The Edmonton Oilers potent power play loomed large again on Saturday.
Connor McDavid recorded two goals and two assists, Leon Draisaitl had a goal and three assists and the Oilers defeated the Montreal Canadiens 5-3. The Oilers scored three power-play goals in the second period alone.
But it was the effort to clamp down in the third that McDavid found most encouraging.
“We were not very good for 40 minutes, and we were lucky to find ourselves up by one after two periods,” he noted. “But I thought it was really a good job of playing a solid, mature third period and not giving them anything. And when we did, (goalie Stuart Skinner) kind of shut it down.
“I thought it was a real good third.”
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Darnell Nurse also scored for the Oilers (14-11-0) who have won four of their last five outings. Skinner made 30 saves.
“I think that we’re getting more and more confident as the games go on,” Skinner said. “Any (adversity) that gets pushed over our way, we’ve handled it pretty well. The last few games we’ve definitely had to dial it in and you can see that. I mean, winning four out of five is huge.”
Nick Suzuki, Evgenii Dadonov and Arber Xhekaj replied for the Canadiens (12-11-1) who have lost two of their last three games. Jake Allen stopped 17 shots.
Montreal coach Martin St. Louis said the toughest part of the loss was surrendering a goal with five seconds to play in the second period to go down 4-3 after battling back to tie it.
“We had so much momentum,” he said. “I think the guys thought it was icing. It is tough to give up those goals at the end of the period like that, especially with the kind of push we had to tie it back up in the second half of that period. It was a tough one.”
After a sluggish start to the game, the Canadiens opened the scoring at 16:37 of the first period. Mike Matheson spun around at the point to feed Suzuki at the right faceoff dot and he snuck the puck through on the power play for his 13th of the season.
The Oilers pulled even on a power play of their own as Draisaitl sent a pass through the crease and Nugent-Hopkins was able to snap his 11th of the season 1:25 into the second period. It took 63 games for Nugent-Hopkins to reach the 11-goal mark last season.
Montreal defenceman Joel Edmundson was assessed a five-minute major for cross-checking Oilers forward Zach Hyman in the head. The move proved costly as Edmonton scored a pair of power-play goals, both coming on two-man advantages.
Draisaitl picked the top corner 6:27 into the second to push his goal streak to five games with his 17th of the campaign.
Then, at the 9:36 mark, McDavid banked a shot off Allen’s pads and through his legs to give Edmonton a 3-1 edge.
“You want to stay more disciplined than we were,” Suzuki said. “You can’t take penalties when you are down and give those guys five-on-threes and so much time and space.”
However, Montreal quickly made a short-lived comeback.
A broken coverage by the Oilers defence allowed Dadonov to beat Skinner on a rebound with 13:26 gone in the middle frame.
Montreal pulled even on a two-man advantage of its own 16:38 into the frantic second, as Xhekaj scored on a long shot.
Edmonton scored the period’s sixth total goal with just five seconds remaining as Hyman’s hard work behind the net eventually led to a goal by Nurse.
Edmonton extended its lead 14:40 into the third as Draisaitl picked off a pass and sent McDavid in alone, and he beat Allen for his second of the game and 21st of the season.
Out with injuries for Edmonton were Kailer Yamamoto (undisclosed), Evander Kane (wrist surgery), Warren Foegele (undisclosed) and Ryan McLeod (undisclosed). The Habs were missing Brendan Gallagher (lower body), Jonathan Drouin (upper body) and Mike Hoffman (lower body). … Edmonton has not made it easy on itself this season. They have now allowed three or more opposition goals in 21 out of 25 games. … Montreal has done well living on the edge thus far this season, coming into the game with an 8-0-1 record in one-goal games this season, with the eight victories leaving them tied for the most in the NHL in that category. … Draisaitl leads the NHL in power-play goals from the start of the 2018-19 season with 81.
Both teams return to action on Monday. The Oilers play the second of a four-game homestand against the Washington Capitals. The Habs play the third of a four-game road trip in Vancouver against the Canucks.