Mikko Koskinen sets a career-high in saves with 40, posting his first NHL shutout; Caggiula scores twice as Oilers down the Blackhawks 4-0
EDMONTON, AB - How does one suppress the offence of the high-flying Blackhawks?
Mikko Koskinen, of course.
The Oilers backup netminder posted his second win with the Orange & Blue, establishing a career-high in saves with 40 en route to his first career National Hockey League shutout in Edmonton's 4-0 blanking over the Chicago Blackhawks Thursday at Rogers Place.
Koskinen didn't care for his personal accolade after the match, insisting it's all about the team, who are now 7-4-1. The Finn is 2-0-0 this year, sporting a 1.51 goals-against average and .955 save percentage.
"Honestly, I only care if we win or lose, so it feels good because we won," the keeper, who stopped 31 even strength shots, six on the power play and three shorthanded, said.
"That's all that matters. We need points."
Drake Caggiula - who slotted into the Oilers first line - scored two goals and Tobias Rieder notched a pair of helpers. Alex Chiasson nabbed his fifth of the season and defender Jason Garrison lit the lamp for the first time as an Oiler.
"The guys put out their best effort and Mikko kept us in it," said veteran rearguard Garrison. "I know the guys feel confident in front of him. He works extremely hard in practice."
Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan offered commentary on his goaltender post-game.
"Great for him, he's been a good teammate the last month or month and a half," he said. "Guys want to play for him."
Edmonton's second line, consisting of Rieder, Leon Draisaitl and Chiasson were flying in the first period, hovering around the net on each of their shifts, nearly cracking goaltender Cam Ward.
Draisaitl served up his patented sauce to Chiasson on the doorstep but the winger's shot went wide of the mark. Not long after, Rieder and Draisaitl teamed up on the attack off the rush, with Draisaitl fooling a Blackhawks defender by placing the puck in his feet, then having his German compatriot rip the loose puck at Ward - who stopped 24 shots against the Oilers on Sunday - unexpectedly.
The trio got close again when Rieder dished a defensive zone cross-ice pass to Chiasson, who accepted it within the neutral zone in stride. Chiasson's zinger beat Ward but not the post.
Chicago tilted the ice midway through the first 20, getting acquainted with Koskinen. The goalie remained perfect, making 15 saves and providing assurance for his teammates from the crease out.
The keeper extended his left pad on Alex DeBrincat's high-slot attempt, then gloved Dominik Kahun on the rebound. Koskinen also caught both of defenceman Erik Gustafsson's first-period slap shots.
Draisaitl explained the backup's dynamic when shooters encroach.
"He's tall but he moves pretty good for his size, too," Draisaitl, now up to 14 points in 12 games with one apple on the night, said. "If you try to get him East to West, he's still pretty quick on his feet. He's hard to beat."
In the second, Caggiula made good on his words from the morning skate when asked how to be an effective piece of Edmonton's premiere line alongside Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Connor McDavid.
"Cause havoc on the forecheck, create a lot of loose puck opportunities and allow them to do their thing… If I can just be ready to shoot it at all times it's going to go a long way for me," he said Thursday morning.
Caggiula walked it like he talked it Thursday evening, registering two shots on goal in the first and scoring 18 seconds into the middle stanza.
Nugent-Hopkins fluttered the puck from the slot and Caggiula settled it down to his blade then toe-dragged it to the right of a sprawled Ward, sliding the puck under the goalie's pants. With the secondary helper, McDavid extended his point streak to six games.
"The coaches put me in a new role today and I was happy to answer the bell," said Caggiula. "It's just one game and you just got to make sure you stay consistent."
It was all Koskinen the rest of the way, who backed up his first-period performance with an arguably better second frame. Chicago's best chances came while shorthanded.
The Oilers keeper got his left pad on Jonathan Toews' backhand 5-hole slip on a breakaway then thwarted back-to-back shots courtesy of Brandon Manning and DeBrincat off a 2-on-1.
"For me, that was a bit of a turning point," said McLellan. "He was good in the special teams situation. I say special teams instead of penalty kill because he made more saves on our power play... It's a really good sign for a goaltender finding his way."
The Vantaa, Finland, guardian never wavered, also stopping Andreas Martinsen's goalmouth jam and Marcus Kruger's hunt for its rebound.
With the crease rightfully Koskinen's, Martinsen was called for goaltender interference after crashing the net, setting up Edmonton's next power-play opportunity.
Garrison bombed one while a man up, beating Ward glove side with 37 ticks remaining in the period. Rieder received an assist on the play with a swooping backhand pass, giving him six assists on the campaign. The home side finished 1-for-4 on the power play and 3-for-3 on the PK.
Edmonton continued the offence in the final period, getting one shorthanded from Caggiula and another at even strength from Chiasson.
Jujhar Khaira's well-timed pass in the Blackhawks' zone put Caggiula in all alone on Ward. The Pickering, ON, product went forehand-backhand to score his fourth of the year and second in two periods.
"Since he's got healthy post-training camp and we sent a little message to him in Game 1, he has been pretty fiesty," said McLellan of Caggiula. "He's been practicing hard, there's been nothing casual about him or his game. He does a good job of staying over pucks, does a good job of winning tight battles and he'll go to the net like he scored tonight."
The Oilers second line was also rewarded for their efforts with under 10 minutes left in the game. Draisaitl intercepted Manning's breakout pass in the neutral zone, pushing the puck up to Rieder for a 2-on-0 with Chiasson. The German opened his blade once then dished the biscuit to Chiasson for a gimme, putting Edmonton ahead by four. The goal was the Montreal, QC, native's fifth of the season.
"We're back to finding different guys to contribute in different ways," said McLellan when asked about Chiasson.
Blackhawks defenceman Brandon Davidson elbowed Darnell Nurse late in the game as the Oilers blueliner skated to the net. The former Oiler was called for a five-minute elbowing major and game misconduct, giving Edmonton a power play for the rest of the game.
Next up for the Oilers is a four-game road trip, beginning on Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings.