The Oilers capped off their 2018-19 schedule with a 3-1 victory over Calgary that saw Leon Draisaitl score his 50th of the season
CALGARY, AB - It was a bitter-sweet night at the Saddledome on Saturday for the Oilers as a massive personal milestone for Leon Draisaitl was reached but was followed up with a scary play at the Calgary net that saw Oilers captain Connor McDavid need help off the ice with an apparent leg injury in the eventual 3-1 Edmonton victory.
The final Battle of Alberta of 2018-19 started in the best way the Oilers could have hoped, with Draisaitl opening the scoring to the tune of his 50th goal on the season in the first period, a mark not reached by an Edmonton Oiler since Jari Kurri and Wayne Gretzky both accomplished the feat in 1986-87. With the tally, the German forward becomes just the sixth unique player to hit the 50-goal plateau in the last decade, joining the likes of Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos, Corey Perry, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. It also makes him just the fifth to do it in an Oilers uniform after the aforementioned duo of Gretzky and Kurri, along with Glenn Anderson and Mark Messier.
Before things got going at the Saddledome, the Washington Capitals had completed their final game of the regular season where the League's leading goal scorer in Alexander Ovechkin was held off the scoresheet. Ovechkin finished with 51 and with 40 minutes to play in Calgary, Draisaitl was just one goal back of matching him.
A pass from d-man Andrej Sekera off the right wing boards found Draisaitl camped just below the hashmarks where he sniped a quick wrister past Mike Smith for his 50th.
The Rocket Richard watch was officially on.
And he was in it right to the end, coming close to his second of the night on several occasions including a loft at the empty net in the dying seconds of the third that was swatted out of the air by a Calgary defender. He ultimately couldn't find number 51 but was nonetheless happy he could cap his career-best season by reaching the half-century mark.
"The guys kept trying to set me up and luckily one squeaked through," said Draisaitl. "I've been trying to improve my game every day since I was a little kid and I do that every day. I've been happy with the pucks going in for me (this season)."
Oilers Head Coach Ken Hitchcock also had high praise for the Oilers forward given his outstanding body of work this season after finishing it on such a high note.
"His scoring went up when his overall game went up. He started to see how much offence he could create off of checking and hunting pucks and his whole game changed," said Hitchcock. Everybody talks in terms of a 200-hundred foot player and Leon became a 200-foot player at 22 and if he continues down this path, he's going to be an awesome player for a long time."
Calgary also got on the board in the first when Mark Jankowski tipped a point-shot under the arm of Koskinen to knot things up 1-1 heading into the second frame.
That's when things took a scary turn for the Oilers when a Mark Giordano trip on a McDavid partial breakaway sent the Oilers captain crashing into the Flames net where his left leg made hard contact with the goal post. McDavid stayed down on the ice for a few minutes before needing help to get to the dressing room.
It was announced after the game that the centre's x-rays had come back negative and that he would fly back to Edmonton with the team where he will undergo an MRI to further assess any damage.
"He's our leader. He's our go-to guy. When you see him get hurt like that, that stings, that sucks. You never want to see that happen to anyone," said Draisaitl of McDavid's collision.
"It's scary. He's the best player in the league," said Nurse. "You see him go down like that, he's not a guy that ever goes down and stays down like that. That guy means so much to not only this team, but the organization and the city. I think everyone kind of held their breath there."
"He had a lot of people looking at him and so far, so good," said Coach Hitchcock of McDavid's negative x-rays. "You're heartbroken for the guy so to get some good news right now, you can breathe for a few hours, but the MRI tells you everything. We're not out of the woods yet, but it's a decent first step. It could have been a lot worse."
Following McDavid's exit, the Oilers were able to respond on the ensuing power play when an Oscar Klefbom slapshot from the blueline trickled through Smith where a waiting Alex Chiasson was able to clean up the garbage for his 22nd goal and 37th point with 15:03 remaining in the 2nd, adding to his career high in both categories.
The Flames had some of their own dangerous chances in the middle frame, but Mikko Koskinen was dialled in, making several glorious saves in the dying minutes of the second including kicking across the crease to rob Mikael Backlund of a sure goal with his right pad to preserve the Oilers 2-1 lead heading into the final frame.
The big Finn was solid for the whole 60, making at least three five-alarm saves to keep the Flames at bay and finish the night stopping 30 of 31 to cap his debut Oilers season with a 25-21-6 record.
The Oilers got a little insurance in the third when Darnell Nurse and Brad Malone got loose on a two-on-one where Nurse opted for the shot and was able to place a beautiful wrister over Smith left shoulder and right under the bar for his 10th goal and 41st point of the season with 14:39 remaining in regulation, adding to his own career-high point total and marking the first time he's hit double-digits in goals.
"It was kind of one of the boxes I wanted to check off," said Nurse of his uptick in offensive production this season. "From that standpoint, it's good."
The Oilers will head back to Edmonton for Sunday's locker room clean out day and exit interviews.