Oilers need to tighten defensive game if going to find playoff success

Jared Spurgeon scored three straight for the natural hat trick as the Wild beat the Oilers 5-3.

EDMONTON — How do you lose at home to the Minnesota Wild, despite leading three times in the game?

You have a scoring line that scores three goals, but you have a checking line that gives up just as many. Deflect a puck into your own cage in the third period, and voila!

It’s a 5-3 win for Minnesota, which got the rare blueliner hat trick from defenceman Jared Spurgeon.

Oilers head coach Dave Tippet couldn’t complain about Leon Draisaitl’s line, which popped three. But the Riley Sheahan-Josh Archibald-Tyler Benson line? Not only did they not provide any depth scoring, they spent the night fishing the puck out of their own net, all going minus-three.

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What does a coach hope for when he has one scoring line, with Connor McDavid still on the shelf?

“You are hoping something comes alive or that the other lines don’t get scored on,” said Tippett. “One line got scored on — a lot.”

“When you give up four, that’s too many,” continued Tippett, whose team has gone a respectable 3-2-1 sans McDavid, though the totality of all the injuries is beginning to add up. “The margin for error is slim, but when you give up four, you have to score five and that’s too many. Too many goals against.”

It is the reason why nobody has any confidence that the Toronto Maple Leafs can win a playoff round, even if they make the post-season. Or why Calgarians are looking at their Flames with a critical eye these days.

Good teams keep the puck out of their net with consistency, and only five NHL teams allow more goals on a nightly basis than Toronto. Calgary, meanwhile, is the only one of 16 teams currently holding down a playoff position that has a negative goal differential, at minus-11.

Edmonton is no hell at plus-four, but since Jan. 1 they’ve been the 13th stingiest team in the NHL — a direct cause of its 11-5-3 record since then. And with McDavid playing they tend to score enough, so that No. 13 ranking is just fine.

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You might win the odd game 6-5, but as long as you’re playing games like that, you’re not going to be preparing for any playoff success.

“We gave up (39) shots tonight? Not good enough,” said Oilers defenceman Matt Benning. “They just kind of took us over down low, and we really didn’t have the pushback. We sustained some pressure, looked good. But there were times when they just took it to us.”

The teams emerged from the dressing room tied 3-3 after 40 minutes, but Minnesota absolutely owned the final period, sweeping the season series 3-0 from the club that calls Wild GM Bill Guerin an alumnus.

Wild defenceman Carson Soucy scored, and over 100 friends and family from nearby Irma, Alta., could be heard cheering at Rogers Place. Then Spurgeon capped a hat trick with an empty netter, sending the Spurgeon clan home happy as well.

“It’s about 15 minutes (to drive for his dad), 25 in rush hour and it’s pretty special,” Spurgeon said. “My grandma was watching (at home) and my sister and my niece are here. It’s pretty awesome.”

It was a crucial, gutsy win for the Wild, closing out their dads trip here in Edmonton in style. They won the first game in front of their dads with a come-from-behind shootout win at Vancouver.

“It gives you goosebumps,” said interim head coach Dean Evason. “Just as you’re talking, saying it, it gives you goosebumps. The look around the room after and to see all the jerseys and huge smiles on dads and mentors. It’s special for sure. Very special.”

Adam Larsson deflected the game-winner past his own goalie, giving the Wild their first lead of the night halfway through the third period. They’d earned it though, walking into the Oilers building and beating them fair and square.

The Oilers leave Saturday for a three-game trip through Los Angeles, Anaheim and Las Vegas, all sandwiched around Monday’s trading deadline.

McDavid looks like he’ll be ready to return in L.A., or at worst, Tuesday in Anaheim.

Here’s a scoop: That will help.

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