James Neal notched his first two goals as an Oiler and Joakim Nygard scored his first NHL goal on a night of firsts for the Oilers in a thrilling 6-5 win over the Kings
EDMONTON, AB - The Dealer was dealin'.
And the Edmonton Oilers are wheelin'.
'The Real Deal' James Neal scored his first two goals as an Oiler on the power-play, and Joakim Nygard notched his first NHL goal off the first NHL assist for Gaëtan Haas in a thrilling 6-5 win over the Los Angeles Kings at Rogers Place on Hockey Night in Canada.
The Oilers begin a four-game road swing on Tuesday against the Islanders. The game can be seen on Sportsnet Oilers and heard on the Oilers Radio Network, including 630 CHED. Puck drop is 5:08 p.m. MST.
The name carries a reputation, and nobody knows that more than Neal himself after arriving in Edmonton during the offseason rejuvenated and ready to re-establish his pedigree as an elite scorer with the Oilers.
"(Dave Tippett) and (Ken Holland) gave me a great chance to be the player I know I can be, and it feels good to get two wins and have a good night tonight."
In the end, it was a night of firsts and end-to-end action.
Gaëtan Haas and Nygard convened for a quick pep talk prior to the face-off that led to the Swede's first NHL tally in the hopes of creating a game-tying European connection with the Oilers trailing 4-3 a quarter of the way through the final frame.
"He said to me before the faceoff: 'Let's have some European showtime,'" Nygard said post-game.
Haas recorded the assist on Nygard's third-period tally for his first NHL point, and a sublime toe drag and dish by Tomas Jurco on Darnell Nurse's equalizing goal once again levelled things up with just under 10 minutes remaining after Drew Doughty wired home LA's fifth of the game.
The Oilers trailed on four separate occasions, but fought tooth and nail to see Neal's game-winning tally with the man advantage complete the comeback for good with 6:32 on the clock despite a late tripping penalty from Neal having them on the ropes in the final moments.
"It just shows that we're willing to do anything to win," Neal continued. "We made mistakes, kind of shot ourselves in the foot a few times, but we did the right things to get ourselves back in the game and give ourselves a chance to win.
"At the end of the day, we got two points and we're going to move on here with two wins."
Only four firsts for Neal, Nygard, Haas and Jurco could overshadow a quiet four-point night for Connor McDavid, who combined on the top line with Leon Draisaitl (two assists) and Zack Kassian (one goal) for seven points.
"A lot different," Tippet said of the difference in his captain's play between the first and second contests of the season.
"You kind of get a feel for him. So we played Wednesday and then had an optional skate on Thursday. You know when he goes out for the optional skate that he's got a purpose and he's going to work on some things. He had a hard practice yesterday and jumped in, and I had a feeling he wanted to come out and have a game."
The Dynamic Duo didn't wait when Draisaitl laid the puck off for McDavid, who cut through the Kings defence in similar fashion to open night against the Canucks and drew a hooking call that wouldn't matter when the captain's centring pass took deflections off both skates of defenceman Matt Roy before sliding over the line 53 seconds into the contest.
The tally would go down as an unassisted marker for McDavid - his second goal of the campaign.
"In his first shift, you could see that he wanted to be better tonight. He was better tonight," Tippett added.
After leading the Oilers with one goal and six assists in three games against the Kings last season, Oscar Klefbom picked up right where he left off with three helpers on the night to ensure the Oilers depart on the road for the first time this season with a 2-0 record.
Netminder Mike Smith settled in as the game went on with his teammates answering the rallying cry, making 27 saves on 32 shots after two attempted clears in the opening frame resulted in goals from Dustin Brown and Trevor Lewis.
"I loved the way our guys were talking on the bench: 'We've got to grab this for him,'" Oilers Head Coach Dave Tippett said.
The Oilers depart for their first road trip of the season on Monday, a four-game Eastern swing where they face the New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, and Chicago Blackhawks, with the momentum built from a two-game, season-opening win streak.
They'll enjoy the win now, but the work doesn't stop.
"That was a fun game, wasn't it?" Tippett laughed. "Love that we won, love that we got the points, but there's a lot of mistakes to clean up."