3 Takeaways From Oilers’ 2-1 Win Over the Sharks – 4/5/22

For the first time in four months, the Edmonton Oilers are waking up in second place in the Pacific Division, after defeating the San Jose Sharks 2-1 in overtime at SAP Center on Tuesday (April 5).

With the win, the Oilers lept over the Los Angeles Kings to take sole possession of second, the highest they’ve been in the division standings since Dec. 6, 2021. Edmonton has 87 points, one more than the Kings.

Mike Smith made 31 saves in a winning effort for the Oilers, who rallied from a 1-0 deficit in the third period. Connor McDavid potted the game-winning goal in overtime after Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had tied the game by scoring with just over eight minutes remaining in regulation.

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The surging Oilers have now won five straight games and are 11-2-1 since March 8. Here are three takeaways from Tuesday’s big win:

Smith Stepping His Game Up

After a miserable several months, in which he was either hurt or playing poorly, Smith has provided his strongest goaltending of the season lately, and on Tuesday, he was the difference for his team.

The 40-year-old netminder made several difficult saves, first to keep Edmonton within a goal after Tomas Hertl had staked the Sharks to a 1-0 lead, then to get the game to overtime following Nugent-Hopkins’ equalizer.

Mike Smith Edmonton Oilers
Mike Smith, Edmonton Oilers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

His finest play of the game, however, had nothing to do with preventing a goal, but rather creating one. After stopping a shot by Sharks blueliner Brent Burns at the start of overtime, Smith, a skilled puck-handler known for taking risks, made an incredible pass to spring McDavid on a breakaway. Edmonton’s captain gathered the puck on the San Jose side of center ice, broke in alone on James Reimer and buried the puck behind the Sharks netminder just 31 seconds into sudden death.

That was the cherry on top of what was probably the best outing of 2021-22 for Smith, who earned the first star of the game. While the veteran’s play was encouraging, there was some cause for concern, as Smith appeared to be hurt in the late stages of the third. Smith finished the game, however, his track record of injuries this season had many wondering about his condition after the game.

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Smith is now 5-1-1 with a 2.57 goals-against average (GAA) and .921 save percentage (SV%) since March 16. He has as many wins in his last seven starts as he did in his first 15 outings this season, a span in which he was 5-8-1 with a 3.57 GAA and .891 SV%.

McDavid’s Goal Has Historical Significance

The most important thing about McDavid’s goal, of course, is that it propelled the Oilers to victory. But beyond that, it carried great statistical significance.

Related: Oilers’ Draisaitl and McDavid Can Reach Milestones Before Season Ends

For starters, it extended McDavid’s run of consecutive games with at least one point to 14; the superstar center has 12 goals and 15 assists during this streak. Most notably, it was the fourth overtime goal of 2021-22 for him, setting a new Oilers single-season benchmark. He’d shared the previous record of three with Andrew Cogliano (2007-08) and Leon Draisaitl (2016-17 and 2018-19).

With 11 games remaining on Edmonton’s schedule, McDavid could get a shot at equalling or setting the NHL single-season mark for overtime goals; the current record is five, accomplished on four occasions, by Alex Galchenyuk (2016-17), Brad Marchand (2017-18), Steven Stamkos (2011-12), and Jonathan Toews (2015-16).

As he chases a fourth career and second consecutive Art Ross Trophy, McDavid sits first in the NHL with 106 points, four more than second-place Jonathan Huberdeau of the Florida Panthers.

No One’s Safe When Oilers Are Shorthanded

Both goals scored in regulation on Tuesday came while Edmonton was down a man. Hertl scored on the power-play at 15:32 of the first; Nugent-Hopkins replied with a short-handed goal at 11:56 of the third.

While Edmonton’s penalty kill has improved lately, following a horrific stretch of going 63.3 percent over 22 games between Dec. 5 and Feb. 9, it remains among the league’s worst, ranking 21st for the season with a rate of 77.2 percent.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Edmonton Oilers
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

On the plus side, Edmonton now has nine short-handed goals (SHG) in 2021-22, tied for fourth in the NHL. Seven different Oilers have scored this season while their team is shorthanded, led by Nugent-Hopkins and Evander Kane with two SHGs apiece.

Kings Up Next

The Oilers are off to a 2-0 start on their three-game California road trip, which wraps up Thursday (April 7) at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles where they will take on the aforementioned Kings in a game of huge importance. While L.A. will be looking to hop back over Edmonton in the standings, the Oilers can strengthen their playoff positioning with a win, particularly in regulation.

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