EDMONTON — It’s hard to say which was more offensive, the Edmonton Oilers’ dynamic duo or the collective goaltending display Sunday night at Rogers Place.
Whatever, the Oilers found a night off for starter Mikko Koskinen, and put together back-to-back victories for the first time all season with a crazy 8-5 win. Young Stuart Skinner survived his first NHL start and took home a “W,” while Leon Draisaitl (six assists) and Connor McDavid (a goal and four helpers) loaded up on points during a sloppy but entertaining defeat of the Ottawa Senators.
“We would have liked to keep it a little tighter, but at the end of the day it’s two points,” said Draisaitl, whose 5-6 Oilers can reach .500 with another win over the hapless Senators on Tuesday. Ottawa won its season opener and have collected just one loser point in the eight games since.
The Sens got zero saves from starter Matt Murray, who was yanked just 7:20 in with the score 3-1 Edmonton. Enter Marcus Hogberg, who surrendered five goals on 22 shots. Yeccch.
“Their big guys took us apart tonight,” said Senators head coach D.J. Smith, referencing an Oilers power play that went 4-for-5.
They did indeed, with Draisaitl dealing passes like a young Joe Thornton, and McDavid his usual unstoppable self. McDavid has 15 points in his last five games, while Draisaitl — who posed for a pregame picture with countrymen Dominik Kahun and young Sens phenom Tim Stützle — has collected 14 in the same span.
McDavid (22 points) and Draisaitl (21) are one-two in NHL scoring, a full seven points clear of third-place Mitch Marner. That, and more in our takeaways from just another 13-goal game in the NHL.
Look, Skinner is only a third-year pro. The 22-year-old isn’t ready for prime time, but he gave his organization exactly what it needed Sunday night — a day off for Koskinen and a win.
What more do you require?
“It’s not an ideal situation for him coming in, but I thought he did a great job,” Draisaitl said. “He made some big saves. We could have helped him out a little more, could have kept it a little tighter, but that’s his first win in his first game and it’s something that he will remember for the rest of his life.”
Skinner made more saves than either of the Sens ‘tenders, even if he let a few shots get by that belied the fact he’s not yet an NHL goalie. Heck, he hadn’t played a game since last March, and now he gets thrust into an NHL start.
If ever there was a win not to critique, this is the one.
“It was a lot of fun to get right into it. They got a ton of shots at the start there. It was nice that we got up a couple. Guys in front of me … potted out eight goals, so, that helps,” said Skinner, who enjoyed a 5-1 first-period lead at one point. “(I was) a little bit nervous at the beginning. Had to take a couple of deep breaths, lean back and just kind of see everything happening. Stay focused and not get too overwhelmed.”
He comes from an Edmonton family of nine kids, who obviously could not be in the rink to witness his debut. That may have saved him a day’s pay, however, considering how much 10 NHL tickets — including parents — would cost in a normal year.
“It’s a dream come true for me, but also my whole family, who has made a ton of sacrifices for me to be in the position I am right now,” said Skinner, a 2017 third-round pick who has grown up in this organization. He was thrilled to learn he would get his first NHL start.
“I was told (Saturday) morning. (Goalie coach) Dustin Schwartz came up and gave me the news,” Skinner said. “It was an amazing moment to be told you’re going to be playing your first NHL game. Especially coming from Dustin Schwartz. He and I have been working together for five years now. We’ve gone through a lot together. He’s my goalie coach and also a good friend. It meant a lot.”
No doubt Koskinen goes in the rematch Tuesday, but give Skinner credit — he was the best goalie on the ice Sunday, and gave his team that proverbial chance to win.
Heaping of Helpers
After 40 minutes, Draisaitl had six assists. The NHL record for one game is seven, set by the Detroit Red Wings’ Billy Taylor in 1947 and matched three times by Wayne Gretzky as an Edmonton Oiler.
Draisaitl almost had No. 7 on his first shift of the third period, then watched his ice time shrink as the Oilers nursed home an 8-5 win.
“I was not aware of (the record). It’s not something I pay too much attention to,” said Draisaitl, who is fast becoming one of the great passers of his generation. “It just happens. Some nights it just seems to go your way, and other nights it doesn’t seem to go your way. Obviously, it seemed like tonight was a night it went our way.”
Was his coach fixated on the potential record?
“I was thinking about winning,” said Dave Tippett. “We need to win, those guys (Draisaitl and McDavid) have played a lot of minutes, and I wanted to keep their minutes down. It’s about a team win.”
As for the team, you can’t judge the goals against when a rookie goalie lets in five, but they accomplished some things against an Ottawa club that looks like it might have trouble winning 15 games this season.
“We got Koskinen a rest. We got two points. We got (Gaetan) Haas up and going, and he had a strong game,” said Tippett, who also sees Tyson Barrie’s game coming around. “Tyson’s game, the last couple of games have been the best games he’s played. He’s starting to move in the right direction, become that dynamic player we were hoping for.”