Coyotes 3, Oilers 7
They started the game on two different lines, but the familiar duo of Riley Sheahan and Josh Archibald found a variety of ways to put the hurt on Arizona Coyotes separately and together. Sheahan set up Archibald’s shorthanded goal that opened the scoring four minutes in, and Archibald returned the favour on Sheahan’s empty netter that closed things out four minutes from the other end of the game. In between times, Sheahan added two assists and Archibald one at 5v5, and the grinders emerged as the game’s scoring leaders with 4 and 3 points respectively, leading the Oilers to a 7-3 win over the Desert Dogs.
The usual suspects Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins chipped in with 2 points apiece as the Oilers put the boots to a shaky Antti Raanta in the Coyotes cage, beating him 6 times in 2 periods before he watched the third from the bench.
If it sounds like a laugher, it really wasn’t. At times the Oilers defended with their patented “no lead is safe” style, with defencemen getting caught up ice or the team as whole struggling to clear the zone. One sloppy goal against was ameliorated by a successful offside challenge, while Mike Smith came up with a few key stops at critical times. Give the visitors credit, they played hard even as the odds were stacked against them. The Coyotes outshot the Oilers 30-27, while the home club held a narrow 13-12 edge in Grade A scoring chances as tracked by David Staples and myself.
Another bullet was dodged when Oscar Klefbom took a slapshot to the same hand he broke last year, left the game in pain late in the second and wasn’t ready to start the third. But he was able to return a few minutes later and looked none the worse for wear down the stretch. Now he and most of his mates get 10 days off to rest and heal, as the Oilers enter their mid-season break on a 6-1-1 roll, having jumped — temporarily at least — all the way from fifth to first in the Pacific in a single bound, tonight’s Vegas and Vancouver games pending. The Oilers have also returned to a positive goal differential on the season for the first time in a while.
Those standings, though!
#4 Kris Russell, 7. Made one key play when he won a battle with Phil Kessel along the wall, shaking the puck loose for what ultimately became Archibald’s shorty. The sort of defensive play that gets turned into a goal the other way maybe 1 time in 100, but this was that time. Also made a terrific sliding play to break up a 2v1 and bail out his young partner Jones in the process.
#6 Adam Larsson, 5. Shivered the timbers of Lawson Crouse with a hit in the numbers, and was perhaps fortunate to get away with only a minor. Took a second, “good” penalty in the third when he allowed Clayton Keller to get behind him but did enough to disrupt the shot. Won some battles along the way and punished a few opponents with 4 hits.
#10 Joakim Nygard, 6. Buried a shot from the high slot to extend Oilers lead to 5-0 just 25 minutes in, but it turned out to be a useful tally. Had another stuff attempt late in the third. 2 takeaways.
#15 Josh Archibald, 9. Opened the scoring on a brilliant shorthanded effort when he jumped on Sheahan’s clearing pass in the neutral zone, outbattled Oliver Ekman-Larsson at the blueline, walked in alone and solved Raanta with a nifty deke. Set up McDavid with a perfect pass right through OEL that the phenom tipped home for the 6-2 that allowed Oil fans to breathe a little easier late in the second. Made a great play in the neutral zone to take an aerial pass down under control and slip it through to Sheahan for the empty-netter. Set up McDavid for another terrific chance and screened the goalie on another. 2 takeaways and 3 more hits including one along the end wall that took the wind out of Kyle Copobianco.
#18 James Neal, 6. Finally scored his first point of 2020 when he turned defence to offence by winning a board battle in his own end and making a fine stretch pass to Archibald leading to McDavid’s second goal. 5 shot attempts, but none on goal. Drew a penalty with a crafty veteran play.
#23 Riley Sheahan, 9. Doubled his prior career high with 4 points after never scoring more than 2 in 490 previous NHL games. The man who had just 2 assists all season turned into a playmaker extraordinaire for a day, with three primary helpers, all on excellent passes. The first was a defensive play on the penalty kill, when his hard clearing shot off the wall not only cleared the zone but landed right in Archibald’s path for the breakaway. The other two both involved some strong work protecting the puck behind the Arizona net before reversing direction and finding first Gagner, later Nygard with telling passes. Made no mistake on the empty netter, his only shot of the day that rippled the top of the net from the blueline. Credited with 4 takeaways on the day and also dominated the faceoff circle with 11/15=73% including 6/9 in his defensive zone and 0/0 at the attacking end. Led the forwards with 2:51 on the penalty kill. Drew a penalty when he was hauled down by OEL in a near penalty-shot situation. Rightfully earned first star honours.
#25 Darnell Nurse, 6. Strange game where a whole lot went right when he was on the ice (+5 !!) even as Nurse himself was a bystander for much of it as the forwards did the heavy lifting. He did lead the team with 23:49 in ice time and stepped up with extra ice time during Klefbom’s absence.
#29 Leon Draisaitl, 8. Another 2 points, his fifth multi-point effort in his last six outings (4-8-12 over that span.) Both were primary helpers, the first a won puck battle in tight to the net that set up Yamamoto’s goal on a delayed penalty that had been drawn by Leon himself, the second a sharp pass to McDavid on a later powerplay. Dinged iron with a one-timer on the PP, his best look in a team-high 8 shot attempts. His best moment came on the defensive side of the puck when he first overtook, then overpowered Clayton Keller to turn what seemed like a Coyotes breakaway into an Oilers possession. Skated hard in both directions all day. 12/22=55% on the dot.
#39 Alex Chiasson, 5. His best contributions came in the defensive zone, notably a crafty reverse hit which broke an extended cycle and allowed the Oilers to clear the zone and change up. Made a couple of other strong plays along the boards to help get the puck out of trouble.
#41 Mike Smith, 7. This was a game where the full gamut of his adventuresome puckhandling was on display. The good being a full-length clearance on the penalty kill right off a faceoff win, a one-touch stretch pass to Gagner at the far blueline, and another aerial feed that barely missed connecting with McDavid, also at the far blueline. The bad? A giveaway in his own zone that nearly led to a freebie against (Klefbom had his back) and another attempted clearance that was turned into an Arizona interception, possesion, and goal. Made two key early saves off of first Hall at the edge of the crease, then Ekman-Larsson’s blast through a heavy screen that he managed to swallow up sans rebound to keep Edmonton’s 1-0 lead intact. Made a fine grab of Hall’s hard wrister from the slot and stared the sniper down in the aftermath. His biggest stop was of a Phil Kessel breakaway after Arizona had already cut the lead to 5-2. Was beaten short side on Hall’s screened shot that got Arizona on the board, and caught deep in his net on OEL’s 40-footer that closed the gap to 6-3. Not a great game, but he was the better goalie in this game by a significant margin. 30 shots, 27 saves, .900 save percentage.
#52 Patrick Russell, 6. Made a key contribution to Nygard’s goal with a good screen from the low slot. Played his usual grinding game with 4 hits. His only mistakes came extremely late: an icing from the neutral zone and a bad pass in the game’s dying seconds.
#56 Kailer Yamamoto, 6. Scored on his only official shot of the game when his drive from close range was first stopped by Raanta, then steered into the cage by the knob of the goalie’s own stick. Missed the top corner when set up by a fine RNH feed. Had another glorious chance when Draisaitl sprang him for a 2-on-1 but he chose to pass up the shot and instead try a return feed that failed to click. Was also in the middle of a 3-on-1 with defenders Bear and Nurse. 2 hits, 2 takeaways, and positive shot metrics.
#74 Ethan Bear, 6. Had a game whose results (+4) were greater than the sum of its parts (1 contribution to a Grade A chance for, 5 against). Sprayed his passes around a bit, charged with 3 more giveaways. One of them led to an apparent Arizona goal, but it was annulled by an offside challenge where the Oilers were once again on the right side of the inch. Did fire 4 shots on net, block 2, and record a takeaway in 23:09 of action. Drew a penalty thanks to some strong puck protection. To these eyes this is one player who should benefit from some time off after an unexpectedly heavy workload in his first full NHL season.
#77 Oscar Klefbom, 6. Made a good read to back up Smith who was unable to clear the puck against two forecheckers leading to what otherwise would have been an open net look for the penalty-killing Coyotes. 5 shot attempts at one end, 5 blocks at the other. Among them, a blast that appeared to catch him on the same hand he broke on a very similar play last season, leading to many nervous moments for Oilers fans as he went down the tunnel late in the second and didn’t re-emerge until several minutes into the third. One result was he had the least even-strength ice time of any Oilers d-man, a very rare occurrence, though he did top the 20-minute mark overall thanks to his usual double duty on special teams.
#82 Caleb Jones, 5. Was among the victims on the first Arizona goal when Hall dropped off to gain some separation on him, then fired a quick release right through the rookie’s skates that beat the screened Smith. Had one other adventure when his ill-advised shot attempt was blocked leading to a rink-length 2-on-1 the other way, but his partner K.Russell bailed him out with a perfectly-timed snow angel. Did make some solid passes to move the puck north, blocked 2 shots and fired 2 of his own. Played 15 minutes, his most in some time.
#89 Sam Gagner, 6. Scored just his second goal of the season and the first meaningful one, when he extended the lead to 2-0 by converting Sheahan’s short pass from a sharp angle in tight. His line was in chase mode for much of the game, with one ‘yotes cycle ending in a Gagner slashing penalty.
#91 Gaetan Haas, 5. Finding a role on the penalty kill these last two games, where he has seemingly taken the role alongside Ryan Nugent-Hopkins usually occupied by Jujhar Khaira. Had one very good sequence where he took the puck deep into the o-zone corner and killed a bit of time before dumping it at the exact eright moment. Had a couple of questionable puck management decisions at even strength, and once again had an adventure with a dropped stick, something that seems to happen to him about once a game.
#93 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 7. Continues to look comfortable at LW, where he chipped in a couple of secondary helpers. Played a strong two-way game, other than that one time he fell asleep on the powerplay while his goaltender was caught out of his net without enough help or options. Led the forwards with 21:47 TOi including over 7 minutes on special teams. Blocked 2 shots, won 3/4=75% in secondary faceoff duty. Barked at the ref when he got picked outside the blueline on the zone entry leading to the 5-2 goal.
#97 Connor McDavid, 8. Scored twice in the middle period, both of which extended Edmonton’s lead to four goals. He surprised Raanta with an angled shot to the short side when the netminder was cheating toward the pass, then made a perfect deflection of Archibald’s fine feed after Arizona had scored a couple to cut the lead. In between times he took an ultra-chintzy interference penalty when it was McDavid himself who appeared to be picked on the play, leading to an Arizona powerplay goal. Had 4 shots on net to lead the Oilers, and chipped in on 5 Grade A scoring chances, tied with Draisaitl for the team lead in that department. Had a couple of electrifying bursts, as usual.
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