Draisaitl hits career milestone as Oilers pull off win in first trip to Mullett Arena

Leon Draisaitl scored the 300th goal of his career and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins tallied a goal and assist to help the Edmonton Oilers top the Arizona Coyotes with a 5-4 win.

TEMPE, Ariz. — Can you possibly play staunch, responsible, mistake-free NHL hockey for a full 60 minutes, in a building that feels like equal parts frat party and Golden Bears game? 

How can you play like an NHLer when you’re Zach Hyman — who played his college hockey at Michigan — and it feels like Home Coming Weekend on a sudsy Saturday night in the Big 10? 

“It’s like going back to college. A weird, kind of throwback environment,” Hyman said. 

In front of a sold-out house of 4,600 people — roughly 60 per cent of them here to cheer and drink beer for their Edmonton Oilers — the Oilers eked out a 5-4 win against a game bunch of Arizona Coyotes

It was Edmonton’s only trip here all season, and one that will linger this morning in the heads of a boisterous and boozy contingent of Northern Albertans on vacation. 

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What a blast this was, for both player and fan, as Edmonton won on its maiden voyage to tiny Mullett Arena on the Arizona State campus. 

“The sensory input,” began Nick Bjugstad, traded from Arizona to Edmonton at the deadline, “I think the first time a team comes into this arena, it’s a little bit of a shock. The fans are right on top of you, therefore the rink’s even smaller.” 

The rink is 200-by-85, but there were some nights at the old arena out in Glendale when those numbers added together to give you the crowd count. This was Oilers-palooza, with the concourses teeming with Connor McDavid jerseys and a “Let’s go Oil-ers!” chant that wasn’t even challenged by the Coyotes fans in attendance.

In such a strange environment, momentum swings seem to have an even stronger current. As such, the Oilers took a tidy 4-2, second-intermission lead and watched Arizona gobble it up with two goals in the opening 4:50 of the third. 

Goalie Jack Campbell left a couple of rebounds lying around, and his skaters were nowhere to be found as Matias Macelli and Barrett Hayton cashed. That led to an Edmonton timeout that seems brilliant in hindsight, as the Oilers slowly re-took control from that point on. 

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“I felt it was important just to take a deep breath. To reset,” said Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft. “It’s not like any nuggets of information were given there. It was just to take a deep breath, reset, and get back at it.” 

What didn’t he like about back-to-back goals against? Other than the back-to-back goals against, of course. 

“We could be harder around our own net. And I didn’t think we were.” 

Don’t underestimate the Coyotes in this building, where they are 20-12-4. That’s a lot of wins here, and over some good teams. 

You’d have liked to see Campbell lock this one down a bit better, and he did give his team some big saves on the night. But that’s been his M.O. this season — he stops some that he shouldn’t, but he always leaks a few that he should stop.  

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On this night it came down to rebound control, and now Campbell has allowed at least four goals in seven consecutive starts — a feat unmatched in the NHL this season. 

In a game where three Oilers — McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Evander Kane — all entered with exactly 299 career goals, only Draisaitl walked out of Mullett Arena with a commemorative puck in his pocket. Five Oilers scored — Ryan Nugent-Hopkins nabbed the winner on the power play — and Draisaitl won the race to 300 in career game No. 630. 

An annual 50-goal, 100-point man, Draisaitl has 46 on the season but was just voted the league’s best passer in a poll of his peers with the NHLPA. 

“I voted for him,” said Bjugstad, who was still a Coyote when the poll was taken. 

Draisaitl surprised Arizona goalie Karel Vejmelka with a quick shot through traffic. It’s something we see often enough to know it cannot be a fluke. 

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“It’s a quick release. His blade is different,” Bjugstad said of Draisaitl. “I don’t know. I’m not a goalie. But just looking at his blade, it looks like it’s coming off different than most guys. Nobody really uses a stick like him in the NHL. He’s a cerebral player, so he’s in the right spot. That’s a good player there …” 

“A pass-first, 50-goal scorer,” coined Hyman, who became a new uncle to Emma, born early Monday morning to Hyman’s brother and his wife. 

The Oilers have won six straight over Arizona, sweeping the three-game season series, while this is the first time since 1988-89 that Edmonton has had three players with 90 points. 

It was Mark Messier, Jari Kurri and Jimmy Carson back then, McDavid, Draisaitl and Nugent-Hopkins today. 

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