The Oilers made a big statement on Wednesday with a 4-1 win over the Washinton Capitals on home ice. The Oilers looked to continue their hot streak and did so by downing one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, and the League. Edmonton has won six of their first seven games for the first time since the 1985-86 season. Here are five observations on the game and the team.
1. TALBOT STAYS HOT
Video: WSH@EDM: Talbot's sequence of saves robs the Caps
Cam Talbot's season didn't start this hot. A 6-2 loss to Buffalo had the Oilers goalie looking to reboot his campaign. Since that setback, Talbot has stopped 130 of 134 shots he's faced for a 4-0 record and .970 save percentage.
He was named the NHL's First Star of the Week for the first of those three wins, and continued his hot streak with a superb performance against the Capitals.
The lone goal against came from Alex Ovechkin nine seconds into the third period, ending his shutout streak at 136:32.
Talbot will shoulder a heavy load of games, the coaching staff doesn't have plans to sit the hot glove at the moment in favour of backup Jonas Gustavsson.
"We'll keep rolling the way we are right now," said Head Coach Todd McLellan. "We'll consider fatigue, injury and opponent. The thing that we have is Gus has been in the League a long time now and played that role. He knows how to carry himself, he knows how to behave, he knows how to prepare himself for stretches in between starts, long stretches."
2. QUICK RESPONSE
Ovechkin's goal could have signalled a turn of the tide for the Capitals against the Oilers. Maybe in seasons past, it would have. But the Oilers, leading 2-1 at the time, came right back and delivered a retaliatory blow.
Video: WSH@EDM: Maroon cleans up rebound to finish attack
Connor McDavid set up Jesse Puljujarvi back door and Patrick Maroon buried the rebound to pull Edmonton ahead 3-1. And just as important as that goal was the one that provided extra cushion. Milan Lucic tipped in an Andrej Sekera shot at 9:53 of the final frame to close out the win.
And Talbot, of course, wasn't letting in another.
3. MATCHUP SUCCESS
The Oilers rolled out the Ryan Nugent-Hopkins line against the Ovechkin line for much of the game. The result? One goal by Ovechkin against, but Benoit Pouliot potted a pair in response.
"You need different guys to step up at different times, in different roles, and I think if you look at Nuge's game from the start of the season to now, he's playing the right way," said Lucic. "He's doing a great job defensively and doing the little things that goes unnoticed. I think him and that line, it payed off for them tonight by just playing the right way. Hopefully, they can build from their effort tonight."
The Oilers got the better of that matchup and look to continue to make strides defensively as a team when it comes to shutting down elite players.
4. BELIEVING THEY WILL WIN
The players around the locker room, most specifically Lucic, have talked for some time about establishing a mental approach to each game where they believe they're going to win each and every night.
"We talked about just changing our mindset and coming to work and taking it one day at a time," said Lucic. "Coming in with a confident mindset, coming to the rink expecting to win. That mindset, when you come scared of the other team, you're almost defeated before you even get out there. We talked a lot about changing that and it's great we've got off to a great start.
"As the season goes on, as we play more games, we know it's going to get tough, we know eventually we're going to hit a losing streak. But, it's how we respond. We can go back to these games and how the feeling was and we can use that to maybe get out of a funk later down the road."
The Oilers are clearly taking strides in this regard, and McLellan says it shows in their confidence.
"They should believe that if they do things right and they give each other an honest effort," said McLellan. "We have an opportunity to beat any team in the League, but you have to bring your game to the rink. I think they're believing now in their game, and thus feeling more confident about it. It's each individual showing up with his tool kit and ready to go to work.
"That's where the confidence comes from, that's where the swagger comes from, that's where the wins come from. They just don't happen by accident. If you keep doing that, your belief system keeps going up and you believe you can come from behind or you play well with leads. That's what we're working toward."
5. BUFFALO LOSS A TURNING POINT
The Buffalo loss was an eye-opener for this Oilers club. Not only was it a loss, which come many times throughout a long NHL season, but it was a loss in which they didn't come ready to play. They were disappointed with the preparation and were adamant about needing to change that. Since then? Four straight wins for the orange and blue.
That loss was a bit of a turning point for Edmonton, and Wednesday's win is the opposite. The victory against the Capitals shows what good preparation does for a team.
"I think that Buffalo game was a bit of a blessing in disguise, having an early chance to break out of a poor effort like that has definitely helped us with our mental approach to the upcoming games and knowing that no matter whether you win or lose you've got to turn the page and keep it even and not get too high or too low," said Lucic. "I think that's something you've got to build throughout the course of the season and it's nice that we've started to build that early on."
The Oilers have a tough task ahead now, with six of their next seven on the road.