For the last number of seasons, fans of the Edmonton Oilers had grown accustomed to what they witnessed during the first period of last night’s tilt with the Montreal Canadiens over at Rexall Place. In years gone by, falling behind 3-0 in an opening frame to a team as good as the Habs, almost guaranteed an ugly scoreline after the final buzzer. On far too many occasions, this group would simply quit on itself and willingly take their medicine.
— HockeyNightInCanada (@hockeynight) October 30, 2015
However, that was not the case last night and it could very well end up being a turning point for this franchise. While no one could have expected Edmonton to come all the way back from a three-goal deficit to edge Montreal 4-3 in regulation time, it was the manner in which they pulled the comeback off that may actually give this group the jolt it has desperately needed for some time.
While the Canadiens did appear to go into cruise control to start period two, the Oilers took full advantage of their opponent’s miscalculation and were rewarded with a bit of a lucky bounce to cut the lead down to a pair heading into the third. Some hard work from the line of Leon Draisaitl, Taylor Hall, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins paid off, as the third pick of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft celebrated his return to the big club in style…potting his first of the season with all of 52 seconds left on the clock.
These Are Not the Same Old Oilers
Regardless of how things would eventually play out, the fact Edmonton did not fold like a cheap suit was a massive step in the right direction. After all, they were trailing the hottest team in the league by two goals with twenty minutes to play, expecting anything more than a solid effort over the final two periods of play was likely pushing it. Lucky for them, their continued dominance over the best goaltender on the planet and a couple of unreal plays from Connor McDavid allowed this one to play out in a manner almost no one saw coming.
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While it is no secret the Oilers have owned Carey Price throughout his career, it truly remains one of those rare oddities. For this team to have enjoyed the continued success they have had against a goalie of his caliber is absolutely absurd and yet here we are. After watching the Habs jump out to sizable advantage, it seemed as though the unlikeliest of runs was about to come to an end. Funny how things can change in the blink of an eye.
McDavid Continues to Keep Oilers in Every Game
Despite being kept in check for most of the night, McDavid took his game to another level with a pair of ridiculous efforts to set up consecutive goals and get Edmonton back on level terms. As impressive as his second effort and eventual feed on Brandon Davidson’s 3-2 goal, the play the kid made in outworking and outsmarting both Andrei Markov and P.K. Subban prior to springing Benoit Pouliot on a clear-cut breakaway was by far and away the highlight of the night. The second Pouliot’s shot hit the back of the net was the moment this game was over.
It was just a matter of time before the Oilers completed the comeback and what better way than to have Draisaitl finish it off with just over a minute left on the clock. A brilliant forecheck from Nugent-Hopkins followed by an equally impressive pass and just like that, Edmonton pulled a rabbit out of their hat and Rexall Place exploded. It was a special moment and one that was brought to fruition by the youth in this lineup.
[Related Article: Yakupov Gets New Lease on Life With McDavid]
In the grand scheme of things, it was just one game but the progression the Edmonton Oilers have made in roughly three weeks time is rather staggering. While it may not show in win the column, this group no longer quits and actually battles to the very end. This group’s warts are still quite evident but once you consider schedule, injury and lack of quality in certain areas on the roster, most notably the backend, their 4-7 record does not do this group justice.
Rob Soria is the Author of Connor McDavid: Hockey’s Next Great One. He has chronicled the Orange and Blue since creating his Oil Drop blog in 2011 and has also had his writings featured over at HometownHockey.ca and Vavel USA, where he has covered the NHL, MLB and ATP Tour. Rob was born, raised and still resides in Edmonton, Alberta and can be reached via twitter @Oil_Drop.