3 Takeaways From Oilers’ Third Straight Loss Against Wild

The Edmonton Oilers are on a season-worst three-game losing streak after being beaten 4-1 by the visiting Minnesota Wild at Rogers Place on Tuesday (Dec. 7). Once again, the Oilers fell behind early and could not find the offensive pop that seemed to be there without fail every time they got themselves into trouble during the first few weeks of the season.

Jesse Puljujarvi scored Edmonton’s lone goal in the second period, sandwiched between two goals by Minnesota in both the first and third periods. Mikko Koskinen made a second consecutive start for the Oilers and stopped 22 of 26 Wild shots.

Jesse Puljujarvi, Edmonton Oilers
Jesse Puljujarvi, Edmonton Oilers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

It was the seventh straight win for the red hot Wild, who now boasts a record of 18-6-1 and sit atop the Western Conference standings with 37 points through 25 games.

Edmonton, which had previously lost to the Settle Kraken on Friday (Dec. 3) and Los Angeles Kings on Sunday (Dec. 5), is now 16-8-0 and has slipped to third place in the Pacific Division standings with 32 points from 24 games.

Game Was Decided Early

Those of us on THW’s team of Oilers writers can pretty much copy and paste this section from the previous game. Or the one before that. Or the one before that. Or the … well, you get the picture.

So we won’t dive too deep into the longer-term stats. At this point, Edmonton’s early game struggles have been discussed so much that any fan who regularly reads up on the Oilers can recite the numbers: 12 times now in the last 15 games, Edmonton has given up the first goal; 15 times this season the Oilers have fallen behind 1-0.

But zeroing in on the particulars from Edmonton’s current losing streak makes stark just how costly a slow start can be. The matter has become particularly egregious, with Edmonton conceding the opening goal at 0:49 against Seattle and 2:01 against L.A., before Minnesota’s Joel Eriksson Ek scored on the power play just 1:11 into the first period on Tuesday.

Subsequently, in each of the last three games, Edmonton fell behind by two goals in the second period and cut the lead to one going into the second intermission, only to be then shut out in the third period.

On Tuesday, the Oilers played reasonably well over the final 40 minutes, particularly in the middle frame when Edmonton had the bulk of possession and outshot Minnesota 20-6—but spotting a two-goal lead to a team as strong as the Wild is too much to overcome. Until they stop stumbling out of the gate and allowing the opposition to dictate the game, what the Oilers do in the second or third period will not make a difference to their bottom line.

Edmonton’s Power Outage and Draisaitl’s Drought

Incredibly, Edmonton managed to win six of the first 10 games in which they surrendered the first goal. But they’re only 1-4 in that scenario since. The difference is that early in the season, Edmonton used an explosive power play with superhuman scoring from Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid to dig out of deep holes. But that wasn’t sustainable, even for players as brilliant as the dynamic duo, and Edmonton is finding out the hard way what happens when the power play isn’t clicking at a 50% rate and McDavid and Draisaitl aren’t chipping in two to three points apiece every night.

On Tuesday, it was painfully apparent when Edmonton rarely threatened while coming up empty on five power-play opportunities. Opposing teams are taking away the cross-ice pass to Draisaitl that had been nearly unstoppable, helping produce 11 power-play goals from the German forward this season. After starting the season 15/30 with the man advantage and going 23/59 through the first 19 games, Edmonton is now 1/16 over its last five games.

Draisaitl, who scored 20 times in the first 19 games and as recently as a week and a half ago was being talked about as making a run at joining the illustrious 50 goals in 50 games club, now has one goal in the last five games and has gone consecutive games without scoring for the first time since the opening two games of Edmonton’s schedule. McDavid, who had at least one point in 17 straight games to start the season, has been held pointless in three of the last seven.

Related: 3 Oilers Who Need to Step Up Their Game

Without a doubt, Draisaitl and McDavid will quickly return to the form that saw them each hit 40 points at the quarter mark of the season. But during these games, when they’ve produced at a rate closer to “average” players, not nearly enough of their teammates have stepped up to carry the scoring load for a night or two. Edmonton now has scored just once in back-to-back games after scoring at least twice in 21 of its first 22 games this season.

Old Friends Stick it to the Oilers

The final insult Tuesday was delivered by Wild goaltender Cam Talbot and defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, ex-Oilers who contributed significantly to their former team’s misery.

Opposite Koskinen, Talbot outduelled the goalie who essentially took his job in 2019 when Talbot was dealt from Edmonton to the Philadelphia Flyers after parts of four seasons with the Oilers. The Wild netminder was beaten just once on 39 shots and made a couple of big stops while Minnesota’s lead was 2-1.

Kulikov, who was dealt to Edmonton by the New Jersey Devils at the 2020-21 trade deadline, scored more goals Tuesday than he did during his entire Oilers tenure. Back at Rogers Place for the first time since signing with the Wild as a free agent in the offseason, Kulikov tallied Minnesota’s fourth goal on a breakaway with just over five minutes remaining. He did not score a goal in 10 regular-season and three playoff appearances with the Oilers last spring.

The Oilers will get to see another old friend when Taylor Hall and the Boston Bruins stop by Rogers Place on Thursday (Dec. 9), as Edmonton looks to avoid its first four-game regular-season losing streak since December 2019. That matchup will be the Oilers’ third game of a twelve-day homestand, which won’t get any easier with visits from the Carolina Hurricanes, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Columbus Blue Jackets on the horizon.

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