Twenty-eight down, 28 to go.
The Edmonton Oilers concluded the first half of the 2020-21 National Hockey League season impressively, steamrolling the Ottawa Senators 7-1 at Rogers Place on Wednesday.
Edmonton is now exactly 50% through its 56-game schedule and boasts a 17-11-0 record after beating the Sens for a sixth time in as many tries this season.
Leon Draisaitl had a hat trick, Connor McDavid had three points and even James Neal scored in what was just the latest big victory for the Oilers.
Normally, 7-1 would stand out as the highlight of a full of season. But in just seven weeks, the Oilers have already delivered a number of memorable performances.
The Oilers begin the back end of their schedule on Friday when they once again host the Sens. On the eve of the season’s second half, here are five more of Edmonton’s top games from the first 28 games.
Oilers 4 @ Jets 3 (Jan. 24)
Making like his countryman Dirk Nowitzki, Draisaitl beat the buzzer, scoring with fractions of a second left to give Edmonton a wild come-from-behind win at the MTS Centre.
The German center took a pass from McDavid and fired the puck behind Winnipeg goalie Laurent Brossoit just as the final horn sounded. Scored in 19:59, it was the latest go-ahead goal in Oilers history. So late, in fact, that there wasn’t a proceeding face off.
What had been a fairly normal game turned upside down late in the third, as the teams combined for four goals over the last 6:06. Edmonton led 2-1 before Nikolai Ehlers and Blake Wheeler scored just 73 seconds apart to put the Jets in front. Kailer Yamamoto’s goal with 3:05 remaining tied things up at 3-3, setting the stage for Drasaitl’s dramatics.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Kyle Turris, with his first goal as an Oiler, also scored for Edmonton, and Connor McDavid picked up three assists, including on both the game-tying and game-winning goals. Mikko Koskinen stopped 35 shots for the win.
Oilers 4 vs. Maple Leafs 3 (OT) (Jan. 31)
McDavid stole the show with two goals, including the overtime winner, and three points in what is the only Oilers game of the season that was deadlocked after 60 minutes.
The Oilers captain redirected a pass from Draisaitl past Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen just 42 seconds into OT to lift Edmonton to victory, but his first goal of the night was all that anyone could talk about afterward.
Going coast-to-coast, McDavid went through virtually every Leafs skater with a series of dazzling moves, before beating Andersen to the high stick side, putting Edmonton in front 3-1, 6:13 into the second.
All the scoring in regulation came within the first 30 minutes of the game. After McDavid’s highlight-reel effort, Toronto quickly responded with goals 68 seconds apart by Auston Matthews and Zach Hyman, pulling the Leafs level with Edmonton before the mid-point of the period.
Dominik Kahun notched his first goal in Edmonton and Josh Archibald also scored for the Oilers in the opening period. Koskinen had 26 saves in a winning effort.
Edmonton 8 vs. Senators 5 (Feb. 1)
The Oilers had record watchers on high alert all night long, as they blitzed the Senators at Rogers Place, making a winner out of local product Stuart Skinner in the rookie netminder’s NHL debut.
History was made just eight seconds into the first period when Kahun scored to tie Wayne Gretzky’s mark for the fastest goal to start a game. Edmonton would score four more times in the opening frame, all with the man advantage, just shy of the franchise record five power-play goals in a period.
Draisaitl had six assists through 40 minutes and seemed destined to break Gretzky’s single-game record of seven, but Edmonton was held scoreless in the third period, and the reigning Hart Trophy winner came up one apple short.
McDavid registered five points, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had a goal and two assists, and Neal scored twice for the Oilers.
The 22-year-old Skinner, who was born and raised in Edmonton, made 33 saves.
Edmonton 7 vs. Flames 1 (Feb. 20)
The Oilers completed the sweep of a home-and-home series on consecutive nights against their provincial rivals on what was another sublime night for their captain.
Taking the starring role on Hockey Night in Canada from Rogers Place, McDavid recorded a natural hat trick and had five points; he assisted on Edmonton’s first two goals, before scoring three of his own, uninterrupted, over just 11:01 spanning the first and second periods.
One night after getting past the Flames 2-1 in Calgary, Edmonton jumped in front 1-0 on Alex Chiasson’s power-play goal at 3:29 and never trailed. Nugent-Hopkins scored twice, and Archibald added a goal for the Oilers, who led by two or more goals for over 45 of the game’s 60 minutes.
Lost in the offensive fireworks was a 43-save effort from Koskinen. Calgary easily could have three or four goals were it not for the Oilers goalie having his best game of 2021.
Edmonton 4 @ Canucks 3 (Feb. 23)
The Oilers’ biggest comeback of the year saw Edmonton fall behind 3-0 on the road before the game was barely more than 15 minutes old, then storm back with four unanswered goals, including three in the third period, to stun the Canucks at Rogers Arena.
Edmonton’s supporting cast stepped up, with Kahun scoring twice and Tyler Ennis notching the game-winning goal, on the power-play, late in the third period. The stars did their part too, as McDavid had the Oilers’ other goal, and Draisaitl picked up three helpers.
Oilers goalie Mike Smith shook off a rough start to shut the door over the last two periods, and finished the game with 30 saves for his fifth straight win since returning from injury.
Bo Horvat’s goal only 68 seconds after the opening face-off put Vancouver ahead 1-0 and Tyler Myers and Elias Pettersson also scored for the Canucks, before Kahun got Edmonton on the board with a key momentum-shifting goal at 18:43 of the first period.
There were other notable performances from the first 28 games (McDavid notching a hat trick in Edmonton’s first win of the season, 5-2 at home over Vancouver on Jan. 14; Smith blanking the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre as Edmonton won 3-0 on Feb. 11; to name a couple) and if the Oilers maintain their current level of play (14-5 in the last 19 games), picking the top games of the second half will be even more difficult.
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.