WE OWN YOU, NASHVILLE! Final Score: 3-2 Oilers in the shootout
After picking up a pair of wins over the Flames and Canucks respectively, I was looking at tonight’s contest against the Predators as a measuring stick game where we’d get a very real look at whether or not the Oilers are actually turning things around. Sitting in second place in the Central Division, the Predators are a very good hockey team but I also thought that the Oilers have matched up against them quite well over the past few years and I was hopeful that the boys would find a way to keep that run going. I know it’s a simple dream, but I also believe it was a gone one. If they were going to make that happen, the first step was to get a good start and keep Nashville off the board, but as we all know, that second part is easier said than done these days. And right on cue, the Preds got on the board first with an early goal from Filip Fosberg that forced the Oilers to chase for the 11th straight game, and I can’t even begin to understand how this keeps happening. At some point, we may have to consider an exorcism or something because this is the kind of run that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. The good news is that the Oilers kept battling despite the deficit and were rewarded for their work with a beautiful game-tying goal from Connor McDavid in the dying moments of the period. It was the kind of goal where Connor made something out of nothing and it was obviously hugely important to not let the hole get any bigger. The quick goal against sucked, but the response was excellent.
In the early part of the second period, both sides were finding ways to make things happen in the offensive zone as the play seemed to flow back and forth quite more evenly. The Oilers would get a decent chance, the Preds would respond with a jab of their own. And for the second time, Nashville cashed a chance in first as Matt Duchene was left with a clean look on the net and enough time to make nachos, and he used it to restore his team’s lead with a snipe from the first. Undeterred, our heroes kept moving their feet and working for opportunities of their own, and like a knight on the most majestic of steeds, Evan Bouchard tied the game for a second time with a shot from the point that took a friendly bounce off a skate and through the goaltender. It was the kind of bounce the Oilers hadn’t been getting so I was thanking the Hockey Gords for the blessing. With the score knotted at two and 20 minutes to play, it really was anyone’s game and if the Oilers were going to come out on top they were going to need to keep firing while also crashing the crease for any garbage that may get left behind because that seemed like the only way to get something past Saros. The guy was about as annoying as an opposing goalie can be since the Oilers were absolutely peppering him, and I was nervous that he was putting in the kind of performance that ends up with me eating beets again. Thankfully, Mikko Koskinen was also up for the task as both goaltenders were rock solid down the stretch and through OT.
Even though there’s no way in hell that I will complain about a win, the fact that it came in the shootout was almost a let-down after what was a very exciting overtime period. Those five minutes were as intense as it gets and I would truly love nothing more than for the NHL to extend the three-on-three and have games decided that way instead of a shooter vs. goalie skills competition. Then again, with the way Connor McDavid ended the game with a deke you’ll see 200x by the weekend, maybe I should just stop complaining and enjoy the show. Either way, this was a huge win for the Oilers and I hope it gives their confidence yet another jolt as they take their show on the road.
THE BRIGHT SIDE
- Connor McDavid tied the game (1-1) with a goal in the final 30 seconds of the period after he hastened the puck up ice and beat his former teammate, Matt Benning, with a burst of speed before firing the puck through Saros’ legs. As nice as that goal was, McDavid outdid himself in the shootout with a game-winning dangle that I’m pretty sure got the whole first row pregnant.
- Evan Bouchard tied the game (2-2) for a second time after his point shot took a friendly bounce, deflecting into the net off of Ryan Johansson’s skate as he was battling with Derek Ryan in the slot.
- Mikko Koskinen played very well against the Flames and the Canucks this week, and so I wasn’t exactly surprised to see him get another start against the Predators. While not as busy as his counterpart, Kostco was very good for the Oilers again and he made a bunch of big saves from right in tight. I know the Oilers outshot the Predators by a healthy margin, but I’d also suggest that Nashville had more from right in tight, and more often than not, Koskinen was up for the challenge. Koskinen finished the night with 28 saves and a .933 save%.
- Darnell Nurse had himself another big night as he put in a mind-bending 28:47 to go along with an assist, four shots on goal, five hits, two blocks, and a takeaway.
- I don’t normally shout Devin Shore out in the Wrap Up but I’m going to do it here because I thought he had a really strong game. For a guy that didn’t play much — he finished with 7:41 in TOI — he found a way to make plays on both sides of the puck and picked up an assist while also winning 50% of the draws he took.
- The penalty kill was excellent against Nashville as they were able to handle all three shorthanded situations they faced.
- I’m pleased to advise you all that we won the Corskis and outshot the enemy by a 46-30 total.
- Diving into the spreadsheets, the Oilers finished the night with a 56.16 CF% and a 52.12 xGF%.
- The faceoff crew will be excited to know that the Oilers finished the night at 54%% on the dot.
- Do me a favor and check out the latest episode of Better Lait Than Never and let me know what you think! Subscribe to Better Lait Than Never for FREE on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and wherever else you get your podcasts.
THE FACE PALMERS
- Make it 11 straight games where the Oilers have allowed the first goal of the game. As Gregor wrote about in this morning’s game notes, this is a new franchise record and one that you certainly don’t want to have on your books.
- Philip Forsberg opened the scoring (1-0) with a wrist shot from distance that made its way through traffic and beat Koskinen high on the blocker side. Seeing as the Oilers have the last change, I’m not sure why Tippett had his fourth line out against the Forsberg line but that’s the way she goes sometimes.
- Matt Duchene restored Nashville’s lead (2-1) with a laser beam from the faceoff dot that beat Koskinen high on the glove side. I know some people were talking about another glove hand goal, but the bigger problem for me on this play was how Keith got caught on a pinch and Duchene had all the time in the world to pick his spot and rifle a shot.
- The power play struck out on three opportunities, which would have been unheard of back in October. Thankfully the boys were able to score some goals at even strength but it will be absolutely necessary for them to figure this out as we make our way down the stretch.
- As much as I love to watch the boys firing pucks at high volume, I’d love it even more if they also had guys crashing to the net while it was happening.
- I thought the boys got pushed around a little bit at times and I wonder how much having Kane in the lineup will add that flavor of play in our favor for once.
- Only one four-second shift for Bouchard in the bonus period.
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— Mike Salame (@Mike_Salame) January 27, 2022
If I was the Oilers I would simply score first
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Break out the new balances!!!
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— Woodguy (@Woodguy55) January 28, 2022
Dad right down Main Street in the family station wagon. No cigar.
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