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Oilers must keep up intensity

In thick of playoff race, draw positives from effort against Penguins

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

EDMONTON -- Repeating the intensity and determination they showed against the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday will be essential for the Edmonton Oilers in the remainder of the NHL season.

The Penguins won 3-2 in a shootout, the game creating buzz in Rogers Arena from start to finish. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby had a shootout goal and was a force.

Oilers captain Connor McDavid had a power-play goal, a shootout goal and a career-high nine shots on goal. The NHL's leading scorer with 75 points (23 goals, 52 assists) played a game-high 26:53.

 

[RELATED: Crosby, McDavid put on show]

 

The Oilers (35-23-9), who entered play Saturday in third place in the Pacific Division with 79 points, are 7-8-1 since the All-Star break. They face the Montreal Canadiens at Rogers Place on Sunday (7 p.m. ET; SN, RDS, NHL.TV).

Video: PIT@EDM: McDavid converts with quick release in SO

When asked how the Oilers will produce more efforts like the one Friday, left wing Milan Lucic said: "Embracing it and having fun with it and rising up to the challenge. We all know what the challenge was going into last night. … They're the defending champs. It's always easy to get up when you're playing the defending champs. You have something to prove and the mentality moving forward has to be the same type of thing. Rise to the occasion like you've got something to prove.

"I know we're sitting in a pretty good position with 15 games left but there's more than enough work that needs to be done."

Lucic has the most Stanley Cup Playoff experience among the Oilers, with 101 games.

Edmonton, which hasn't been in the postseason since 2006, when it lost to the Carolina Hurricanes in the Stanley Cup Final, is not very experienced in that area. The 24 players on the roster have combined for 342 playoff games. Twelve players have not appeared in a Stanley Cup Playoff game, and 17 have played in 10 or fewer.

Oilers coach Todd McLellan liked Lucic's comment about embracing the challenge.

"For me, the game last night was about … I don't know if it was Pittsburgh or it was just the Oilers but we drew some urgency out of our group," McLellan said. "There was more desperation. There was a little more passion in the game than what we had seen a few games earlier. And that's what happens at this time of year.

"When you haven't experienced it as a group, and many individuals haven't been through it, the more we can get of it the better it is."

McLellan, who has coached 62 playoff games, all with the San Jose Sharks (2008-2014), said the game Friday can't be a one-off for the Oilers.

"It will (require) the understanding of the pressure of numbers, the pressure of the playoff push, knowing what the other teams do … and how intense the games are going to be, and then elevating your play," McLellan said of the remainder of the schedule. "There isn't a magic wand. You gain experience and understand that as you go along.

"We're in the middle of it. There's talk of playoffs. We're in a different phase right now, the push to playoffs."

The level of their game against the Penguins should give the Oilers a better understanding of what's required for them to make the playoffs.

"I think we had individuals that found something extra in their game," forward Matt Hendricks said. "As a team, I think we came together a little bit more. We've been trying to find this, in my opinion, since the All-Star break. We were playing really good hockey and we came back from the break maybe in a bit of a lull and teams have been taking advantage of us."

Video: PIT@EDM: McDavid corrals rebound, slams home PPG

Lucic said that urgency was an important factor Friday, when the Oilers outshot the Penguins 42-31, including 34-17 in the final 45 minutes, and won 34 of 45 faceoffs.

"I think it showed that our desperation went up," he said. "We look at Thursday night (a 4-1 loss against the New York Islanders) and every team in our division wins their game so it's almost like we had no choice but to step our level up if we want to end up where we want to end up.

"Then we play as good as we did and we only got one point out of it. So we're going to need the same type of effort over the last 15 games. But it was great to see us … other than the final score, we outshot them, out-chanced them, beat them in faceoffs.

"It was just one game but we didn't get the end result that we wanted. So it's almost like we'll have to do a little bit more to get the result that we want."

The Oilers' next chance comes Sunday.

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