EDMONTON -- When you used to talk about the Edmonton Oilers having a new hero every night, what it really meant was that Connor McDavid won the game for them on Monday, Leon Draisaitl piled up a bunch of points on Wednesday, and then McDavid scored a hatty on Friday.
Today, their two superstars still find a way to figure into most games, no doubt. But the cast of characters being talking about after a win like Tuesday’s come-from-behind special in Vancouver? It’s a much longer list.
Draisaitl had three assists Tuesday, as Edmonton clawed back from a 3-0 deficit just 15:17 into the game to win 4-3. But it was Dominik Kahun who tucked two goals in, and the third line that produced a bouncing game-winner, as Adam Larsson fired a puck off of Jujhar Khaira that hit Tyler Ennis and went in.
Mike Smith was heroic in goal, and through a 44-minute comeback process, the entire roster wore down the Canucks, a team that simply needed a reminder that no lead was too large to blow.
“After the second period, we were down 3-1, but we knew we were going to turn this around,” said Kahun. “We just have the feeling -- no matter what the score is -- that we can come back. We have the players who can make the difference.”
One team had nine wins in their past 11 games. The other had nine losses in its last 11. The Oilers feel like they can win any game they play right now, while the Canucks are like a cartoon character with a black, stormy rain cloud following them around town all day long.
“I’m feeling it. The team’s feeling it,” said Smith, who let in a bleeder 66 seconds into the game, but by the end of it had made 30 saves to get the win. “We’ve scratched the surface (of their potential) now, and I think we’re really gaining some confidence in the way our team can play.
“When we got the fourth one, we hunkered down and made sure that they were going to have to make a really good play to beat us. Having been here the last couple of years, I’ve been in games where that game slides away from us. Tonight, that was a great confidence builder for our group.”
The last time the Oilers won in Vancouver after trailing by three? You’ve got to go back to 1983 -- when Jaroslav Pouzar was patrolling the wing for the Oilers, and Kenny “The Rat” Linseman was just 24 years old.
Today’s team has something special going on, winners of seven of their past eight, and just four points back of the North-leading Maple Leafs.
More so, they’re a club that can beat Calgary 2-1 on the road on a Friday, hammer those same Flames 7-1 the next night at home, then overcome a rough start on the road and abscond with two points in Vancouver on Tuesday.
“I think that’s what good teams do -- find different ways to win games,” Draisaitl before the game. “We’re looking to play more of the 3-2 type of games than the 6-5 type of games, but sometimes that’s just how the night goes. The way it all plays out. We’re looking to win games any type of way. That’s what makes a good team.”
Draisaitl’s passing game was pristine Tuesday. He fed McDavid for an open net on the powerplay, just 3:28 after he found Kahun for a one-timer that left Thatcher Demko without a prayer.
“It’s not for fun that he’s the best in the league. One of best passers in the game, that’s for sure,” said Kahun. “I knew right away, before the puck was even there: if he gets the puck, he’ll find me.”
In the end, however, no comeback occurs if Smith doesn’t shut the door. Wearing a mask painted as a homage to Hall of Famer Grant Fuhr, Smith channelled his inner Cocoa, putting the brakes on the Canucks offence after three goals, and giving his team a chance to fashion a comeback.
Fuhr used to do the same thing, though that usually kicked in after about five goals back in the ‘80s.
“I’m far from being compared to a legend like that,” Smith said. “It was just important that I stuck with it, and didn’t let it get to four. Grant was the king of that. Probably a bit of the helmet luck helped.
“I’ve been in a lot of these games where it can (go) one of two ways, and I didn’t want it to go the wrong way.”
They’re rolling, this team. And boy, do they believe.
“That win right there carries some weight to it,” Smith said. “Our team is feeling real good after that game.”