In the fourth game of their five-game road trip, the Edmonton Oilers evened their record at 2-2 after a thrilling 5-4 win over the St. Louis Blues in a battle of Western Conference contenders at Enterprise Center on Sunday (Nov. 14). Edmonton got timely goals throughout the game, including the winner off of Kailer Yamamoto‘s stick in the final minute. Leon Draisaitl had three points, and Connor McDavid had two, as the pair continue to rank first and second in the NHL scoring race.
While Sunday’s victory didn’t right every wrong from the Oilers’ disappointing effort in losing two of the last three games, it was a much-improved performance that will give them a chance to return home from their road swing with a winning record.
McLeod and Nugent-Hopkins Get Off the Schneid
Playing in his sixth game of the season, and 16th of his NHL career, 22-year-old forward Ryan McLeod finally notched his first goal, going to the net and beating Blues netminder Jordan Binnington from the slot at 16:19 of the second period to give Edmonton a 4-2 lead.
You could sense McLeod was going to score. He has played increasingly better and with more poise since being recalled from the American Hockey League’s Bakersfield Condors on Nov. 8, just before the Oilers’ road trip. He has six shots in four games, twice as many as he totalled in his first 12 NHL games.
McLeod’s tally came eight seconds after his teammate Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored his first goal of the 2021-22 season. Nugent-Hopkins, who signed an eight-year, $41 million contract with the Oilers during the offseason, racked up an NHL-leading 17 assists in the first 13 games of the season but had yet to find the back of the net.
Nugent-Hopkins had just seven goals in his previous 45 regular-season games dating back to 2020-21. To his credit, the 28-year-old veteran never appeared to let his goalless streak get to him, and he has been a major contributor to the team’s early-season success, logging big minutes on the power play and penalty kill.
Oilers Continue Trend of Playing Catch-Up
For a fifth straight game and eighth time this season, the Oilers gave up the first goal. On Sunday, it was Blues center Jordan Kyrou who opened the scoring with a power-play goal at 14:18 of the first period.
A crucial goal from McDavid with just five seconds left in the opening frame sent the teams into intermission tied, and the Oilers never trailed from that point forward, taking a 2-1, 4-2, and ultimately 5-4 lead.
Incredibly, the Oilers have rallied from a 1-0 deficit to win three of the last five games, and overall, they are 5-3 after allowing the first goal. The only team with more wins after trailing in the first is the Carolina Hurricanes, who are 6-1.
Falling behind early is hardly a recipe for success, and logic suggests that sooner or later, these slow starts are going to catch up with the Oilers. Yet, trailing 1-0 hasn’t been the kiss of death it used to be; in 2021-22, teams that trail first have a points percentage of .430 (84-116-29), an increase of around five percent from both 2020-21 (279-494-95) and 2019-20 (356-600-126). Whether this is a fleeting trend or sustainable, it doesn’t change the fact that the Oilers need to come out of the gate stronger.
McDavid Joins All-Time Greats
McDavid’s first-period goal was his 600th career point in his 421st career game, making him the sixth-fastest player to reach that milestone in NHL history. Only Wayne Gretzky (274 games), Mario Lemieux (323), Peter Stastny (394), Mike Bossy (400), and Jari Kurri (419) got to 600 points faster than McDavid. Notably – besides they are all first-ballot Hall-of-Famers – they all entered the NHL between 1977 and 1984 and played during the peak of the highest-scoring era in league history. Simply put, McDavid is the most prolific NHL point producer of any other era.
McDavid also assisted on a second-period goal from Draisaitl for point no. 601. The Oilers captain has 27 points (10 goals, 17 assists) in 14 games this season, second only to Draisaitl’s 31 points (15 goals, 16 assists).
Oilers Close Trip in Winnipeg
The last stop on the Oilers’ road trip is at Canada Life Centre, where they will face the Winnipeg Jets for the first time in the regular season after being shockingly swept by their prairie rivals in the opening round of the 2021 Playoffs. Edmonton enters the game atop the Pacific Division standings with an 11-3-0 record, while the 8-3-3 Jets are second in the Central Division.
These teams will meet again at Rogers Place on Thursday, in what will be the Oilers’ first home game in nearly two weeks.
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.