The Edmonton Oilers defeated the Washington Capitals 5-3 at Capital One Arena on Wednesday (Feb. 2) to enter the All-Star break on a six-game point streak.
After blowing a 3-0 lead, Edmonton was saved by the late heroics of veteran forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who broke a 3-3 tie with a short-handed goal at 15:57 of the third period, then scored into an empty net with just over a minute remaining.
Leon Draisaitl, Evander Kane, and Connor McDavid also had goals for the Oilers, who got 24 saves from goalie Mikko Koskinen in the victorious effort.
Edmonton’s explosive start, collapse in the middle, and late recovery against the Capitals were a microcosm for the first half of its season. The Oilers stormed out of the gate with a 16-5-0 record, then went 2-11-2 over the next 15 games before going on their current 5-0-1 streak. Here are three takeaways from Wednesday’s win in Washington:
Oilers Have a (Sort Of) Great Start
The Oilers’ propensity for allowing the game’s first goal reached a level of infamy over the first half of their schedule. Entering play Wednesday, Edmonton had trailed 1-0 in 18 of its last 20 games, 27 of the previous 32, and 30 times total this season.
Correlatingly, Edmonton’s netminders haven’t been making a ton of saves before the opponent solves them: in 18 of their first 41 games, the Oilers were scored on within the first five shots against.
Well, on Wednesday, Edmonton scored not only the first but the second and third goals, surging ahead 3-0 with the game barely five minutes old. And yet, it took Washington only three shots to put the puck behind Koskinen, with Capitals forward Lars Eller scoring at 7:36 to make it 3-1.
That marked the 15th game that Edmonton has conceded a goal within the opponent’s first three shots. Koskinen has been the starter in nine of those games.
They’re still not getting early-game saves often enough, but at least the Oilers are starting to strike fast themselves, having jumped in front 3-0 in the first period in two of the last three games, since the controversial signing of Kane to a one-year contract, last Thursday (Jan. 27).
Kane Records First Multi-Point Game with Oilers
Speaking of Kane, the powerful forward scored Edmonton’s second goal at 3:01 of the first period and assisted on Nugent-Hopkins’ empty-netter, giving the 30-year-old forward his first multi-point game as an Oiler.
Kane is quickly getting up to speed despite having gone several weeks without playing a pro hockey game before joining the Oilers. In three games with Edmonton, he has three points, including a goal in his Oilers debut, last Saturday (Jan. 29) against the Montreal Canadiens, nine shots on goal, and a rating of plus-5.
Oilers coach Dave Tippett hasn’t been shy about using the newcomer, who is averaging nearly 18 minutes per game, playing alongside McDavid on Edmonton’s top line.
Draisaitl and McDavid Returning to Form
There had been a significant downturn in scoring from both Draisaitl and McDavid coinciding with their team’s lengthy slump. After combining for 37 goals (21 and 16, respectively) in the first 22 games, Edmonton’s All-Star tandem had just eight goals between them (five and three) over the next 14 games. Now, after both scored against the Capitals, they’ve got a combined 10 goals (six and four) on Edmonton’s current 5-0-1 streak.
Wednesday’s game was just the second time since Dec. 3 that both Draisaitl and McDavid have scored in the same game, the other being a 3-2 overtime victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Jan. 25. Overall, the Oilers are 7-1-0 this season when both of their Hart Trophy recipients score at least once in the same game, a stat that shows just how crucial the dynamic duo is to Edmonton’s success.
Draisaitl and McDavid are now off to Las Vegas to play in the 2022 NHL All-Star Game on Saturday (Feb. 5), while their Edmonton teammates get a few days off from playing. The Oilers will look to extend their point streak to seven games when they return to action next Tuesday (Feb. 8), hosting the Vegas Golden Knights at Rogers Place.
Brian is an Edmonton-based sports writer and broadcaster. His experience includes working as a sports reporter for the Edmonton Sun, where he covered the Edmonton Oil Kings 2013-14 Memorial Cup championship season.