal, when Drake Caggiula deflected a pass through the penalty killing box, and it fluttered in under the cross bar from about 18 feet out.

It was pure misfortune on what was actually a sharp play by Caggiula, who was inserted into the lineup on the third line and played with some juice Thursday. He hit, fought and skated — all at the expense of fourth line centre Kyle Brodziak, who was healthy scratched just two games into his free agent return to the Oilers.

Brodziak will very likely return to the lineup for a Saturday matinee at MSG, but at whose expense? Caggiula earned another start, so perhaps Zack Kassian’s quiet 10 minutes could put him in line for a press box seat? Maybe a Yamamoto or Puljujarvi?

Meanwhile, the players in the Top 9 will need to create some offence. Especially those young right-wingers who shone in the preseason.

"We’re putting a lot of pressure on Rattie, Yamamoto, Puljujarvi," McLellan said. "Young players who are playing in our Top 6, Top 9."

There is pressure everywhere, with this Oilers team now. It’s eight days into the season, and they’re already facing must-win games.

Yikes.

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