Under constant Avalanche pressure, Oilers blow two-goal lead in ‘frustrating’ loss

Cale Makar played the hero scoring his 10th goal of the season in overtime as part of his two-point performance as the Colorado Avalanche scored three consecutive goals to complete the comeback against the Edmonton Oilers, winning 3-2.

EDMONTON — Disturbing? Or just flat out entertaining? 

Should another 2-0 lead blown by the Edmonton Oilers concern us? Or, should we consider the two crossbars the Oilers hit in overtime, and just say, as Tyson Barrie did after a 3-2 OT loss to Colorado, “We get one of those and it is a celebration in here instead.” 

Would another offensive defenceman have helped relieve the constant pressure applied Saturday by Colorado? Or would he have simply chased the play as well, when a stalwart cycle-breaker was what was truly needed? 

The Colorado Avalanche crushed the Edmonton Oilers at even strength Saturday night, scoring a five-on-five goal, a four-on-four goal, and a three-on-three overtime winner while Edmonton’s two goals came on the powerplay. 

“They have a bunch of dynamic players over there that hold on to the puck and make plays like we do,” said two-goal man Zach Hyman, who has 20 goals at the season’s halfway point. “I don’t know what the possession numbers were, but they were rolling around a little bit in our zone. I thought it was a back-and-forth game for the most part. But they got the last goal.” 

At even strength, Natural Stat Trick had the scoring chances tallied at 32-14 for Colorado, though the high danger chances were less lopsided at 12-8. 

If any other bottom 15 team did this to you — a Nashville, a Vancouver, a St. Louis — there would be no room for conversation about whether or not your game was worthy. But when the Avalanche become a handful — yet you get a point and are a crossbar away from getting them both – maybe it’s not quite the same? 

Or are we too charitable? 

“Tonight was a battle in the neutral zone and who was willing to get pucks in behind the other team’s defence,” assessed head coach Jay Woodcroft. “For us, we didn’t get enough to put them under any kind of duress early. We got better at it as we went on.” 

There is merit in a team that can win when it’s not playing its best game, and that’s where the Oilers were, leading 2-0 after 40 minutes with Stuart Skinner managing to keep his shutout alive despite constant Avalanche pressure. 

Then a great player made a great play, as Nathan MacKinnon grabbed a loose puck, split the Oilers No. 1 pairing of Darnell Nurse and Cody Ceci, and beat Skinner with a lovely deke. 

Now, when Connor McDavid does that, we lavish him in praise and marvel at his skill. So, is it fair to ask Nurse and Ceci to do a better job when it’s MacKinnon shining like a superstar? Do we question Klim Kostin, who coughed up the puck that MacKinnon gathered in and took to town? 

When Leon Draisaitl rifles home an overtime winner, we can’t check his goal totals fast enough to even notice what the opposing defenceman did. 

So when it’s Nurse who played the rush a bit soft, backing in as Cale Makar rifled a wrist shot home in OT, should we dissect how he handled the NHL’s best defenceman? Or do we just take our hats off and count ourselves lucky to have witnessed two future Hall of Fame players at their very best? 

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“You want to try and do the best you can against them. (But) that’s why they get paid the big bucks,” said Barrie. “They are out there to score goals and create for their team just like we have guys in here that do that. They made a great play on their first one and they got a D-man to score their second one. They are a good team.  

“It was a frustrating one for us. We had two (crossbars) in overtime. Maybe we get one of those and it is a celebration in here instead. It is frustrating.” 

The positives are that, against a team as dynamic as Colorado, Edmonton ran out something less than their best and led through the night. Not so long ago, Vancouver was winning this game 5-2 here at Rogers Place — now the Oilers head out for four games with back to back efforts that you can build on. 

As for improving this team, there are those who say another defenceman with an offensive bent would help here. They’ll point to Colorado, who have plenty of that, and say that should be emulated. 

But what if the Oilers could defend a lead? 

They’ve blown four 2-0 leads here in recent times. Is the solution to score the third goal, or to defend well enough that you make that two-goal lead stand up? Maybe score an empty-netter? 

Against Colorado, there’s little question why the Oilers weren’t productive at even strength. They barely had the puck. 

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What if you had a defenceman who could break up a cycle? Who could take some of the hard minutes that Nurse played, and not force your assistant captain to play the 28:21 he played Saturday? 

Like we always say, Edmonton scores enough. 

Two powerplay goals and an empty netter would have been plenty for a 3-1 win Saturday, but the constant possession Colorado enjoyed simply wore down the defensive effort and Skinner as well. 

Sure, another offensive defenceman like Jakob Chychrun would be awesome — when you have the puck. 

Against the Avalanche, Edmonton could not get their hands on the puck enough. They could not separate the Colorado players from possession enough. They could not relieve the pressure enough. 

They bent for 40 minutes and finally broke in the final 20. 

You can blame Darnell Nurse. 

I would too, if was playing 23 minutes and getting beaten. 

He needs help in his own zone. The team needs help in its own zone. 

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