Certain wins are a portent of playoff success, like that defensive gem Edmonton pitched at Dallas in a 4-1 win on Thursday. Then there are wins like the Saturday’s victory in Seattle, which remind us of something else:
If the game is going to get sloppy, devolving into high event hockey and a race to six, the Edmonton Oilers don’t mind playing that way one bit, thank you very much.
The Oilers gave up plenty on a sloppy Saturday afternoon in Seattle, but Evander Kane scored a hat trick in a crucial 6-4 road win, a regulation victory that drops Seattle three points back of Edmonton in the Pacific Division. Four points, really, when you consider that Edmonton has the tie-breaker over Seattle, having won three of four meetings this season.
In the end, Edmonton just outscored the Kraken in an entertaining game where Natural Stat Trick had the scoring chances at 30-24 for Seattle in all situations. The Oilers scored first, then made sure Seattle never scored more than one goal in a row.
“They had some good moments, where they pushed and had some zone time,” allowed Kane, who has 13 goals in just 29 games this season. “Stuey made some big saves down the stretch and early on in the game to keep us with that lead. Every time they scored we were able to answer back.
“I think that’s a sign of a good hockey team.”
Edmonton got a solid 33 saves from Stuart Skinner, who was making his sixth straight start — and ninth in the past 10 games – while Seattle got below average work from both of their goalies.
Goaltending is why the Seattle Kraken will be the latest version of “eight wasted days” in the post-season, only in opposite fashion of the way Flames coach Darryl Sutter referenced the powerhouse Colorado Avalanche a year ago. You can’t win with goaltending like the Kraken had on Saturday.
The game opened with a weak goal allowed by Philipp Grubauer, and closed on a softie let in by replacement ‘tendy Martin Jones. The final shots on goal read 37-23 in Seattle’s favour, the final score 6-4, with Seattle’s Eeli Tolvanen finally cashing in garbage time for Seattle’s fourth goal.
In between, the Oilers were not exactly air-tight, but when you score six, you don’t have to be. If they needed eight, the Oilers probably could have got there.
“There were moments when (the Kraken) hemmed us in, but that’s the way they play,” said Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft. “You’ve got to give them credit — they do a lot of really good things, and they’re an offensive team. So you’re not going to be perfect defensively all the time. That’s why you need a goaltender and he made some big saves when called upon.”
We shouldn’t be surprised that the Oilers and Kraken scored 10 on a Saturday afternoon. Edmonton is the top scoring team in the NHL, at 3.97 goals per game, while Seattle is fifth at 3.48. Meanwhile, the Oilers only know one way to play on Hockey Night in Canada, totalling 33 goals by both teams in their past three Saturday tilts.
As usual, Connor McDavid (1-2-3) and Leon Draisaitl (three assists) feasted in a loose affair, with three points apiece. But Mattias Ekholm had another three assists, Kane appears to be finding his range, and Zach Hyman returned after missing two games to score for the first time in five games.
It marks Hyman’s first ever 30-goal season, on an Oilers team that has led the league in offence all season long. Having Kane and Hyman chipping in, with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (85 points) having a career year, this is becoming a mighty a tough team to defend.
“That’s part of my job, to be productive for this group,” offered Kane. “I mean, we have the best two players in the world, but they can’t carry a team and win a championship. You need everybody pulling their weight.
“Recently we’ve gotten some really good depth scoring for the bottom half of our lineup. That’s been huge in some of our wins lately. You need everybody going down the stretch here and in the postseason.”
Edmonton comes home to face San Jose and Arizona this week, before Vegas visits on Saturday.