Oilers leave Anaheim frustrated with referees and own play

Andreas Athanasiou and Tyler Ennis both scored in their Oilers debuts, but Sonny Milano’s debut for the Ducks saw him score in overtime for the Anaheim victory.

ANAHEIM — The Edmonton Oilers didn’t like their own performance and were especially sour on an overtime call on Connor McDavid that they feel cost them a point in the standings.

But after a 4-3 overtime loss in Anaheim, two things need to be said:

One, after playing only 40 minutes of hockey against a team that was 17 points below them in the stands — with Anaheim dressing five new players one day after the trade deadline — Edmonton likely deserved zero points. Getting one was all they could ask for.

And two, you can complain all you want about the calls that McDavid doesn’t get. But the infraction he committed in OT on Sonny Milano — even though Milano went down awfully easy — is a stick-in-the-torso call that gets made every single time.

“It is frustrating, but I’m never going to rip on the officials. They have a tough job, but I gave them a chance to make the call. Maybe a little of poor defence,” was how McDavid began.

Usually he stops there, but frustration kept him talking.

“But that’s a play that happens all the time in the corner. He goes down pretty easy. Pretty ticky-tacky in overtime, and that’s the game,” McDavid continued. “I try not to criticize the officials — they have a tough job and the game is fast. But, I’d prefer him not to make that call. Just because there’s no (scoring) chance coming out of it. It’s a nothing play.”

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Everything McDavid says there is true. Alas, maybe this was just the Hockey Gods telling this Oilers team that incomplete efforts like this one don’t get rewarded with favorable calls in overtime — or two points in the standings.

Milano scorched the Oilers in OT with his second goal in his first game as a Duck, acquired only the day before in a swap with the Blue Jackers for Devin Shore. And the Oilers, who trailed 2-0 and 3-2 before forcing overtime, settled for one point in a game that should have yielded two.

“If that was a call,” head coach Dave Tippett said, “there probably should have been six on Connor in the game. In overtime I thought it was a soft call. The frustrating thing is there’s so many on Connor as he goes through the neutral zone and don’t get called.”

But that wasn’t the reason for this loss, and Tippett knows it.

“That wasn’t the determining factor in why we lost,” he said. “We didn’t start well, got out-worked, didn’t compete hard enough, looking around to see how the game would go. Got a point but we can’t be squandering anything. If we’re a playoff team, we have to start the game on time.”

OK — so it didn’t start or end well for Edmonton in Disneyland on Tuesday. The in between, however, was mighty intriguing, as McDavid played alongside new acquisitions Andreas Athanasiou and Tyler Ennis. It was a blast, once they got going.

Actually, it was more of a blast off.

“It’s probably the fastest line I’ve ever played on for sure,” McDavid said. “It was fun tonight with those guys. They’re both very skilled and work hard. I like the potential that line has. It’s something to build off.”

With the score 2-0, Ennis finished off a three-on-two for his first goal as an Oiler, a moment he’d dreamed of since he was a kid shooting tennis balls on his parents’ Edmonton driveway.

“It’s special, it felt good. Definitely,” he said. “It was fun to score.”

Then, with the score 3-2, Athanasiou beat Josh Manson to the net and poked home a loose puck to assure the Oilers of a loser point.

Athanasiou has the chance of a lifetime here, acquired specifically to ride on McDavid’s left side for who-knows-how-long in Edmonton. What was it like playing with McDavid for the first time?

“Well, he’s the best player in the world, so…” the guy his teammates are calling ‘Double A’ said. “He makes the game pretty easy when you play with him. You can see how he controls the game. He drives everyone to push and work hard, when you see how hard he’s working. It’s a lot of fun, for sure.”

Each winger had two points Tuesday, while McDavid had three, pulling into third place in the NHL scoring race, a point behind Boston’s David Pastrnak with 87. Leon Draisaitl scored Tuesday, notching his 99th point of the season.

Trivia time: It’s the first time where multiple players scored in their Oilers debut since Oct. 1, 2013, when Boyd Gordon, Jesse Joensuu and Luke Gazdic all scored for Edmonton.

The good thing? There isn’t a person in this organization who is satisfied with that point.

Which will leave the Oilers hungry, heading into Wednesday’s huge matchup in Las Vegas.

“Our full game needs to be better,” Draisaitl said. “(We had) a couple of new faces, so there’s got to be a little adjustment time. But we can’t lose any points here down the stretch.”

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