For a team that that has lacked depth scoring and seems to never find the first goal in a game, this one was pure tonic for the Edmonton Oilers.
Minus half of their top-six forwards and trailing 2-0 not 10 minutes into the game, the Oilers ground out a comeback win with impressive work ethic and structure that simply overran the Seattle Kraken. The Oilers never stopped coming at the Kraken, outshooting them 41-17 in a 5-3 win despite a bunch of recent losses to COVID protocol and playing one forward shy of a full lineup.
“The one word that comes to mind is belief,” said Warren Foegele, who had two goals Saturday and his third since joining Connor McDavid’s line two games ago. “We stuck together. No one was pouting. We knew we could come back. We believed we’d come back. There were so many losses (in a recent six-game losing streak), it’s easy to get negative. But you could see it on the ice. We had our foot on the pedal.”
Stuart Skinner opened the game by letting in the first Kraken shot of the night and it was a bleeder. After that, however, Skinner was fantastic, more than making up for his Koskinen-esque start.
And then the depth players, whose contributions this team has been waiting on for some time, began to come. Foegele, who had snapped a 20-game goal-less skid the game prior, popped two. And Colton Sceviour, a fourth-line banger who answered the call with a short-staffed lineup, played 14:31 and had five shots on net and a goal.
All of this after getting pasted from behind just moments into the contest, a call that was somehow missed by the zebras.
“You don’t want to make a habit of getting yourself into it that way,” he chuckled. “But if I can get into it one way or another early, things tend to work out better.”
Sceviour is a fourth-line forward who knows his role and plays it. He delivers bodychecks on the forecheck the way a depth forward should, and on Saturday enjoyed a shift with journeyman call-up Seth Griffith and Connor McDavid, scoring a goal that was assisted by the Oilers captain.
McDavid (1-1-2 on the night) and Leon Draisaitl (three assists) moved around the lineup all night long, while Darnell Nurse was a horse on the back end, logging another 25:38 of ice time. Nurse played the final 3:51 of the game without going off.
“We’ve had to move a lot of people around,” said assistant coach Jim Playfair. “Collectively, our leadership group has taken over and allowed those players to find their way. You really have to look at Connor, Leon and Darnell, and the moving parts around them. They’re able to stabilize and help those players fit in around them.”
In all, the Oilers had 73 shots attempts to Seattle’s 30. The ice was tilted all night long, a credit to an Oilers team that was under-staffed, and without its head coach Dave Tippett.
Failing The Test
On a night when the NHL played as many games (five) as they managed to pull off, the COVID protocol list was the busiest roster in the league. And the Oilers have stocked that list as much as any team.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins tested positive on Friday morning, so the Oilers delayed their flight to Seattle more than five hours to wait for further testing. It was just long enough to leave Duncan Keith behind in protocol, but too early to catch Jesse Puljujarvi’s positive test, which came up Saturday afternoon in Seattle.
Puljujarvi became Edmonton’s fifth player on the list, joining Keith, Nugent-Hopkins, Ryan McLeod, Devin Shore and Tippett on the list. With Kris Russell and Zach Hyman on Injured Reserve, not to mention starting goalie Mike Smith, the Oilers are skating along with less than their preferred roster, like so many NHL teams these days.
Edmonton played with just 11 forwards Saturday, missing three of their usual Top 6 forwards and with call-ups Cooper Marody and Seth Griffith as wingers on a centre-less fourth line. Marody an assist against Seattle, first NHL point, while the journeyman Griffith made a hard check that loosened up a puck for Edmonton’s third goal.
As for Puljujarvi, he can’t fly home on the Oilers charter now that he’s tested positive. We asked a team exec after the first period how the big Finn would get home to Edmonton. “We’re working on that,” came the reply.