The Oilers drop a 4-2 result to the Arizona Coyotes in a tilt highlighted by the pre-season debuts of Connor McDavid and Mike Smith
EDMONTON, AB - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins notched his second shorthanded goal of the pre-season and Riley Sheahan redirected his first of the tune-up campaign, but the Oilers were unable to turn away the Arizona Coyotes in a 4-2 loss at Rogers Place on Tuesday night.
On a night highlighted by the pre-season debut of captain Connor McDavid, the Oilers went 5-for-5 on the penalty kill and outshot the Coyotes 31-20 over the final 40 minutes despite Arizona never relinquishing their lead.
"It's obviously nice when you get your leader and captain back in the lineup," Nugent-Hopkins, who scored his third goal of the pre-season tonight, said. "He pushes the pace for us every night and creates a lot out there. It's good to have him back."
McDavid had two shots in 19:42 of ice time, while another Oiler debutant in goaltender Mike Smith made 15 saves on 17 shots in his first taste of game action after battling illness since the onset of Main Camp.
"We had a veteran lineup and they had a veteran lineup as well, so it was as close as it can get to a real NHL game as you can get," McDavid said post-game. "They've always been a solid defensive team, and they found a way to clog it up."
Tippett assembled a veteran lineup tonight as the Oilers fine-tune their roster with eight days until puck drop on the '19-20 NHL season.
Sheahan alluded to positives that could be taken from the game, but also a necessary need to keep the pedal on the gas despite momentary lapses that helped lead to the Oilers third defeat of the pre-season.
"Obviously you want to be going into the first game full swing and you want to be confident. It all starts in pre-season," Sheahan said. "It wasn't the outcome we wanted, but we can fix some things. Luckily for us, we have the skill in the locker room and the things we have to fix are systematic and a few things work-ethic wise."
McDavid showed no hesitation in the opening minutes, showing his speed down the left and firing a shot that was well saved by Adin Hill in his first big opportunity just before the nine-minute mark.
Lawson Crouse opened the scoring in favour of the Desert Dogs 7:49 into the opening frame, lifting a powerful effort over the left shoulder of Smith.
The Coyotes then doubled their lead five minutes of the second period when Michael Bunting took advantage of a wayward pass from Adam Larsson behind the Oilers net that was potted by the Coyotes forward.
"Those are areas we have to clean up," Tippett said. "I'd rather have them now than two weeks from now, but they're areas that if we're going to play an efficient game have to be part of our game. But there's a risk and reward factor that you have to calculate, and plays have to be made if you're going to make them."
A double-minor for high-sticking from Darnell Nurse had the Oilers back on the ropes, but Nugent-Hopkins' second short-handed goal of the pre-season pulled them back within one when the centre elected to wire his third of the tune-up campaign low glove on a 2-on-1 with Jujhar Khaira.
Colby Cave had three good whacks in front of goal off Patrick Russell's net-bound pass less than two minutes before the break that caused a scramble in front of Hill, but the forward couldn't get enough lumber on his opportunities to level the score.
The Oilers outshot Arizona 16-5 in the frame and led 25-17 through 40 minutes.
Arizona restored the two-goal lead through Grabner, who finished off Vinnie Hinostroza's through pass on a partial 2-on-1 to put the Coyotes up 3-1 with 9:54 to play.
Sheahan pulled the Oilers back by redirecting home his first of the pre-season with his head on an awkward rebound from Josh Archibald, embodying the idea that good things happen if you go to the net.
"Our line did a good job around there, so it's good to be rewarded with one," Sheahan said of his contributions on a line with Archibald and Khaira.
The Coyotes took advantage of a wayward deflection of their own off Oilers defenceman Kris Russell that fell to Derek Stepan to rip his shot past a fooled Koskinen for the insurance marker 7:17 from the final whistle.
After starting on the first defensive pairing alongside Oscar Klefbom and manning the first-unit power play, Joel Persson exited the game in the second with an upper-body injury that'll be re-evaluated Wednesday morning.
"He was sore coming out of the game and we said to just leave him out of the game, so hopefully he's a little bit better in the morning," Tippett said.
The Oilers travel to Winnipeg to face the Jets on Thursday in their second-to-last pre-season matchup before travelling to Calgary on Saturday for their final tune-up against the Calgary Flames.