The Vegas Golden Knights were unable to secure a playoff spot on Tuesday after being dominated by the Edmonton Oilers in a 7-4 loss at home, bringing their lead in the Pacific Division to just two points ahead of the Los Angeles Kings.
The Oilers have gone 8-1-1 in their last 10 games, with their only overtime loss in that stretch coming against the Golden Knights this past Saturday, March 25. They’ve also been outscoring their defensive issues as of late, averaging the highest (4.54) goals per game in the month of March while also allowing 3.54 (10th) goals per game.
With Jack Campbell’s struggles, Stuart Skinner has taken the reins as the starting goaltender in Edmonton and has been a big reason for their recent success. In his last 10 starts he has gone 8-1-1 with a .902 save percentage (SV%), tying him with Alexander Georgiev of the Colorado Avalanche for the most wins in March.
The headline story for the Oilers this season, and pretty much every season, is Connor McDavid. Last week he became the fastest player to reach 60 goals since Mario Lemieux did in two fewer games (70) during the 1987-88 season. McDavid also had three assists in this game, bringing his point total to 143 on the season, and became the first player to score over 140 points since Lemieux did in the 1995-96 season.
Related: Oilers’ McDavid’s Season Is Even Better Than We Realize
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His partner in crime, Leon Draisaitl, is also having an incredible season, sitting second in league scoring behind McDavid with 116 points and fourth in goals with 47. If he is able to reach the 50-goal mark over their next seven games, this would be the first time since the 1995-96 season that a team had a 60-goal scorer and a 50-goal scorer in the same season. The last two to do it were Lemieux, who had 69, and Jaromir Jagr, who had 62, both as members of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
This was the fourth and final matchup between these two teams this season, with the Golden Knights finishing with a 1-2-1 head-to-head record. Since the 2021-22 season the Golden Knights have been dominated by the Oilers, winning just two of their nine matchups while being outscored 30-23 in the process.
Golden Knights Lose Special Teams Battle
The Oilers have not only had the best power play in the NHL this season, but one of the best all-time. After going 3/3 in this game, they surpassed the 1977-78 Montreal Canadiens for the highest power play percentage ever, operating at 32.7 percent. With seven games remaining in their regular season, the Oilers could cement themselves in NHL history as being one of the best offensive teams to ever be assembled.
As for the Golden Knights, they went 0/3 on their power play opportunities and looked depleted for nearly the entire second period, getting outshot 21-6 in the process. Their wingers were pressured really well on the top of each circle and were unable to really be threatening for any one-timer opportunities, while also being denied any lane to the front of the net.
In the first period they were able to get behind the Oilers’ defense and generate great chances on the rush, but it felt like they were playing on their heels for the remainder of the game. The Golden Knights aren’t a team that can overwhelm defenders with their speed in the way that the Oilers can, and it felt like as the game progressed their lack of pace was a huge factor in the outcome of the game.
The Golden Knights’ penalty kill has become a concerning aspect of their game over the past month. While they rank 18th in the NHL for the season in penalty kill percentage (PK%), they’re dead last in the month of March and have killed just 64.3 percent of the penalties they’ve taken.
With the Pacific Division standings being so tight, there’s a decent chance that these two could meet in the first round of the playoffs if the Golden Knights fall out of first place. Special teams have always played an important role in the postseason with there being less time and space for teams to create offense at even strength, and the Golden Knights are going to have to be more disciplined if they want to keep up with a team as talented as the Oilers.
This game was particularly frustrating for the Golden Knights, as they were able to keep up with the Oilers’ offense for the opening 20 minutes of the game, but let their lack of discipline affect the outcome. They allowed the Oilers’ top forwards to get going and let them build off that momentum for the second and third periods.
While this also wasn’t an inspiring performance from Jonathan Quick, as he was pulled at the start of the third period after giving up six goals, the Golden Knights can’t rely on good goaltending to bail them out every night. While their recent performances show that there isn’t any reason to expect losses like this to come very often, it is concerning to get exposed like this on the defensive end this close to the playoffs.
The Golden Knights will have the day off today before heading over to California for a one-game road trip against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday.