The Edmonton Oilers were beaten 4-2 by the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena on Tuesday (Nov. 9), suffering their first road defeat of the NHL season to fall to 9-2-0.
Making just his second NHL start, Oilers netminder Stuart Skinner was under constant attack from the Red Wings, who were more than doubling the Oilers in shots on goal well into the middle frame. Detroit finished the game with 39 shots to Edmonton’s 33.
It’s said that more is learned in defeat than from victory and given this was just Edmonton’s second time losing in 2021-22, there is much to be gleaned from this game.
Plug Pulled on Oilers’ Power Play
The Oilers entered the game with the league’s top-ranked power play, having gone 15/30 with at least one power-play goal in each of their first 10 games. That streak ended Tuesday night when Edmonton went 0/2 with the man advantage.
Through their first 10 games, the Oilers scored an average of 2.5 goals 5-on-5 and 1.5 goals on the power play. With Edmonton scoring both their goals Tuesday at five-on-five, a power-play goal or two could have made the difference.
The Red Wings demonstrated that the most effective way to prevent the Oilers from scoring with the man advantage is not giving them said advantage. Detroit took just two minor penalties in the game, both coming in the second period. Crucially the Wings stayed out of the box in the third period after Edmonton had cut the lead to 3-2 and were pressing for the equalizer.
Granted, there were instances where the officials could have called a penalty and chose to look the other way. Still, nothing unusual based on the current standard of officiating that has fans, and teams frustrated leaguewide. This is already the fifth time that Edmonton’s had just two power-play opportunities in a game.
Oilers Need to Come Ready to Play
This was the second straight game the Oilers found themselves behind 1-0 early and trailing by three goals in the middle frame. On Friday (Nov. 5) against the New York Rangers at Rogers Place, Edmonton was able to battle back from a 4-1 deficit and eventually won 6-5 in overtime. Some teams could go an entire season with only one or two three-goal comebacks; even for the explosive Oilers, doing it in back-to-back games might have been asking too much.
Detroit took it to Edmonton from the opening face-off on Tuesday. The Red Wings outshot Edmonton 16-9 in the first and second periods. Detroit recorded eight shots before the Oilers had one. Only after falling behind 3-0 did the Oilers tilt the ice, outshooting Detroit 20-13 over the game’s final 25 minutes.
Puljujarvi scored with just 25 seconds remaining in the second period, and McDavid scored 38 seconds into the third. McDavid’s goal was his ninth of the season and gave the Oilers captain 23 points to tie teammate Leon Draisaitl for the league lead.
Trailing in games is something the Oilers don’t want to make a habit of, but they’re already familiar with this season. In their last nine games, Edmonton has allowed the first goal five times, including in both of their losses. The Oilers have also trailed at some point during the second or third period in five of those games.
Skinner Looks Strong in Season Debut
Skinner stopped 35 of the 38 shots he faced, with Detroit’s fourth goal being scored into an empty net. He made several high-danger saves and came up with some timely stops while Edmonton was attempting to rally.
But while the 23-year-old played very well between the pipes, he was unfortunate for a terrible misplay that resulted in Detroit’s third and ultimately game-winning goal. With less than six minutes to play in the second period, Skinner misfired as he attempted to put the puck off the boards behind his net. The puck came right to Detroit’s Dylan Larkin, who easily deposited it into the yawning cage.
That aside, Skinner’s performance was only further evidence that he can be an NHL goalie and potentially a very good one. Over the past couple of seasons, he has consistently provided top-notch goaltending in the American Hockey League (AHL) for the Bakersfield Condors and had an impressive 2021 NHL preseason with the Oilers, leading all Edmonton goalies in minutes (160:28) while going 2-0-1 with a 2.25 goals-against average (GAA) and .920 save percentage (SV%).
Impressively, Stuart was not at all rusty, despite this being his first game action in more than three weeks. He last played on Oct. 17, for Bakersfield, before being recalled on Oct. 20 when Oilers goalie Mike Smith was placed on injured reserve. Mikko Koskinen had started seven straight games for Edmonton before Tuesday.
Smith is traveling with the Oilers on their current five-game road trip and could ostensibly return to action any game now. So while it could be a while before Skinner gets another NHL start, the promising prospect did nothing on Tuesday to hurt his stock. Skinner’s only other NHL start came last January in Edmonton, where he backstopped to victory over the Ottawa Senators.
Oilers Next Play in Boston
On Tuesday, the Red Wings played an excellent game and were deserving victors, but Edmonton beat themselves as much as Detroit did; if they had played a full sixty minutes and not been victimized by Skinner’s botched clear, the Oilers could have left Little Caesars Arena with two points.
The Oilers would be well served to get the jump on the opposition Thursday (Nov. 11) when they visit the Boston Bruins. Edmonton’s road trip then continues with games against the Buffalo Sabres on Friday (Nov. 12) and St. Louis Blues on Sunday (Nov. 14) before concluding with a 2021 playoff rematch against the Winnipeg Jets next Tuesday (Nov. 16).
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.