The Edmonton Oilers made their inaugural visit to Climate Pledge Arena on Friday (Dec. 3) to take on the expansion Seattle Kraken. The historic game provided something that had never been seen before. It also provided something that has been seen a lot. But neither was something that the Oilers wanted to see.
Seattle skated away with a 4-3 win, marking the first time in the Kraken’s brief franchise history that they have defeated a Pacific Division rival. That also made the victory Seattle’s first against the Oilers, who had beaten the Kraken 5-2 at Rogers Place in the teams’ first meeting earlier this season.
For the 10th time in their last 13 games, the Oilers gave up the first goal, with Seattle’s Yanni Gourde scoring on goalie Stuart Skinner just 49 seconds into the game. Edmonton never held the lead and trailed on three separate occasions.
The loss snapped a three-game win streak for the Oilers, who still own one of the best records in the NHL, at 16-6-0. Here are some of the hot topics from the post-game chatter:
Oilers Can’t Keep Starting This Way
Friday was already the 13th time this season that the Oilers have fallen behind 1-0. That’s tied for sixth-most in the NHL, and the five teams with more are all at or near the bottom of their respective division’s standings.
Edmonton is tied for the league lead with seven wins when giving up the first goal. But they have yet to lose when scoring first, going 9-0-0. And while the Oilers have been able to dig themselves out of early holes often this season, Friday was an example of why it’s often said, “if you keep playing with fire, you’re eventually going to get burnt.”
Less than six minutes after Gourde’s goal, Leon Draisaitl scored for Edmonton to even things up at 1-1. The game was tied for 3:57 before ex-Oiler defenseman Adam Larsson tallied to restore Seattle’s lead. The Oilers responded again, with Evan Bouchard scoring 8:12 into the second period to make it 2-2. The level scoreboard lasted even less this time, as Colin Blackwell beat Skinner at 13:06 and Adam Wennberg struck at 15:53 to put Seattle in front 4-2. This time the deficit was too big for the Oilers to overcome. Connor McDavid scored midway through the third period, but Edmonton couldn’t find the equalizer in the game’s final minutes.
Stats that are perhaps even more telling than the first goal is Edmonton’s record based on its situation by period. After the first period, the Oilers are 9-0-0 when leading, 7-1-0 when tied, and 0-5-0 when trailing. After the second period, they’re 11-0-0 when leading, 2-1-0 when tied, and 3-5-0 when trailing.
To this point, it’s remarkable that a team that opens the scoring or has a lead after 20 minutes just above 40% of the time has managed to win nearly three-quarters of its games. But as Friday showed, if the Oilers are going to continue to chase games, it’s eventually going to catch up with them.
The Good and Bad of Skinner’s Game
Edmonton coach Dave Tippett made an interesting decision to start 23-year-old Skinner on Friday. Veteran Oilers netminder Mikko Koskinen had started the last three games and won them all, posting an excellent 2.34 goals-against average and .929 save percentage over that stretch.
The Oilers previous game was Wednesday (Dec. 1), and their next game is Sunday (Dec. 5), so starting the 33-year-old Koskinen on back-to-back nights wasn’t a concern, but rather than ride the hot hand, Tippett elected to give Skinner the nod, so as not to let his young goalie – who hadn’t played since Edmonton’s 4-1 loss to the Dallas Stars on Nov. 24 — get too rusty.
Skinner has given up more than three goals in consecutive games for the first time as an NHL goalie. On Friday, the Edmonton native provided reasons to believe he has a very bright future while at the same time showing he’s still very much a work in progress.
There were probably a couple of goals Skinner would like back, particularly Seattle’s fourth, a softie snuck underneath his pads when Wennberg put the puck towards the net in what appeared to be an attempted pass. But it was timing that made that goal such a backbreaker, as the Oilers were trying to regroup from falling behind again and suddenly found themselves staring down a two-goal deficit.
On the plus side, Sinner made a handful of huge stops in the third period, giving Edmonton a chance right until the final horn. This isn’t the first time Skinner has responded strongly after allowing a soft goal, an indication of poise and self-confidence that signals a very good goalie once he fully develops and becomes experienced at the NHL level.
Skinner, who stopped 30 of 34 Seattle shots, is now 2-4 this season. Koskinen (12-2) is a lock to get the next start between the pipes for Edmonton.
Nugent-Hopkins Reaches Benchmark Stat
To wrap things up on a positive note, veteran Edmonton forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had an assist on the goals from both Draisaitl and Bouchard. The latter gave the 28-year-old career point No. 500, as he became just the 10th player in Oilers franchise history to reach that milestone.
The other nine men on that list include five Hall-of-Famers (Glenn Anderson, Paul Coffey, Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Mark Messier, two future Hall-of-Famers (Draisaitl and McDavid), and two era-defining players (Ryan Smyth and Doug Weight).
Nugent-Hopkins has played all 11 of his NHL seasons with the Oilers, who drafted him first overall in 2011. He has 187 goals and 313 assists in 678 career games, including two goals and 20 assists this season.
Edmonton returns to the ice at Rogers Place on Sunday at 6 PM MST, when they host the Los Angeles Kings to open a six-game homestand.
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.