Coyotes 3, Oilers 2
As the old saying goes, half a loaf is better than none. It certainly applied to the Edmonton Oilers Monday night, who trailed by a goal as the clock ticked past 5:00 to go in the third period. The Oilers did manage to net an equalizer off the unlikely stick of Gaetan Haas to take the game to overtime, but the Arizona Coyotes took advantage of some sloppy coverage two minutes into the extra frame to pound home the game winner and that was that.
As is usual with the NHL’s cockamamie points system, an overtime loss hurts a lot less than one in regulation. The Oilers will take the one point and move on. Meanwhile, the Coyotes will leave Edmonton with two points for what seems like the hundredth time this decade after outskating their hosts for the first half of the game, then playing Hang On Harvey hockey in the back half with a few key stops from Darcy Kuemper.
#4 Kris Russell, 5. Steady defensively, nothing going offensively. Business as usual, in other words. Did chip in a team-high 3:39 on the penalty kill.
#12 Colby Cave, 5. Had some good moments along the way with 4 hits, some solid grinding, good puck support in his own end, and a couple of decent passes. Standout play for this observer, however, was an horrendous line change near the end of a second period penalty kill that led to a wide open 4-on-2 rush against. Nurse had the answer that time with a splendid defensive stop, but a bad mistake from a fundamentally sound player that is certain to get feedback from the coaching staff.
#16 Jujhar Khaira, 5. Returned tot he bottom six with a low event game, not for want of trying. One of the foot soldiers in a game that was largely played in the trenches. 1 shot, 2 hits, but 2 giveaways. During his 11+ minutes at evens the Oilers had 3 shots, the Coyotes none at all. Also chipped in on the PK.
#18 James Neal, 4. Just 1 shot attempt in 16½ minutes. Took a debatable tripping penalty that put his team in a hole early in the third. Made a critical mistake on the game winner when he failed to control the puck, then decisively lost a battle for possession when Schmaltz beat him in the Arizona end without a throw. Doesn’t seem well suited to the open-ice overtime game and that cost the Oilers in this one.
#19 Mikko Koskinen, 5. Allowed a brutal goal on the first shot he faced when Michael Grabner beat him short side from the side boards, and just like that Edmonton’s only lead of the night was gone after just two minutes. Bounced back after with some decent stops. Beaten thereafter on a pair of hard high wristers from the slot, both on 2-on-1s as his team suffered a few breakdowns in front of him. His best moment came late in the first when he made a pair of excellent stops off Conor Garland from point blank range, first with the pad, then the glove. 24 shots, 21 saves. .875 save percentage.
#25 Darnell Nurse, 6. Had a strong night for the most part, skated well and was involved in all aspects of the game and in all three zones. 4 shots, 2 hits, 3 takeaways, and dominant flow-of-play stats as Oilers had a 27-12 edge in shot attempts and 16-7 in actual shots during his 20½ minutes at 5v5. His best moment was a nifty defensive stop that cut out a 4-on-2 Coyotes rush. But he was among those burned on the game winner; when facing a 2-on-1 rush, he pulled his stick out of the passing lane only to see the puck zip right through that lane a split second later.
#29 Leon Draisaitl, 6. Found McDavid time and again with sweet passes of various distances off both sides of his blade. The first one worked best, when he found #97 with a sharp backhand feed just outside the attacking blueline that sprang the speedster into the zone for the 1-0 goal. Did cough up the puck on the tying goal minutes later, but the quarter-chance that developed was well under control until Koskinen muffed the shot. Strong on the dot at 12/16=75%. Was blatantly fouled on multiple occasions with at least three obvious penalties (elbowing to the head, open-field tackling on a dangerous rush, and two-handed slashing) all missed or ignored by an officiating crew that frankly had a weak night. By the time he got mauled in the low slot in the late going — a more marginal infraction — both he and the Rogers Palace fans were barking hard at the men in the stripes, and not without cause.
#36 Joel Persson, 2. In over his head against a fast opponent all night long according to coach Tippett, including getting burned on the two great chances by Garland late in the first. His tough night culminated in a brutal sequence in the middle frame where he coughed up the puck at the offensive blueline and then was utterly ineffectual in the backcheck against a bigger, faster, stronger opponent, Carl Soderberg, who turned the gaffe into the 2-1 goal. Persson found himself on the bench for the rest of the game, playing just 10:08.
#39 Alex Chiasson, 3. Another Oiler who struggled with the pace of the game. Started with a promotion to the first line but found zero chemistry (shot attempts +3/-9 during 8 minutes together). Stumbled awkwardly on one backcheck turning a 2-on-2 into a 2-on-1 and Tippett had seen enough of that combination right then and there, on the principle that the third wheel with 29 and 97 will need to deliver reliable play on the defensive side of the puck. Did muster one decent shot from close range but couldn’t cash, and remains locked on zero goals for the season.
#44 Zack Kassian, 6. Found himself on a line with RNH and Neal and played a mostly effective role. Didn’t help the cause with a neutral zone penalty for a phantom hold but a case could be made that was a referee error rather than one by the player. Did play a key role on the game-tying tally by contributing tot he chaos at the net front and screening Darcy Kuemper. 2 shots, 5 hits including a massive wallop of Jordan Oesterle.
#52 Patrick Russell, 5. Did his best work on the penalty kill where his 2:26 SHTOi led all forwards, won his share of battles and was personally responsible for clearing the puck out of the zone on several occasions. Created little at even strength.
#60 Markus Granlund, 5. Very little impact on the game, pro or con. Played just 8 minutes. Had what looked to be a tap-in late in the third but was foiled by a great defensive play by Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
#74 Ethan Bear, 6. Played a rock solid 24:19 including a team-high 21:50 at even strength, heady territory for a rookie. This one has earned his coach’s trust, and was rewarded with extra ice time after Persson got benched. Oilers dominated possession when he and Nurse were on the ice, with Bear’s sharp passing in his own zone and heady play along and inside the Arizona blueline playing a key role. Made a key defensive stop when he tipped a shot on a 3-on-1 that developed suddenly inside Edmonton territory. 3 shots, 2 hits, and strong on the penalty kill.
#77 Oscar Klefbom, 5. His early offensive run (1-8-9 through 7 GP) has died on the vine, as he has now gone pointless in 9 straight games. Had some issues defensively especially in outmanned situations, though he was hung out to dry by his partner on a couple of them, and by McDavid on another. But played his own role on one dandy chance when he fumbled a loose puck in his own slot. Played a monstrous 27:35 to again lead the Oilers and had a lot of small, solid plays along the way.
#83 Matt Benning, 6. Played a solid, smart game. Moved the pouck well with a few sharp outlet passes, not always his strength. Drew a penalty with a good move in the slot. Made a key play on the game-tying goal by finding an open lane — not easily done in this game — and letting fly a good low shot which Haas was able to tip home. 0-1-1, +2 raising his season total to +9, by far the best among the D corps. Not sure how he does it, but he keeps doing it.
#89 Sam Gagner, 6. Had some jump in his step and was rewarded with a shot at 1RW down the stretch. Moved the puck sharply in the o-zone. Came close to cashing his first of the year in the dying seconds of the middle frame. 2 shots, 2 takeaways, 1 blocked shot, some decent backchecking and no defensive lapses.
#91 Gaetan Haas, 6. Played just 7 minutes, during which time Edmonton outshot Arizona 6-0. Wasted one early chance when he took a sharp pass from Khaira but couldn’t get a shot off. But made up for that in a big way when he tipped home Benning’s point shot with under 5 minutes left to earn the Oilers an important standings point. His first NHL goal was a big one.
#93 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 5. Played with a chip on his shoulder in what was a fairly feisty affair at times. His 3 hits included a solid dart against OEL. 10/14=71% on the dot. Fired 4 shots to co-lead the team but couldn’t cash & remains stuck on 1 goal for the season, now on 40 shots. But made a critical mistake in overtime when he took a bad route to the puck and was beaten on a sharp cut by Nick Schmaltz deep in Arizona territory, then was unable to overtake his opponent on the rink-length footrace that followed.
#97 Connor McDavid, 7. Opened the scoring on his first shift and what a beauty it was, as he jumped on a loose puck in Oilers territory, fed it to Draisaitl in the neutral zone, headed for daylight to take Leon’s sharp return pass, then blow pass first OEL, then Kuemper for the finish. All at warp speed, natch. Chipped in on 4 more high-grade scoring chances but no more joy. Had one defensive lapse on the powerplay when he made a pass to nobody right across his own zone, then lingered by the boards to watch the ensuing chaos rather than taking mitigating action, forcing a huge save by Koskinen. But way more good than bad on this night.
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