The Oilers kick-off their three-game road trip in Arizona taking on the Coyotes, Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. MDT. The game can be seen on Sportsnet West and heard on 630 CHED and the Oilers Radio Network.
EDMONTON, AB – The Oilers special teams were singled out after their 3-2 loss to Colorado Sunday night, with the home team’s power play going 0-for-4 and their penalty kill failing to get a key stop late. While Edmonton was able to draw within one at the end of the third, it was too little too late for the Oilers and the Avalanche got a much-needed two points in their race for the playoffs.
“For me, the difference was the power play and it’s not even close,” Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan said after the game. “Their power play zipped it around, we couldn’t win faceoffs so they stayed in our end for two minutes, zipped it around, scored goals and lined it up again. And ours turned it over and went to break out again and then turned it over and went to break out again and then guess what – we turned it over again and went to break out. A lot of talk about having a quarterback and stuff like that, it had nothing to do with the quarterback on the power play. That had to do with the forwards, really high-end, talented, skilled forwards that you put out there that can win you a game in that situation and just turnover after turnover after turnover after turnover. Disappointing.”
The Avalanche finished 1-for-2 on the man advantage but essentially were perfect with their second even-strength goal coming just seconds after Oilers winger Zack Kassian left the penalty box.
Edmonton was also disappointed in their sluggish start to the first period, with Colorado having a better jump early. That doesn’t mean they didn’t have their own chances. The Oilers had some offensive looks in the first but missed the net on a few, resulting in a scoreless opening frame.
A minute and a half into the game, the Oilers had a great offensive chance on a 2-on-1 rush. Rookie centre Connor McDavid blew past Francois Beauchemin and flipped a backhand to Patrick Maroon at the Avalanche net. Maroon tapped the puck wide of a beaten Calvin Pickard and the game remained scoreless.
With just over nine minutes to go in the opening frame, Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse stepped up into the slot and danced his way to a look at Pickard’s blocker side. Nurse, however, hit the side of the net with his shot.
Nurse again generated a scoring opportunity four minutes later with a pair of point shots on Pickard, the second of which allowed a juicy rebound with Maroon out in front. The Oilers unfortunately couldn’t capitalize as the puck rolled out of danger.
Then, 1:19 into the second period, Gabriel Landeskog opened the scoring for the visitors. Landeskog backhanded a shot past a diving Laurent Brossoit, assisted by Carl Soderberg and Shawn Matthias.
The Avalanche increased their lead to two immediately following a power play’s expiration. A long-range one-timer from Tyson Barrie found its way past Brossoit at 11:31. Mikkel Boedker and Landeskog recorded the assists.
The Oilers then watched two power plays in the second go by without any results.
“There wasn’t enough compete for the puck or just not enough finish when it comes to making passes and making plays, but these guys have a good kill right now too,” said Oilers centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. “I think they’re one of the hottest in the league. Really, when it comes down to it, we just didn’t execute enough on it.”
The Oilers pulled back within one with a hard-working goal by the fourth line. Mark Letestu, in front of the net, spun around and passed to Matt Hendricks backdoor to make it a 2-1 game at 2:53 of the third. Kassian recorded the second assist. The play was started by a big hit from Oilers defenceman Griffin Reinhart along the boards.
“I thought Hendy, Letestu and Kass had a really good game,” said Nugent-Hopkins. “Really, they were the driving force the whole game for us and it’s too bad that the rest of us weren’t able to pick up where they left off.”
With the goal, Hendricks matched a career high three-game point streak which he set back in 2009 while a member of the Avalanche.
A power-play redirection past Brossoit at 9:09 of the third gave the Avalanche a 3-1 lead. Blake Comeau got a piece of a pass inside by Erik Johnson and the puck found twine giving the visitors some cushion. Beauchemin recorded the second assist.
The Oilers continued to scratch and claw late. With an empty net and an extra attacker, Nugent-Hopkins fired a shot past Pickard at 19:53, assisted by McDavid.
However, Comeau’s goal gave Colorado all they separation they needed to skate away with an important two points.
“We had some opportunities, we had some rebounds, we had some opportunities we didn’t capitalize on but for the most part it was a special teams battle tonight,” said Hendricks. “Our penalty kill wasn’t as good as theirs and the same thing with the power play so it’s a frustrating loss for us.”
With the loss, the Oilers closed out their five-game homestand with a 2-3 record. They now hit the road for three games against Arizona, San Jose and Los Angeles. They open their road trip in Glendale, on Tuesday a 8 p.m. MT.