EDMONTON — With the 29th place Ottawa Senators coming into town on the tail end of a back to back, and the mighty, first place Oilers awaiting after two days off, the old hockey cliché was employed:
The Sens were tired, the Oilers rested. This was going to be an easy two points for Edmonton, right?
As it turned out, the Sens WERE tired… from raising their arms after scoring five times in a 5-2 victory.
"That’s not going to beat anyone," said Leon Draisaitl of his team’s game. "Probably not going to beat an AHL team (playing) like that."
The Senators watched as Edmonton took a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes, in a first period where the Oilers hit two posts and Connor McDavid twice shredded the entire Senators team en route to a great chance on goal. It was all Edmonton all the time in Period 1 — then, something happened.
What, head coach Dave Tippett was asked?
"We gave up two poor goals that got them in the game," said Tippett, who didn’t like either of the first two that squeezed past Mikko Koskinen. He would pull the big Finn after the third goal, on which he had little chance, a rare night where Koskinen did not help his team win.
Draisaitl was the culprit on the third Sens goal, with a lazy dump-in that came back in the form of a two-on-one.
"The high-end players have the biggest opportunity to make a difference, so when they don’t make good plays…" Tippett observed. "The third goal, we had a group that had been on the ice for over a minute and we turn it over. (Klefbom) has been on or over a minute and gets caught up the ice and we basically give up an easy two-on-one and an easy goal."
The pairing of Klefbom and Adam Larsson were on the ice for the last four Senators even strength goals. They finished the night at minus-four.
Did we mention? The Senators had lost five in a row heading into the game.
Their powerplay? It was clipping along at nine per cent, some 21 percentage points behind the league-leading Oilers’ and ranked 31st in a 31-team league.
The Sens stood 29th in league standings, 27th in goals per game, 22nd in shots per game and 24th in shots allowed per game. This should have been a cakewalk.
Ottawa is a Top 5 team at one thing — taking penalties. Not a great stat when going up against an Oilers powerplay that has carried them to the top of the Pacific Division.
These were two points that playoff teams are supposed to collect.
"We need to find a way to win those games," Larsson agreed. "When it comes into March, you don’t want to look back at those games. We have to learn from it. I don’t feel like we take them lightly, but we definitely have to learn quick."
It was amazing, really, if you’d seen the first period. The Oilers toyed with Ottawa — and then the tables were turned.
"We just stopped playing the right way, and cheated for offence," Draisaitl said. "It doesn’t really matter who you play, if you play that way you’re not going to win many games."
The Oilers awoke on Thursday morning in first place in the Pacific Division.
They won’t say there for long, if they keep trotting out games like this one.