Oilers 5 Canucks 2
The next time the Edmonton Oilers have a bye-week, maybe more players will just stay home and play pond hockey with the neighbor kids?
It sure seemed to work for Jesse Puljujarvi.
The 19-year old had the best game off his young NHL career, as the Oilers took a must-have 2-points from a Pacific-Division rival that they needed to beat, if they are to keep their faint playoff hopes alive.
The Oilers has built up a 2-goal lead after one, but gave 2 back in the second period, before Puljujarvi regained the lead late in the frame. So often, this season, the shoe has been on the other foot in those situations.
Instead, the Oilers win their 3rd straight, in the process moving their record to 12-0 when leading after 2 periods. And when you look at the actual game in scoring chances, the gap was even wider.
The Cult of Hockey’s David Staples recorded them at 25-12 Edmonton, but 14-4 when it comes to Grade “A” chances.
Here’s the tale of the tape:
EDMONTON OILERS PLAYER GRADES:
CAM TALBOT. 7. Back-to-back wins after being yanked in the Arizona game. Cam Talbot played a very sound positional game, making the 25-save victory look easier than it actually was. First goal allowed was a long deflection on a Power Play, the second a bang-bang marker on a 2-on-1. Best stop of the night for him was on the Brock Boeser breakaway. If the Oilers are to stay in the race, they need more games like this from Cam Talbot.
ANDREJ SEKERA. 5. Still struggling. Seems to be holding onto the puck a half-second too long, on a number of occasions, leading to several turn-overs. Sekera’s problems are reflected strongly in his TOI numbers: 14:54, and 100% of it 5×5.
KRIS RUSSELL. 6. The far better D-man on this pairing. The veteran Russell played a very low-event game, with plenty of calm, collected zone clears, and a couple sharp sticks at key moments. 4 blocks and a hit, as well as a perfect 3:06 on the PK.
ADAM LARSSON. 8. Played 24:00, and was rock-solid. 4 hits, one a crushing hip check on Nic Dowd in the 1st Period. No shots credited, which is ironic, as it was his shot attempt that led directly to the Jesse Puljujarvi goal. 2 blocks, 2 takeaways. This was the Adam Larson we watched most of last season. More, please.
MIKE CAMMALLERI. 5. Did have 4 shots on net, but ended the night with nothing to show for it. One was point-blank, but he couldn’t bury it. One terrible, 5-alarm giveaway in the 1st Period that nearly gave me a heart attack.
JUJHAR KHAIRA. 7. Played a big-man’s game, by extended numerous cycles deep on the Canucks zone. Showed nifty finish on the 2-0 goal by receiving the pass from Jesse Puljujarvi and roofing it past Jacob Markstrom (who was very good tonight, by the way, 30 saves). I expect speed and size from J.J. That kind of finish is a real bonus.
RYAN STROME. 6. I personally prefer Ryan Strome at Center, and I thought tonight showed why. Some creative work on the attack, although he erased some of that with a maddening lack of finish on his opportunities. Was strong both ways, though, including stripping 3 Canucks players of the puck, over the course of the game.
PATRICK MAROON. 7. When you watch Patrick Maroon play like this with Connor McDavid, his looking free agency is a night worrisome, no? Made no mistake on the door-step setup from 97, and then salted the game away with an empty netter that he more than earned with a heady zone exist seconds earlier. 4 shots, 3 hits, 2 takeaways. Solid all around.
DARNELL NURSE. 8. Just keeps getting better. Was +4 and, along with partner Adam Larsson, played a giant of a game, on both sides of the puck. Had 3 shots, a hit, 2 blocks, drew a penalty, and logged an impressive 23:46 to pace the team. Looks calm and collected in 4:03 of power play time, as well. Looks large and in charge, very much like a 1st pairing NHL D-man.
IIRO PAKARINEN. 6. An effective evening for Pakarinen in his NHL return. Just played 8:50, but that included a couple of noticeable shifts on the PK, and two terrific scoring chances, one of which rang off the cross-bar.
MILAN LUCIC. 6. A solid game from Lucic, who has been struggling as of late. Started off slow, but really came on as that line came together over the final 40 minutes. It was a second-effort along the wall in his own end that started the jail break which ended in the Draisaitl goal. 2 assists, 3 shots, 4 hits in 15:33.
LEON DRAISAITL. 8. If you wondered whether Leon Draisaitl could drive his own line, tonight’s commanding performance should provide you with a few answers. Was the trigger man on a fantastic pass from Jesse Puljujarvi on the 4-2 goal. But that was a 180-foot effort by 29, who won a hard-fought draw in his own end to start the sequence off. Made a key play on the offensive blue-line on the Puljujarvi marker. +3 in 17:28. Great game.
ZACK KASSIAN. 7. Saw frequent glimmers tonight of the Zack Kassian we witnessed in the playoffs last year. Really had his wheels, which helped back up the Canucks defence a number of times. That had two effects: 4 shots on net, and a team high 7 hits. A force. From your 4th line right-winger, you’ll take that every day, and twice on Sundays.
MARK LETESTU. 5. A smart, veteran game by Letestu, who was strong on the PK and made a handful of heady plays to clear pucks from trouble spots. Struggled in the circle, though (just 38%), which is a key role that he fills on this team.
OSCAR KLEFBOM. 6. A pretty good game for Oscar Klefbom, who again looks to have benefited from a little extra rest. Moved the puck well, and on a couple of occasions bailed out his partner with a couple smart clears. But a bit quiet on offence, no shots in 19:45.
MATT BENNING. 4. Struggled mightily. Was docked twice for giveaways, but that sure reads like a home-town advantage, compared to my own count. One of them, however, led directly to an extended Canucks shift in the O-zone, a great chance for Brent Boeser, and a hook that set his team onto a 2-minute penalty kill. Maybe it’s Brandon Davidson’s turn, again?
DRAKE CAGGIULLA. 5. Can’t seem to find consistency in his game. Caggiula was “fine” on Saturday, but not close to the player we saw in Las Vegas in his previous game. Had 2 shots and a hit in 16:57.
CONNOR McDAVID. 7. Was on fire in the first period, including a perfect pass to Patrick Maroon right on the doorstep. Stick-tap to Todd McLellan, who spotted the Canucks 4th line on the ice, and quickly swapped in the McDavid line, with good results. Finished with 3 shots in 19:28. But overshadowed by the next guy!
JESSE PULJUJARVI. 9. Just a tremendous performance, from Jesse Puljujarvi, on both sides of the puck. Was a force on the attack, with a deadly combination of high-skill and ruggedness. Also made 3 or 4 excellent defensive plays. His assist on the Khaira goal was a stunning forehand-to-backhand shift, followed by a pass threaded through the wickets of Henrik Sedin and right on Jujhar Khaira’s tape. A force all shift long on the play that ended with his own goal, which he was rewarded for by going to the net. Snapped a smart pass to a waiting Draisaitl, who made no mistake on the one-timer. I could go on. And on. And got that terrific post-game smile on Hockey Night in Canada, to boot. Good for him.
The regulation win leaves the Oilers 10 points back of Colorado for the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference, although the Av’s have 2 games in hand.
The Oilers host Buffalo Tuesday.
Find me on Twitter @KurtLeavins
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