One night after suffering their worst loss of the season, 4-1 to the Dallas Stars on Tuesday (Nov. 23), the Edmonton Oilers rebounded Wednesday (Nov. 24) night with a 5-3 defeat of the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena in Glendale.
The Oilers built a 4-1 lead before having to hold off a late charge by the Coyotes, who cut Edmonton’s lead to one with less than five minutes remaining. Forwards Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid each had two goals and two assists, while goaltender Mikko Koskinen made 24 saves for the Oilers, who improved to 1-1 on their three-game road trip.
On the heels of a frustrating loss just some 24 hours earlier, when the Oilers could get absolutely nothing going in Dallas, Wednesday’s performance provided plenty of positive takeaways for coach Dave Tippett’s squad.
Life Without Keith Begins For Oilers Defense
Edmonton defenceman Duncan Keith was not in the lineup against the Coyotes. The 38-year-old is listed as day-to-day after exiting Tuesday’s contest early when he sustained an upper-body injury during the second period in Dallas.
With veteran blueliners Darnell Nurse and Slater Koekkoek sidelined since last week, Tippett has already been forced to juggle his defensive combos. Keith’s injury serves only to exacerbate the situation, leaving the Oilers with a relatively young and inexperienced backend, particularly on the left side.
On Wednesday, Tippett rolled out pairings of Philip Broberg and Cody Ceci, Kris Russell and Tyson Barrie, as well as William Lagesson and Evan Bouchard. Only three of those defencemen were in Edmonton’s season-opening lineup six weeks ago. Broberg was playing just the third game of his NHL career, while Lagessson was making his season debut after being recalled from the Bakersfield Condors of the American Hockey League.
Broberg and Ceci played 20:04 together, posting a Corsi for percentage of 77.42 and an even plus/minus. Russell and Barrie spent 16:46 alongside each other, recording a 55.17% Corsi and a plus-one rating. Lagesson and Bouchard were on the ice at the same time for 9:52, registering a Corsi of 66.67% and a minus-one rating.
All things considered, it was a solid showing from Edmonton’s undermanned defensive corps, who will continue to be counted on for the time being. While Keith is hoping to return before long, Nurse and Koekkoek are still expected out for weeks.
Barrie, Broberg, Ceci and Russell all played between 21:29 and 22:56, while Bouchard logged 15:19 and Lagesson was on the ice for just under 11 minutes.
It’s Not How Oilers Start, it’s How They Finish
For the ninth time in their last 10 games, the Oilers gave up the first goal, as Clayton Keller beat Koskinen to finish off a two-on-one just 3:45 into the opening period. Edmonton has now trailed 1-0 in 12 of its 19 games this season and is 7-5-0 when the opponent scores first.
How have the Oilers managed a winning record when trailing first? Quick, timely responses. On Wednesday, McDavid scored at 14:58 of the opening frame to tie things up before the first intermission.
The key, it seems, is not so much who scores first (although Edmonton is unbeaten, 7-0-0, when getting the opening goal), but what the scoreboard reads after 20 minutes: the Oilers are 14-1-0 when leading or tied after the first period; they’re 0-4 when they trail going into the first intermission.
More Milestones for Draisaitl and McDavid
It was another night of benchmarks for the dynamic duo of Draisaitl and McDavid, who now have 40 and 36 points, respectively, and are running away from the field (save for Alex Ovechkin, who is third with 33 points) in the NHL points race.
In Edmonton’s 19th game, Draisaitl scored goals No. 19 and 20. That made the German center the second-fastest to reach 20 goals for a season in franchise history, with only Wayne Gretzky doing it faster, in 16 games in 1983-84. Draisaitl also joined Gretzky as the only Oilers to reach 40 points prior to the 20-game mark in a season.
McDavid, meanwhile, recorded his 400th and 401st assist in the 426th game of his career. Edmonton’s captain becomes the fourth-fastest to 400 helpers in NHL history, behind only three Hall-of-Famers from the run-and-gun ‘80s: Gretzky (who got there in 290 games), Mario Lemieux (353), and Peter Stastny (411). McDavid is the seventh player to rack up 400-plus assists in an Oilers uniform, joining Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Glenn Anderson, Paul Coffey and Doug Weight.
With a record of 14-5-0, Edmonton now has 28 points, just one fewer than the Calgary Flames, who are in first place in the Western Conference.
Next up for the Oilers is a trip to Sin City where they will face the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday (Nov. 27). In the teams’ first meeting of the season, Edmonton beat Vegas 5-3 on Oct. 22.
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.