The Edmonton Oilers got a much-needed win at Rogers Place on Saturday (Nov. 19), defeating the powerhouse Vegas Golden Knights 4-3 in overtime to snap a three-game home losing streak.
Connor McDavid scored at 1:17 of sudden death for the Oilers, who also got goals in regulation from Leon Draisaitl, Warren Foegele, and Zach Hyman. Edmonton netminder Stuart Skinner made 31 saves in the winning cause.
Following a 2-5 stretch by the Oilers, their victory over the first-place team in the Western Conference should quell some of the unease in Edmonton, where they had gone since Nov. 1 without winning at Rogers Place.
As he often does, McDavid stole the show, with his highlight-reel game-winning goal. But as they often have been this season, Hyman and Skinner were pivotal in an Oilers victory.
Skinner Controls the Crease
Once again, Skinner was a calm, cool presence between the pipes, even as his teammates were coughing up the puck and his defense was breaking down in front of him. He stopped a handful of tough shots and bounced back after each Vegas goal rather than concede another in quick succession as has been the Oilers’ downfall too often this season.
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Skinner was making a season-high third straight start for the Oilers, who seem to be comfortable rolling with their 24-year-old goalie as he continues to play at this high level. The Edmonton native is now 4-4 this season, with a solid 2.52 goals against average (GAA). Most impressive is Skinner’s .930 save percentage (SV%), which is tied for third-best in the NHL among goalies who have appeared in more than three games.
Notably, Skinner’s cohort Jack Campbell hasn’t seen any game action since playing all 60 minutes of a 7-2 loss at the Carolina Hurricanes on Nov. 10, when the veteran tied for the most goals allowed by an Oilers netminder in nearly 12 years.
Campbell has been out of sorts right from the get-go this season. While the 30-year-old has a winning record (6-4), he ranks close to the bottom among NHL goalies in both GAA (4.27) and SV% (.873).
Throughout the first month of the 2022-23 schedule, Campbell got frequent starts as the Oilers looked to get him on track. Now the team’s decision-makers seem to be fine with letting him sit, even if it means they aren’t getting their money’s worth out of the former Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender who in the offseason signed a five-year, $25-million contract.
The philosophy is clear: Skinner currently provides Edmonton with the best chance to get the two points, so he’s going to play, never mind how much coin Campbell is making or how long Campbell has gone without playing. And for a team that has been perpetually building toward the future, that win-now mentality represents a significant and crucial shift.
Hyman Is Thriving
From one ex-Leaf who is struggling to another who is thriving, Zach Hyman is now on pace to score more than 40 times for the Oilers in 2022-23 after notching his ninth goal of the season 38 seconds into the third period on Saturday to give Edmonton a 3-2 lead.
Not only is Hyman scoring often, but he’s also scoring when Edmonton needs it most. Of his nine goals this season, five have come when the game is tied to give the Oilers the lead and two have come when the opposition is leading by one to draw the Oilers even. The left winger has three third-period goals and notched the game’s first goal three times in 2022-23.
After leaving Toronto in July 2021 to sign a seven-year, $38.5-million deal with the Oilers, Hyman has potted 36 goals in 94 regular season games. That puts him among the top 50 goal-scorers in the NHL since the beginning of the 2021-22 season and in the same neighborhood of superstars like Nathan MacKinnon, Brad Marchand, (who each have 37 goals in that span) and Nazem Kadri (36).
This level of production from Hyman is a bonus for the Oilers, who brought in the 6-foot-1 veteran with expectations of 20 goals a season from him but more for the forechecking ability sorely missing in its top six. He’s done all that in spades, and now here he is, third on the team this season in goals, behind only a pair of Hart Trophy winners in Draisaitl and McDavid. He’s also second to McDavid on the Oilers in shots with 59.
Oilers Face Huge Test
Edmonton next plays Monday (Nov. 21) at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., against the hottest team in all of hockey, the New Jersey Devils.
After clobbering the Ottawa Senators 5-1 on Saturday, the Devils have won 12 consecutive games, but that incredible streak would have ended after four wins were it not for a big-time comeback against the Oilers at Rogers Place on Nov. 3. New Jersey trailed 3-1 entering the final period, before scoring three unanswered goals on Skinner, including the tying and winning goals just seven seconds apart with just over three minutes remaining.
That game was one of the very few this season where Skinner gave up a goal he probably should have had. Will the young upstart get a chance at redemption in Newark? Or will the Oilers want to get Campbell a start before the struggling vet verges on nearly two weeks without seeing the ice? That will be interesting to watch for leading up to Monday’s game at 5 p.m. MT.
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.