Oilers’ strong outing sullied by poor special teams performance

Mikael Granlund's late goal helped the Minnesota Wild defeat the Edmonton Oilers.

EDMONTON — There are some nights where you wonder, ‘Damn, we led that game three times but lost, somehow. How did that happen?’

This game, a 4-3 Edmonton Oilers loss at the hands of the Minnesota Wild, was not one of those. Edmonton’s power play went 0-for-5 while the Wild’s went 3-for-3.

End of story.

“Five-on-five, we were the better team throughout the game. We created more, I thought,” said Leon Draisaitl. Connor McDavid concurred: “We were the better team, five-on-five.”

So what happened?

“This is the easiest question to answer, because it’s so obvious,” said head coach Todd McLellan. “You give up three on the penalty kill and get none on the power play and you’re not winning. We could play that game 100 times, and do the same thing over and over again, and not win it.”

Both McDavid and Draisaitl agreed, taking responsibility for a power play that they are, well, mostly responsible for.

“The special teams lost us the game tonight. It is as simple as that,” said Draisaitl, who had a goal and an assist for 7-6-13 in 11 games. “We just didn’t have the finish on the power play. I think we had our chances for two or three goals. We just couldn’t set up that final punch. That is something we feel we have to do better.”

Mikael Granlund was excellent Tuesday, sniping a puck into a spot the size of a donut hole over Cam Talbot’s shoulder for the game-winner. He has a nine-game points streak, 12 points in all.

“I think if we were in another city,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said of Granlund, “whether it was a Canadian city or a high profile city, that everyone would know how good this guy is. He is our catalyst and that’s why he plays the most and why he’s usually our leading scorer. When you need something done, he’s the guy that you want to have the puck.”

Honestly, Edmonton would take this template most nights. They held leads of 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2. They had a 57 per cent Corsi and outshot the Wild 28-21 at even strength. They took just three penalties, drawing five.

In an 82-game season, you’ll win the odd one the way Minnesota did Tuesday, and you’ll lose the odd one the way Edmonton did. And by the time we get to April nobody is asking, ‘How?’

Just, ‘How many?’

“At the end of the day, we lost the game, so it doesn’t really matter,” said Tobias Rieder. “I thought we played a good game, five-on-five. But the penalty kill? Was it 0-for-3? You can’t win a game like that.”

Wild backup Alex Stalock, getting the start after Devan Dubnyk lost Monday night in Vancouver, made one more key stop than Talbot, not that you’d blame Talbot on any one goal in particular. The Wild just hung around and hung around, and the next thing you knew, they were protecting their first lead of the game with just 5:48 left on the clock.


“We have good players and we have a good team,” said Eric Staal, who came in with his team’s worst plus-minus but carded a goal and three points. “We feel like we can come back any time and if we stay with our game and our structure, we have the talent to be able to cash in on opportunities.”

So it becomes about the next one for Edmonton. About not letting last year’s ineptitude on the penalty kill seep in, or get a foothold. About re-establishing their mojo, having taken a 6-1-1 skein into the Minnesota game.

The Chicago Blackhawks are in town Thursday, and they also play in Vancouver the night before. If the same opportunity is presented to Edmonton on Thursday that was presented on this night, well, if they’re truly a good team, they will seize it.

Because these games come along every once in a while. They happen to everyone. They just don’t happen twice in a row. Not to the good teams.

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