You’ve got to say it, this is a feisty Oilers club, a trait that — all by itself — marks a major improvement in Edmonton. But it’s also thin on the back end, a manpower deficit that came home to roost in the third period Thursday night.
Down 3-1 on the road, against one of the NHL’s premier clubs in the Winnipeg Jets — and missing two of their top four defencemen in Oscar Klefbom and Kris Russell — the Edmonton Oilers turned a 3-1 deficit into a 4-3 lead before losing in overtime, 5-4 to the Jets. They were outshot 17-2 in the third period, unable to break out of their own zone against the hard-charging Jets.
Still, Edmonton was a Connor McDavid crossbar away from winning in overtime before Josh Morrissey rifled the winner past Cam Talbot seconds later. All in all, Edmonton brings home three of four points from a road trip through Denver and Winnipeg, with the Philadelphia Flyers awaiting tonight at Rogers Place.
You can’t complain about this effort, regardless of the result. Here are our takeaways on a team that gets Philly, Vancouver and St. Louis in its next three games — a real chance to make some progress in the Pacific.
Call a Nurse…
…and send him to the intersection of Preparation and Opportunity.
We’ve often wondered what the offensive ceiling is for Darnell Nurse, and it looks like we’re about to find out. With Oscar Klefbom on the shelf with a hand injury, Nurse steps on to the top of the No. 1 power-play unit, and moves in alongside Adam Larsson (28:45 Thursday) on the top pairing.
Effectively, Nurse becomes Edmonton’s No. 1 defenceman — ready or not. In Winnipeg, he played 31:04, after playing 30:44 Tuesday in Colorado, where Klefbom was injured. However this works out, you’ve got to love Nurse’s chutzpah in his first full game in the role.
He aptly handled the top power-play unit, played over 25 minutes at even strength and joined the rush to score a goal that bounced in off of his skate. He was not afraid to take his big frame to the opposing net in search of offence, a trait badly needed on this blue line.
With some experience in the role, it should only get better, no?
A Little Help, Please…?
Remember when Connor McDavid was setting a new NHL record for being in on each of the Oilers first nine goals of the season? Good times!
Well, suddenly he’s getting some help, on an Oilers team that has scored 18 goals in its past four games.
Jujhar Khaira scored Thursday, and has six points in his last seven games. Alex Chiasson, in only his 26th game this season, scored his 13th goal to match a career high that was set in 79 games for Dallas five seasons ago. Ryan Spooner chipped in his second as an Oiler, while McDavid and Leon Draisaitl had two helpers apiece.
In their first eight games under Ken Hitchcock, Edmonton averaged two goals per game. In their past four, they’re averaging 4.5 goals per game.
If they can manage to keep the goals against down while they’re this thin on the blue line and keep the scoring up… Well, now you’ve got something.
Three for the Road
Right after the Oilers beat Minnesota 7-2 last Friday night, Hitchcock began looking forward to the next three games against Western powers Calgary, Colorado and Winnipeg.
“We’ll find out a lot about ourselves in these three games,” Hitchcock said.
So, let’s take stock: A 1-0 win over the Flames; a 6-4 win in Denver, with two Avs goals in garbage time; and a 5-4 overtime loss in Winnipeg.
Five points out of a possible six is a pretty good run through three teams like that, complete with a 1-0 defensive struggle, outscoring the high-flying Avs and coming back from being down 3-1 at Winnipeg, where the Jets don’t give many points away with a 12-4-2 mark on home ice.
Now, the trick will be to play this well against bottom-third teams like the Flyers, Canucks and Blues. The good teams? They don’t let those points get away.
It would help to get defenceman Kris Russell back. They’ll know more today on whether his injury is short- or long-term. If he can’t play, will Caleb Jones get into the lineup on Friday?