CHICAGO — Tuesday’s Edmonton Oilers thought they were a bit flat in a 2-1 overtime win at Dallas.
Thursday’s Edmonton Oilers: “Hold our beer.”
Seeking a perfect 3-0 road trip against a .500 Chicago Blackhawks team that needs to play about .850 hockey to make the playoffs, the Oilers gave the Blackhawks a 40-minute head start then ran out of face track in a 4-3 loss.
With James Neal making his return this week, McDavid test drove a new line with Neal and Tyler Ennis. They were a combined minus-6, as Chicago built up a 4-1 lead after two periods — with the Oilers landing just a dozen shots on goal.
“Ah, they were right in the muck with the rest of them in the first two periods,” spat head coach Dave Tippett, when asked about McDavid’s new line. “We know we have to play harder. After the second period we recognized it and played. It’s got to come from within, and there are some things we can do to improve that. We’ll look to do that Saturday.”
Does that mean he was anywhere close to happy with the 20-minute effort that very nearly got Edmonton into overtime here?
Can they build off the third period, where they outscored Chicago 2-0 and outshot them 12-6?
“Naw, we need to recognize what we did at the start of the game,” said Tippett, who was grumpy post-game. “You’re down 4-1 and you say you’re going to chase in the third period? Every team does that.
“I’m more concerned with what did in Periods 1 and 2 than what we did in 3.”
Big picture, the Oilers came home with four of six points from this road trip, and will touch down on the tarmac at YEG airport closer to the Pacific-leading Vegas Golden Knights than when they took off on Sunday.
Big picture, Edmonton was playing their sixth game in 10 nights, and on three consecutive three-game-in-four-night roadies they’ve come home with four, three and four points.
Yes, they were the second-best team on the ice Thursday in Chicago, by a wide margin. But if anyone was fooled by what the score looked like after this 20-minute effort, we could not find that person in the Edmonton dressing room post-game.
“We’re not going to win too many games like that,” said Zack Kassian. “The first couple of periods, if not for Smitty we’re probably down half a dozen.
“We just have to regroup. There are going to be highs and lows and we have to stay even keel. If we play the way we did in the third, we’re giving ourselves a chance to win every night. If we play the way we did in the first and second we’re not going to win many games.”
Goalie Mike Smith, who was pulled after the fourth Chicago goal, suffered just his second loss in 2020 (12-2-4). The good news was, after stealing two points in Dallas on Tuesday Mikko Koskinen was flawless in relief, giving his team a chance for what would have qualified as grand larceny, had the Oilers copped a point here.
“That was not on Mike Smith,” Tippett said of the hook. “That was on the players in front of him.”
The power play couldn’t save Edmonton on this night, primarily because they didn’t have the puck enough to draw more than one penalty. Meanwhile, Edmonton’s penalty-killing unit carried its weight, thwarting two Blackhawk efforts to move to 84.5 percent, second in the NHL.
Alex DeBrincat had two goals, while Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane had one each on a night where Chicago’s $21-million duo bested Edmonton’s $21-million duo head to head. The Hawks are hanging around, trying to catch a wild card with a fourth straight win.
They were the very picture of desperation Thursday.
“Every team at this time of the year is desperate. That’s not an excuse,” Draisaitl said. “If you want to be a playoff team, we have to beat this team. We have to regroup and be better.”
You can slice this loss up a million ways. Or you can chalk it up to one lousy effort, and trust that Columbus will face a far tougher opponent on Hockey Night in Canada Saturday at Rogers Place.
“Too late. Started playing and competing too late,” repeated Draisaitl. “Just didn’t start on time. It’s simple.
“That’s all I’ve got.”