Author of the article:

Bruce McCurdy  •  Edmonton Journal

Publishing date:

Nov 28, 2021  •  4 days ago  •  9 minute read  •  10 Comments

Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid (97) congratulates goaltender Mikko Koskinen (19) after the Oilers defeated the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2 at T-Mobile Arena.
Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) congratulates goaltender Mikko Koskinen (19) after the Oilers defeated the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2 at T-Mobile Arena. Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY Sp

Oilers 3, Golden Knights 2

Edmonton Oilers found another way to win  on Saturday. With their power duo held off the scoresheet and The Replacements playing left defence, they were in tough against a resurgent Vegas Golden Knights squad who were determined to avenge a home loss to the Oilers last month. But some opportunistic offence from some previously dormant secondary scorers buttressed by a brilliant netminding performance by Mikko Koskinen was just enough to get the job done.

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The Golden Knights were the first opponent all season to hold both Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid off the scoresheet, but the Oilers got goals from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Zach Hyman, and Jesse Puljujarvi — all on rapid counter attack plays — to open a 3-0 lead. Mikko Koskinen took care of the rest with a top notch display of goaltending as the visitors held on to win, 3-2 in regulation.

By the numbers the Vegans carried the play, outshooting the Oilers 38-30 and holding a 69-50 edge in shot attempts, even as High Danger Chances sawed off at 13-13 according to  Natural Stat Trick. Our own (preliminary) count here at the Cult of Hockey showed similar results, with each club firing 15 Grade A shots . Both goaltenders were first rate, but Koskinen just a little better on the night.

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With the road win coupled with Calgary’s home loss to Winnipeg, the Oilers moved back into first place in the Pacific with 30 points in 20 games. Significantly, they’ve opened an 8-point bulge with a game in hand over division power Vegas, thanks in large part to their 2 regulation wins right in Sin City. Lots of hockey to play yet, but the only 2 games left between the rivals will be in Edmonton.

Player grades

#5 Cody Ceci, 5. Played heavy and hectic minutes on the top pairing with 20-year-old rookie Broberg. Caused Mark Stone to turn over the puck with a borderline-but-uncalled slash (call it a “won battle”) that led directly to Edmonton’s second goal. Among the culprits on 5 Grade A chances against, among them the 3-2 goal when both defenders failed to clear the puck. Played 22: 49 with 2 shots, 1 block.

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  • Teammates including Philip Broberg, Tyson Barrie and netminder Mikko Koskinen cluster during a TV timeout to congratulate Kris Russell for his milestone achievements as a shot blocker.

#6 Kris Russell, 8. Blood-and-guts defender gets a 1-point bonus for breaking the NHL’s “all-time” (counted since 2005) record for blocked shots, passing Brent Seabrook with his 1999th career block of a Max Pacioretty powerplay drive. Not 15 seconds later, he became the first NHLer with 2000 blocks when he foiled Pacioretty a second time. By night’s end he was up to 2003, blocking 6 Vegas drives in all. (See all time top 10 below, a list which includes some well-known defence-first d-men, with the surprise to me being one Duncan Keith.) Fired a dangerous screen shot at the other end, and also set up a pair of scoring chances with a good lead pass. On a road trip where the Oilers were missing three left-shot defenders, Russell stepped up with games of 23, 23 and 22 minutes and was a plus player in each of them.

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#10 Derek Ryan, 6. Solid in a limited role on a low-event fourth line.  Made a good steal and pass to Sceviour for a Grade B shot. Kept his head while killing the one Vegas powerplay, almost all of which was spent in Edmonton territory, and found enough gas in the tank to set up Sceviour for a great chance at the very end of it.

#13 Jesse Puljujarvi, 8. Surely one of the reasons he was assigned to the third line was to stop the heavy bleeding that line was suffering at the defensive end. So far so good: 2 GP, 0 GA. Jesse himself made zero miscues at the defensive end while bringing the goods offensively with 6 shots including the game winning goal on a second-period breakaway. His first goal in 9 games could hardly have come at a better time.

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#16 Tyler Benson, 5. Held his own in 5 low-event minutes. Slowly but surely Benson seems to be finding a toehold as an NHL player, though the offence hasn’t come yet. 1 shot, 1 hit, and 0 issues at the defensive end.

#18 Zach Hyman, 8 . All over the puck all night long. Scored a superb goal on a partial breakaway from his own blueline when he outmuscled Stone’s heavy backcheck and beat Robin Lehner with a backhand shot, his first goal in eight games. Had a second breakaway in the middle frame, this time unmolested, but Lehner got the better of him with a glove save. Fired 6 shots on the night and controlled play time and again deep in enemy territory.

#19 Mikko Koskinen, 9. Was nothing short of fantastic in the first period when he made a handful of spectacular stops to thwart what appeared to be certain goals. One fabulous glove grab, then three more with his left pad flashing out to fill the open side after passes or deflections across the Royal Road. Oilers could have easily been down by multiple goals before they joined the battle in the second half of the frame. Survived another onslaught early in the third. Beaten by a backhand shot by the speedy Chandler Stephenson, and a fluke goal that was batted out of the air in the slot and found a corner after a fortuitous bounce off a friendly skate. Shook that off to slam the door the rest of the way, including one stop with the knob of his stick. Did his best work against Golden Knight sharpshooters Pacioretty (6 saves), Reilly Smith (6 saves) and Jonathan Marchessault (5 saves). 38 shots, 36 saves, .947 save percentage.

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#22 Tyson Barrie, 6. Earned an assist on RNH’s 1-0 goal with a good one-touch pass to key the fast break. Involved in a less positive way on the first Vegas goal when he lost a board battle in the neutral zone. Chipped in on 5 Grade A shots by the Oilers, victimized on 3 against.

#29 Leon Draisaitl, 6. Held off the scoresheet for a change, even as he was involved in 4 Grade A chances. Did his best work on the defensive side of the puck, using his enormous paddle to good effect and making some key stops and transitions. Forced the turnover on RNH’s goal with a strong backcheck on Stephenson and might have been awarded an assist by a friendlier scorekeeper. Drew a penalty. Crushed it on the faceoff dot with 16/23=70%.

#37 Warren Foegele, 6. Found the scoresheet by making a strong play on the wall in his own zone to hit Bouchard in open ice with a sharp pass, leading directly to Puljujarvi’s breakaway. Otherwise a low event night on a low event line. 0 shots, 1 hit, plenty of skating.

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#44 Zack Kassian, 6. Had a key touch on Oilers second goal when he was just able to sweep a short pass in the general vicinity of Hyman who corraled the disc and took it the distance to score. Played a robust game with 4 hits. A couple of dicey moments in his own end.

#56 Kailer Yamamoto, 5. A couple of dangerous shots, but some struggles at the other end where he made 4 mistakes on Vegas chances, 1 of which wound up in the back of the net. Had one superb sequence where he made a strong defensive play, then turned it the other way with a three-zone rush.  Took a nasty helmet-to-helmet shot late in the second which sent him down the tunnel, but he returned for the third seemingly none the worse for wear.

#70 Colton Sceviour, 6. As with Ryan, his key shift was a 1: 58 marathon on the penalty kill where the Oilers played bend-don’t-break. Kept the puck largely to the outside, with the one dangerous drive coming off a blocked shot that bounced straight to Pacioretty. When the Oilers finally cleared the disc he raced up-ice on a 2-on-1 and barely missed converting Ryan’s pass. Kept things simple, and more importantly scoreless, during his 6 minutes at 5v5.

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#71 Ryan McLeod, 5. Skated well on a big, fast, and mostly effective third line. His night was tainted by one gigantic mistake where he was set up perfectly in the slot but opted for the infamous “one pass too many” that handcufffed Bouchard and led to a 3-on-1 the other way. Thankfully Koskinen had his back with a brilliant stop. Did make a good pass to Foegele in the build-up to Puljujarvi’s goal. 5/13=38% on the dot.

#75 Evan Bouchard, 6. Mostly kept his head in his own end despite absorbing heavy pressure from Vegas attackers. Did have a couple of wobbly moments. His key contribution was a terrific stretch pass that sent Puljujarvi in alone for the game-winner.

#84 William Lagesson, 5. Looked much more comfortable than in Wednesday’s season debut in Arizona. Most importantly, no mistakes leading to Grade A shots by Vegas. Did take a puck over glass penalty that was hotly disputed by Dave Tippett in a rare outburst by the coach. 2 blocked shots.

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#86 Philip Broberg, 4. Led the Oilers in ice time with 23: 34, this in just his fourth NHL game. Looked good at times with his excellent skating, but overwhelmed at other times when the Golden Knights brought the heat. By our count he was burned on a ghastly 7 Grade A chances by the home team, including the 3-2 goal when coughed up the puck in the slot. Got walked by Shea Theodore resulting in a breakaway shot. Call it a good learning experience.

#93 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 7. Opened the scoring on a 2-on-1 with a dandy snipe off the far post and in, his first goal in six games and just his second of the season. Was robbed by Lehner on a clear breakaway later. Chipped in on 5 Grade A shots in all, burned on 1 against.

#97 Connor McDavid, 5. Not a banner game either offensively (0 points) or defensively (on the ice for both goals against). His night got off to a bad start when he coughed up the puck behind his own net leading to a Grade A shot by Vegas not 20 seconds in. Later in the first was caught on the wrong side of the puck for an even better chance which was thwarted by Koskinen. Among those unable to clear the slot on the 3-2. Tried his utmost to make things happen at the good end, notably one powerplay sequence where neither team could fully control the puck for a good 20 seconds of chaos, even as McDavid personally prevented the puck from leaving the zone three or four different times and eventually set up a great chance by Hyman. Made a terrific lead pass to send Hyman in alone for a breakaway that barely failed. Took a sneaky-dirty high hit from Marchessault that left him a bit woozy, but responded appropriately minutes later with a sneaky-dirty high hit of his own against the same opponent. Drew a penalty, but the powerplay couldn’t cash. 9/15=60% on the dot, but just 1 shot on goal.

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McCURDY: Oilers getting younger as injury replacements stream up from AHL

Follow me on Twitter @BruceMcCurdy

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