‘We were as good as they were’: Oilers battle hard in OT loss to Golden Knights

Jack Eichel had a goal and two assists, and Nicolas Roy had his fifth game-winner of the season to lift the Vegas Golden Knights to a 4-3 overtime win over the Edmonton Oilers.

EDMONTON — Not many folks picked Vegas to finish atop the Pacific Division, when us “experts” made our picks back in October. A lot more picked the Edmonton Oilers, as we recollect.  

Well, here’s to the prescient few, as the Golden Knights pretty much guaranteed that they’ll finish ahead of the Oilers, with a well-earned 4-3 overtime win that sets them seven points ahead of Edmonton with just nine games left on the schedule. 

So, what did we learn on a competitive, playoff-style Saturday night in Edmonton — other than the idea that another Los Angeles-Edmonton opening round series grows more likely by the day? 

We learned that there is precious little to choose between Vegas and the Oilers, two high-end teams that each gave as good as they got on Saturday. 

“The teams are built pretty much the same way,” said Mattias Ekholm, who got caught on the ice for a long overtime shift the Oilers failed to survive. “They have some really high end guys up front and so do we. I think they are a solid team. 

“Tonight was a really good hockey game and both teams played well. I thought we had chances to win it and thought they did as well. It was a hard-working game,” he assessed. “We were as good as they were. I thought we could have won the game as much as they did, but they got on top tonight and we will have to learn from it.” 

Really, there’s not much to learn here that we didn’t already know. 

Edmonton has the better high-end game and powerplay, which is the way they stack up against every NHL opponent — maybe even including Boston. But the defence corps and the depth forwards likely favour the Golden Knights, who led this game by scores of 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 before third-line centre Nicolas Roy scored the overtime winner. 

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And the goaltending, with both Stuart Skinner and Laurent Brossoit enjoying some fantastic sequences, was pretty much a saw-off. 

You can question an Oilers team that trailed for the lion’s share of this now completed three-game homestand against San Jose, Arizona and Vegas. Or you can give the Oilers credit for accruing five of six possible points by always finding a way to come back, as they did three times versus a good Golden Knights team. 

“We’re a good team too. So we’re not going to go away,” said Leon Draisaitl. “We’re going to keep pushing them.”  

Draisaitl’s game has gone through the roof in the past three weeks or so. He was Edmonton’s best forward again Saturday with a goal and an assist, and now has four straight multi points games (1-10-11), a career high in points (112), and an eight-game points streak. 

Draisaitl’s 28 powerplay goals are the most in an NHL season since Mario Lemieux in 1995-96. 

“It was a tight game,” he reckoned. “It was what you expect in the playoffs, (against) a team that we could face. I think we know how to handle these types of games. Obviously tonight didn’t go our way, but we will take the point.” 

Hey, Vegas was full marks for this win. The teams were tied 2-2 after 40 minutes, and Vegas came out and outshot Edmonton in the third period by a 15-6 count. They were the better team in the final 20-plus minutes, undoubtedly. 

Give the Oilers credit for tying this one up three times. But give Vegas the two points for being, on the whole, the better team. 

“I think we are playing all right,” Draisaitl said. “There are a couple of things we need to clean up and I think we will be ready to go.” 

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