The Oilers continue their five-game homestand against the Nashville Predators on Monday at 7:00 p.m. MST. The game can be seen on CBC or heard on 630 CHED and the Oilers Radio Network.
EDMONTON, AB – “It’s kind of insanity isn’t it, when you keep hitting your head against the wall and get the same result?”
Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan says the smarter team won the game tonight in Edmonton. Despite outshooting the Coyotes 44-29, the Oilers were held off the board for the second straight home game. Arizona blanked the Oilers 4-0, backstopped by Mike Smith in his return to game action.
“I would tell you that the smarter team won the game. Hands down,” said McLellan. “We’re the team that created (44) shots on goal but I don’t recall, other than Taylor (Hall’s) breakaway, having one single outnumbered rush for. On the other end, we gave up five, maybe six, clear-cut 2-on-1s, reckless pinches, no covers, we gave up a breakaway on our power play— (Martin) Hanzal walked in all by himself —we took a slashing minor to negate a power play about 15 seconds after the whistle went, we shot the puck out of the ice surface on a penalty kill from one end to the other when we had all the time in the world.
“We actually had seven guys on the ice tonight at one point and got away with it for a warning. Formula for failure, and it’s been going on. It’s proven here over the years that it’s a formula for failure, and we just proved it again tonight.”
Edmonton racked up 32 penalty minutes in the game and failed to capitalize on their three power plays. It was a penalty-riddled first frame, in which the Oilers and Coyotes combined for 14 penalty minutes in the opening 20.
Oilers centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins fired a shot off the far post early in his return to action. Nugent-Hopkins had previously missed 21 games while recovering from a broken hand.
“I felt pretty good. Your first game back you’re running a lot on adrenaline,” said Nugent-Hopkins. “I think energy-wise you feel pretty good no matter what because you’re just excited to get back out there. There’s a few plays where I mishandled the puck. I think that will just come after a few games. For the most part, I felt pretty good. Legs felt pretty good, so hand held up well.”
The Oilers had their share of chances to start the game, outshooting Arizona 12-5 in the first. The Coyotes, however, took the 1-0 lead at 12:26 of the opening period when Viktor Tikhonov redirected a puck from Martin Hanzal past Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot.
In keeping with the theme of the first, Arizona’s Klas Dahlbeck took a hooking penalty with four seconds remaining in the first, giving Edmonton a power play to start the second.
The Oilers got traffic to the front of the net in the opening minutes of the second, while on the man advantage, but Smith covered the puck. Smith was, like Nugent-Hopkins, making his post-injury debut. Smith had not played a game since December 8, following surgery on a core muscle injury.
That power play yielded no results for Edmonton. The Oilers did get another crack at the man advantage when Andrej Sekera drew an interference penalty from Anthony Duclair. Sekera hit Duclair hard behind the Arizona net and a few moments later, Duclair went for Sekera and took the penalty. Again, the Oilers were held off the board.
The Coyotes increased their lead to two when Antoine Vermette zipped a shot past Talbot at 6:56 of the second. Shane Doan and Michael Stone recorded the assists.
The Oilers crashed the net following the next faceoff but Smith locked it down again. The Oilers were outshooting Arizona 20-9 following that sequence, but found themselves in a 2-0 hole.
At 8:31 of the second, Adam Cracknell fired the puck over the glass and took a penalty. With Eberle already in the box for holding, the Oilers were forced to kill a lengthy 5-on-3. Unfortunately, the Oilers coudn’t kill off the remaining seconds. With seven seconds left on the first penalty, Alex Tanguay fired a long-range shot past Talbot giving Arizona a 3-0 lead.
With 4:12 left to play in the second, Cracknell had a chance at redemption with a shortened breakaway. He snapped a shot on net but Smith made the save. Cracknell pounced on the rebound and crashed into the net, goalie and all. While the Oilers forward made it past the goal line, the puck did not.
Taylor Hall had a breakaway 6:44 into the final frame. He got a shot off, but was stopped by Smith. Hall drew a hooking penalty from Connor Murphy in the process. Again, the Oilers failed to capitalize on the man advantage and dropped to 0 for their last nine and are just three for their last 38.
“They’re a team that just didn’t give up anything,” said McLellan. “They gave up a number of chances, but nothing outnumbered. They’ve got good goaltending and walked away with a 4-0 win. Good for them. They deserved it. They were the smarter team.”
Vermette put Arizona up 4-0 at 9:34 of the third, jumping on a loose puck in the slot right out in front of Talbot.
“Very frustrating,” said Oilers centre Connor McDavid. “We were trying to get on a little bit of a roll here at the end and were putting together some decent games but we’re not stringing them together. We’ve got to find some consistency.”
Arizona has now recorded at least a point against Edmonton in 22 straight meetings between the two clubs. The Oilers have now dropped seven of their last eight home games. They look to right their home results when they host Nashville on Monday at 7 p.m. MT.