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GAME STORY: Ducks 4, Oilers 3

The Oilers late rally runs out of time as the Ducks hand Edmonton a 4-3 loss

by Ryan Frankson / EdmontonOilers.com

ANAHEIM, CA - The Oilers held a pair of first period leads on the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday but the home team battled back to win 4-3 and regain sole possession of second place in the fierce Pacific Division standings.

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The Oilers close out this back-to-back in Colorado against the Avalanche. The game can be seen on Sportsnet West and heard on the Oilers Radio Network, including 630 CHED. Puck drop is 7:08 p.m. MDT.

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With the loss, the Oilers drop to third in the division with 87 points, while the Ducks sit in second at 89 points. The Sharks and Flames, who were idle, have 91 and 86 points to sit first and fourth, respectively. All four teams have nine games remaining in the regular season.

"Everyone knows how tight the standings are," said Leon Draisaitl, who scored once and added an assist in the defeat. "It was a big game, but we've got a lot more big games ahead of us."

Wednesday's highly-anticipated matchup certainly lived up to its billing in the opening frame, as the Oilers and Ducks went back and forth to the tune of a 2-2 score through 20 minutes.

Anaheim had a prime opportunity to open the scoring on the power play as Kris Russell took a puck-over-glass delay of game penalty just 24 seconds after puck-drop. The Oilers PK got the job done, though, swinging the momentum back in their favour, with the opening goal soon to follow.

Edmonton's goal came just seconds after Anaheim almost scored one of their own. Ryan Kesler and Andrew Cogliano burst in on a two-on-one rush resulting in Kesler hitting the post with his attempt. The Oilers rushed back down the ice and Draisaitl buried a rebound for his 25th goal of the season at 5:58, temporarily tying Connor McDavid and Patrick Maroon for the team lead.

McDavid took the puck down the right wing and tried to hit a streaking Maroon with a pass. The puck ricocheted off Maroon, off goaltender Jonathan Bernier and on to the stick of Draisaitl, who fired it right back on net and found twine. It was Draisaitl's 66th point, and McDavid's helper bumped him up to an NHL-best 83 points.

Less than two minutes later, Ducks deadline acquisition Patrick Eaves snapped a wrist shot under the arm of Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot to tie the game at 1-1. Eaves now has 25 goals, including four since he was traded from the Dallas Stars.

The 1-1 deadlock was short-lived as the Oilers took a 2-1 lead just 63 seconds later in dazzling fashion from McDavid. Draisaitl got the puck at the Oilers blueline and zipped a pass through the neutral zone to McDavid, who burst around blueliner Cam Fowler and slid a backhand deke past Bernier for his 26th goal and League-leading 84th point. Draisaitl picked up his 67th point with the precise pass.

The Oilers maintained their 2-1 lead until the final minute of the frame, as Hampus Lindholm scored his sixth of the season to tie it up. The defenceman jumped up in the Ducks rush and Rickard Rakell found him with a perfect pass for a one-timer tap-in as the teams took the tie game into the intermission.

"We had some control and some momentum, and just a simple coverage got away on us," said Head Coach Todd McLellan. "They gained a little life off that. In the second period, we played a little more on our heels, we took too many penalties and lost any type of rhythm we had in the game."

"Those goals are tough to swallow, especially on the road up 2-1 in a tough building," McDavid added. "We came out a little bit weak in the second and they took advantage… We played great in the first period, creating chances, but we've got to figure out a way to continue doing that."

Anaheim earned its first lead of the night at 1:33 of the middle frame as Josh Manson rifled a wrist shot past Talbot for his fourth of the season. Lindholm's helper gave him his third point of the night, as he also assisted on Eaves' goal.

Rakell, who's developed a reputation for scoring acrobatic goals, added another one to his tally just past the mid-mark with the teams playing four-on-four, giving the home team a 4-2 cushion. The Swede stick-handled around Russell in the high slot and flicked a shot over Talbot's glove for his team-leading 32nd of the season.

"In the second, we let off the gas a little too much," Draisaitl said. "But they're a good team and you need to give some credit to them too."

Talbot, who had gone 148:18 without allowing a goal before Eaves' marker, was replaced by Laurent Brossoit between the Edmonton pipes. Brossoit was solid in just his fifth appearance of the season, turning aside all 16 shots he faced in relief.

"The last guy I'm going to complain about is Cam Talbot," McLellan said of his netminder. "I thought LB went in and played tremendous. He's worked so hard in practice, and he played a really good game in a tough situation."

With two Ducks in the penalty box and Brossoit pulled in favour of the extra attacker, Mark Letestu blasted home a one-timer with 6.7 seconds remaining in the third to cut the deficit to 4-3, but it was too little too late for the visitors. Despite the defeat, Letestu's goal gave him a new career high of 15 on the season, and it was also his 10th on the PP.

McDavid assisted on the team's third tally for his third point of the night, bumping him up to 85 on the season to lead the NHL.

After allowing two goals in the first, Bernier was perfect between the Anaheim pipes until Letestu's late tally, making 29 saves for his 16th victory of the season.

The Oilers will wrap up their two-game mini road trip on Thursday against the Colorado Avalanche. The Oilers beat the Avs 6-3 in their first and only meeting of the season back on November 23, but they'll play twice this week with the second half of the home-and-home slated for Saturday at Rogers Place.

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