There’s no great secret about how the Edmonton Oilers defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-2 at Rogers Place on Thursday (Dec. 23) to snap out of a skid that had seen Edmonton drop six straight games. It’s simple, really: all that was good on Thursday were things the Oilers weren’t doing during their losing streak. And all that was bad during their losing streak were things the Oilers didn’t do on Thursday.
Edmonton rediscovered the blueprint for a victory after being outscored 24-9 while going 0-6-0 over the last two weeks. Here are the six reasons the Oilers are no longer on a six-game slide.
Oilers Scored First
Jesse Puljujarvi’s goal at 7:24 of the first period gave Edmonton a 1-0 lead for the first time since Dec. 1 and seemed to lift the weight of the world off the shoulders of the Oilers, who followed up with two more quick goals from Puljujiarvi again at 8:10 and Derek Ryan at 11:07.
After giving up the first goal 15 times in the previous 18 games, including all six games during the losing streak, the Oilers desperately needed the early lead, if for no other reason than their self-confidence. It can’t be overlooked that Edmonton is now 10-0-0 after getting the opening goal and is one of just three teams in the NHL that hasn’t lost a game when scoring first this season.
Oilers Got Timely Saves
The Oilers only were in position to take a 1-0 lead thanks to some sensational early goaltending from Stuart Skinner. The 23-year-old’s five saves in the opening minutes included stops on both 3-on-1 and 2-on-1 rushes from Columbus.
In four of the six games during the losing streak, Edmonton allowed a goal on one of the opposition’s first four shots, including twice on the second shot. Instead of the emotional setback of being put behind the eight ball before all lines had even taken a shift, the Oilers were able to settle their early nerves thanks to these big stops from Skinner.
Oilers Were Perfect on the PK
One of those saves came off Jake Bean during an early Columbus power-play after Edmonton was penalized for having too many men on the ice just 72 seconds into the game. That would be the biggest penalty kill of the night for the Oilers, who would go on to successfully kill off two more Blue Jackets’ power plays before the game was over.
Going 3-for-3 on the PK was a welcome development, considering that during the six straight losses, Edmonton’s penalty kill was 7-for-19, including 7-for-15 at home, and the Oilers had allowed a goal while short-handed in five consecutive games. Before their losing streak, Edmonton’s was among the top-ranked PKs in the NHL. It’s now ranked ninth with an 82.1% success rate.
Oilers Converted on the Power Play
Both of Puljujarvi’s goals, which were crucial in setting the game’s tone, came with the man advantage. Edmonton was presented with a glorious opportunity when Blue Jackets forward Jakub Voracek and goaltender Elvis Merzlikins were assessed penalties on the same play at 6:19 of the first period, and the Oilers took full advantage, scoring twice on the ensuing power plays.
Edmonton’s power play is ranked No. 1 in the NHL (31.5% after Thursday’s game), but it had suffered a power outage during the losing streak, as the Oilers went 3-for-20 with the man advantage over the six games.
Oilers Got Goals From Players Who Are Not Former MVPs
Over the six games prior to Thursday, only three forwards not named Leon Draisaitl or Connor McDavid scored for Edmonton. On Thursday, all five Edmonton goals came from forwards that don’t have a Hart Trophy in their display case, who came into the game accounting for 43% of their team’s goals in 2021-22.
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Outside of Puljujarvi, who is fourth on the Oilers with 10 goals this season, Edmonton’s scoring came from some most unlikely sources: Brendan Perlini scored his first of the season and first as an Oiler; Ryan scored his second of the season and first in exactly two calendar months, and Warren Foegele scored his third of the season and first since October.
They Held a Lead
OK, so this one is a bit obvious, but the fact is that during their six straight defeats, the Oilers didn’t lead once and trailed for an average of nearly 50 minutes per game. On Thursday, they took the lead, maintained it, building a comfortable 4-0 margin entering the third period.
Playing from in front, Edmonton dictated play and could roll four lines. The result was much different from when the Oilers were left to chase the game and double shift their top players. That’s a recipe for success, and the Oilers will look to follow it to another victory on Saturday, when they take on the Seattle Kraken at Climate Pledge Arena, where, incidentally, Edmonton’s six-game skid started with a 4-3 loss on Dec. 3.
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.