EDMONTON — Boy, oh boy. Could this have been a night to remember.
Sam Gagner — “Poppa Oiler” — rolled back into town and scored twice. Edmonton forged a wild comeback with 50 shots on goal. A victory at home, and the first back-to-back wins of the year.
What a story!
Instead, it was the same old story: a defensively derelict team made enough egregious errors to give up their usual four, and the Edmonton Oilers lost again — this time by a 4-3 count agains the Dallas Stars.
“We just made too many boo-boos tonight. Again,” said Evander Kane, who continues to outplay Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl here in Edmonton. “Three of their goals are odd-man rushes, and they end up in the back of our net every time. We can’t expect to score four, five goals every night. It’s just not realistic.”
Not when your big boys aren’t firing. McDavid and Draisaitl were ice cold, and as such, a power play that went 0-for-4 likely cost its team a point in the standings, at least.
It is November, and the Oilers haven’t won a game at Rogers Place yet. They are 2-6-1, and it’s getting late early in Edmonton.
What’s the mood in the dressing room?
“The mood is where it should be,” Kane said. “We know we’re a good hockey team, but it’s enough talking about it. It’s time to work. But these big mistakes, we can’t continue to make.
“We have to show it on the ice. It’ll start on Saturday afternoon.”
In the 10th game of the season, it will start. Really…?
While the Oilers needed 100 shots at the goal to eke three past backup Scott Wedgewood, when the Stars had a chance they buried it. And it always came off an Oilers error that has become their calling card this season.
A bad pinch by Cody Ceci helped to open the scoring. A lazy, inattentive dump-in by Philip Broberg — followed by an unexplainable Dylan Holloway change — made it 2-1 Stars.
McDavid and Evan Bouchard each took turns coasting on the 4-1 goal, the kind of defensive play from your best players that simply leads you to lose.
Edmonton’s best players were their worst players on Thursday, at both ends of the rink.
“A couple of mistakes got magnified,” said newcomer Gagner, treading lightly, “but I thought for the most part we drove play. It was just a matter of having that intensity throughout the game to bear down on certain things to happen.”
This Oilers team can’t keep its foot on the gas for 60 minutes, routinely napping mid-game long enough to undo any good work that’s been accomplished. We won’t criticize an off night for the perennial 50-goal man Draisaitl, but when he is misfiring like this, those mistakes truly come home to roost.
Despite a 4-1 deficit, Kane and Gagner hauled this team into a 4-3 game on the night Gagner began his third stint as an Oiler. But in the final moments, with the goalie pulled and all the big guns on the ice, Gagner was left standing on the bench, watching.
It was a mistake by the coach, pure and simple, who went to his go-to guys on a night when Gagner was red hot, then never got the whistle he wanted to make a change.
“He was next player up for us,” Jay Woodcroft said, “but we didn’t get a whistle or an opportunity because we were in the offensive zone.”
It was true theatre, with Gagner coming back at age 34. The Oilers’ first-round selection way back in 2007, today he is a salt-and-pepper-haired vet playing NHL game No. 1,016.
Gagner showed the rest of the Oilers forwards what it looks like to come in off the perimeter and get your nose dirty. If it’s not too late, his presence in this lineup could have a much great effect than expected.
“If you want to win you have to have veteran guys like that on your team, because there’s a lot of intangibles come with it,” marvelled Kane.
Winger Connor Brown left the game in the second period with an apparent lower-body injury. There was no way to tell if the injury had anything to do with the torn ACL he suffered a year ago, but he has now played nine games for Edmonton this season. His 10th game will trigger a $3.25-million bonus.
For a team with only 11 forwards, the Oilers will have to bring someone up from the farm, or go with 10 forwards and 17 skaters on Saturday afternoon versus Nashville.