EDMONTON — We’ve tapped our foot for years, waiting for the day when the Edmonton Oilers could figure out how to win games that Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and the power play didn’t win for them.
Well, perhaps that day has finally arrived.
Edmonton scored five even-strength goals in a 5-4 overtime win on Monday, and neither No. 97 nor 29 dented the twine even once. But it goes much deeper than that.
In a game where San Jose had three goals called back after successful challenges – two for offside and one for goaltender interference – the true heroes on the night were sitting the Oilers’ video department: video coach Jeremy Coupal and video co-ordinator Noah Segall.
“I don’t think those guys get credited enough for what they do,” said Oilers defenceman Mattias Ekholm, who scored twice and went plus-3 in a sloppy but highly entertaining win. “They’re doing long hours too. They grind it out, and if you look at it, what’s their margin of error? It’s an offside by inches, right? And because you’re supposed to always be right when you challenge, it’s kind of a not-so-rewarding job at times, because you always have to be right.
“They won us the game tonight.”
Hey, somebody had to.
After a five-game stretch that featured opponents Boston, Toronto, Dallas and Seattle, in came the San Jose Sharks — last in the West and playing for a draft pick.
The Oilers looked every bit like a team that just couldn’t work up a lather for that kind of a Monday night opponent. They started slowly, got very average goaltending from Jack Campbell — beaten seven times, though only four counted — and had to gut this one out.
“Our group, we’ve got to be better in here for a full 60-minute effort,” admitted Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse, who sifted home the OT winner on a partial breakaway. “But we were resilient. There are nights that you are not going to feel it, but you have to find a way to win and we did that tonight.”
“Last week … we knew it was going to be a tough week,” echoed Ekholm. “I guess this might have been a little bit of exhaling, maybe? But, yes, we could have been a lot better.”
Maybe as a team, sure. But as one player, it’s hard to think that Ekholm could be any better than he’s been here through his first 10 games. He has three goals and nine points with the Oilers, and he is a whopping plus-15.
The big Swede walked in and rifled a slapper top shelf to tie the game at 4-4 with 3:47 to play, matching Erik Karlsson’s two goals in a showcase of two of Sweden’s finest blue-liners. If the Olympics were held tomorrow, those two would make one heck of a pair.
“It’s a result of playing with 97,” downplayed Ekholm. “If you guys look at that goal, there’s two guys sprinting at him, and that gives me all day and all night to wind up and take a look – and take a look again – and then hopefully hit it.”
Still, two goals in one night? This was just what the doctor ordered on a night when it just wouldn’t go in for either McDavid or Draisaitl (two helpers each).
“Don’t get used to it with me,” Ekholm warned. “I heard it was the second multi-goal game of my (729-game) career.”
With three disallowed goals for San Jose, and one for Edmonton, this was truly one of the strange nights in a long season.
“There was just a lot going on,” said big Oilers forward Nick Bjugstad, shaking his head. “I think our coaching staff and our team would prefer not to have a game like that, but we proved we could rally back and battle through some adversity there.”
Edmonton got nailed for goalie interference, costing Zach Hyman yet another goal when he hooked James Reimer’s skate in the crease.
Later in the game, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had Reimer down and out as he maneuvered for a better scoring position. Knowing he was in trouble, Reimer just reached out and tackled Nugent-Hopkins, proving that a skater can’t breathe on a goalie – but a goalie can put both hands on a skater and wrap him up to deny him a goal with no issues.
Whatever, this was one of those games where you take the points and burn the game tape.
It’s getting to the time of year when we’d all fast-forward to the playoffs. Certainly, the Oilers looked that way on a muddling Monday night at Rogers Place.