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BLOG: Learning to close games out

by Chris Wescott / Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers took a 2-1 lead at 9:22 of the third period last night against Boston. At 16:39, Zdeno Chara scored to tie the game and to send it to overtime. While the Oilers would win in the end, they were left wanting more in terms of closing out the game in regulation.

“Right now, we’re trying to win games,” said Matt Hendricks. “We’re trying to figure out how to hold onto leads in the third period and kind of put teams out, manage our game and play a defence-first styler where, even if it’s tied, we’re going to try and score goals but we’re not going to lay everything on the line. We’re learning all that and that ties into stringing games together and being consistent for 60 minutes and being consistent game in and game out, day to day, all those things, and practicing the same way every day.”

The Oilers are now 4-5-0 when tied after two periods and are 2-10-2 when trailing after 40 minutes. Yet, they’ve been in games down to the wire and want to close more of those out.

“I think we’ve had a couple games that we have to be able to close,” said Oscar Klefbom. “We’ve played some really good games but we still don’t get the win after regulation.”

An example of looking to close out games late is their home contest against Los Angeles on November 14. Edmonton tied the game at 15:10 of the third, but allowed a goal at 18:23 to lose in regulation.

“We played a really good game and we should have won that game too in regulation,” said Klefbom. “I think it’s something where we’re in a learning process right now. We need to focus on playing really good games for 60 minutes.”

Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan said after last night’s win over Boston that there is the will to close out games late, but the knowledge comes with experience and the players are still learning how to play with a late lead or end games when they have a chance.

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