Finally, the day ended with the predictable: an easy win over the road-weary Arizona Coyotes as the Oilers walked off with a tidy 8-2 victory over a struggling team that now limps home to face the (wait for it) Boston Bruins.
Welcome to Edmonton, where trade rumours thrive no matter how weak, and Puljujarvi struggles, no matter how much hockey player there appears to be in that six-foot-four package. He was one of only four Oilers forwards to go pointless Wednesday.
Oh, and one more thing: Russian winger Klim Kostin closed the game with a Gordie Howe hat trick, leaving big Zack Kassian with a cut on his nose on the same night the Oilers feted their former heavyweight with a scoreboard tribute.
How did he end up in a scrap with a big, experienced fighter like Kassian?
“I don’t know. I didn’t see. I’m just fighting, you know?” Kostin said, the knuckles on his right hand still bloody in the postgame dressing room. “He was just cross-checking me from behind and grabbed my neck. I was like, ‘OK, so there’s no way to go away from this fight.’
“I’m not looking for a fight — I just want to play hockey. I just want to enjoy the hockey, but if (a) fight’s coming, I’m not going away.”
Give the kid credit. When he arrived from Russia as a first-round pick of the St. Louis Blues, Kostin never thought he’d be a scrapper. But he’s had a few over the years and more than held his own.
“He stuck up for himself, and I think that’s important,” head coach Jay Woodcroft said. “When you do that, people notice around the league. He’s a big man and he stuck up for himself.”
There was lots to unpack on a wacky Wednesday in the Alberta capital. So let’s begin.
Pity the poor Coyotes, who play at the Arizona State University rink, where they are behind both the gymnastics and wrestling teams when it comes to prime dates. They have three Saturday games all season long, and closed out a month on the road with a fairly non-competitive effort versus the Oilers.
“We didn’t fight like we usually fight,” said Coyotes head coach Andre Tourigny. “Tonight, we will throw the tape in the trash.”
As for Karlsson, rumour had it the Oilers were in on veteran San Jose defenceman, and folks scrambled to figure out how to make the money work on a trade for a 32-year-old with four years left after this one at $11.5 million. Tyson Barrie and Puljujarvi would go to the Sharks, San Jose would eat half the salary with a third team eating some more …
We’ve heard some goofy ones and this one was right up there, considering the age, price and defensive prowess of the player in question. But, trade rumours make the hockey world go ‘round, and this one sold some ads for talk radio on a winter-like Wednesday in Northern Alberta.
Finally, there was Puljujarvi, who bared his soul in the Finnish press, wondering if he was indeed an NHL player. He was ineffective against Arizona, on a night when depth players Derek Ryan (1-1-2) and Kostin (1-1-2) padded their stats.
As usual, Connor McDavid led the way with two goals and four points, extending his lead atop the NHL scoring race with 52 points. He is the first Oiler to register 50 points in the first 27 games of a season since Wayne Gretzky in 1987-88, and the four-point night was McDavid’s 28th in 514 NHL games.
For a little context, future Hall of Famer Joe Thornton had 28 four-point nights — in 1,714 games. So, McDavid beat Jumbo Joe by a scant 1,200 games in that race.