Oilers’ Skinner Blows Golden Opportunity in Loss to Senators

There could have been a transformative moment on Saturday (Jan. 15) at Rogers Place. It was right there for the taking when goaltender Stuart Skinner and the Edmonton Oilers skated out to start the third period leading the visiting Ottawa Senators 3-1.

Stuart Skinner Edmonton Oilers-Oilers' Skinner Blows Golden Opportunity in Loss to Senators
Stuart Skinner, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

And within 20 minutes of hockey, it was all gone. Instead, there were just more questions surrounding the Oilers after Ottawa scored five third-period goals en route to a 6-4 win. The free-falling Oilers are now 2-10-2 in their last 14 games and haven’t celebrated a victory since Dec. 18.

Edmonton’s unfathomable collapse was perhaps felt most by Skinner, who had his worst performance on possibly the biggest night of his young NHL career. The 23-year-old was beaten four times on 12 shots in the third period, and while Skinner wasn’t entirely to blame for the goals, he also couldn’t make a pivotal save when the Oilers most needed it.

Skinner Makes First Start Since Recall

In his first outing since being recalled from the American Hockey League’s Bakersfield Condors on Thursday (Jan. 13), Skinner had a chance to make a statement with an Oilers team that is in desperate need of a netminder capable of providing consistent quality starts.

Related Link: Oilers Losing Gamble On Smith’s Multi-Year Contract

With the soon-to-be, 40-year-old Mike Smith sidelined for the umpteenth time this season, and fellow veteran goalie Mikko Koskinen having shown, over and over again, that he can’t be relied upon for more than a couple games at a time, the opportunity was there for Skinner’s taking on Saturday.

Skinner Had Chance to Claim Starter’s Job

In every other instance of Smith being injured, Oilers general manager Ken Holland and coach Dave Tippett instinctively turned to Koskinen. This time they went with Skinner, who had easily been Edmonton’s best goalie over the past two months. There was a sense that Skinner was finally being handed the ball. All he had to do was run with it.

And he did just that for forty minutes against the Senators. After Ottawa forward Josh Norris scored the game’s opening goal on the power play 10:35 into the first period, with a shot that would be difficult for any goalie to stop, Skinner locked it down as the Oilers scored three straight goals (Zack Kassian in the first period, Kailer Yamamoto and Brendan Perlini in the middle frame) to take a two-goal lead into the second intermission. Though Skinner faced just 13 shots through two periods, he made a couple of nice saves and kept dialed in despite the stretches of inactivity.

Oilers Fell Apart in Third Period

Just 2:41 into the third, Adam Gaudette scored to cut Edmonton’s lead to 3-2. Ottawa then tied at 5:07, after Gaudette intercepted an ill-placed clearing attempt by Skinner, who recovered nicely to make the initial save, but couldn’t stop Alex Formenton from burying the rebound.

The Sens took a 4-3 lead at 10:40 when Artem Zub beat Skinner top corner. Edmonton, however, battled back, as Darnell Nurse scored to even things up at 12:17. The Oilers defenseman’s third goal of the season provided a chance at redemption for Skinner, who only needed to keep the Senators at bay for less than eight minutes (and potentially up to five minutes of overtime) until his teammates could pot the game-winning goal. That didn’t happen

A high-sticking penalty to Edmonton blueliner Cody Ceci gave Ottawa a late man advantage, and Norris capitalized again, putting the puck past Skinner for his second goal of the night, at 16:18. Over a span of 11:11, Skinner had allowed three goals on four shots. Ottawa’s sixth goal was scored by Zach Sanford into an empty net with Skinner pulled for the extra attacker.

Koskinen May Get Next Start for Oilers

The Oilers are now off until Thursday (Jan. 20), when the league’s highest-scoring team, the Florida Panthers, rolls into Rogers Place. Meanwhile, Oil Country is left asking what – or more accurately who – is next between the pipes, knowing full well the answer is probably the one it doesn’t want to hear: Koskinen, whose last win came on Dec. 1 (or in the case of a surprise speedy recovery, Smith, who hasn’t won since Oct. 16).

Imagine if Skinner had stood tall in the third period and backstopped Edmonton to victory. Imagine the difference in the team’s mindset if the Oilers had snapped out of their winless skid, and how emboldened they could have felt going ahead with a goaltender they believed they could count on.

Imagine what it would have meant for the trajectory of Skinner, who would have surely got the nod against Florida and kept receiving starts as long he continued to deliver at the quality he had in nearly all his appearances prior to Saturday.

This result against Ottawa isn’t the “break it” for Edmonton’s season, and most certainly not for Skinner’s career. But it sure had the potential to be a “make it”.

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