EDMONTON, AB - A strong goaltending performance by Ben Scrivens and goals by Benoit Pouliot, Nail Yakupov and Taylor Hall lifted the Oilers to their fourth straight victory, a 3-0 win over the visiting Montreal Canadiens.
“It’s a big win,” Oilers centre Boyd Gordon said. “We’ve struggled to win hockey games here. We beat a good hockey team tonight and there are definitely a lot of positives going forward. It’s one of those things where we don’t want to let it slip, we want to keep building and keep moving forward.”
The Oilers had a nervous moment late in the first. Scrivens turned away Max Pacioretty one-on-one with a little over five minutes remaining in the opening period.
The Canadiens swarmed the net and put the heat on Scrivens following that save. Montreal forward Brendan Gallagher skated into Scrivens and spun the goaltender around allowing Pacioretty to score on the open net. The goal was waved off due to the incidental contact by Gallagher.
“That’s kind of the way they play,” Scrivens said. “They’re a smaller, speedy and scrappy team. You kind of knew going in that they were going to be crashing the net. That’s how they generate offence, is by getting those second and third whacks. I just tried to battle for my position, see every shot that I could and I thought the guys in front of me did a great job. They had a lot of big blocks for us and I thought they played really well, clearing pucks and all of that.”
It looked like the game would remain scoreless heading into the first intermission, but the Oilers took the lead late in the period.
Mark Arcobello passed the puck out in front to former Canadiens forward Benoit Pouliot and he buried the backhand for his first goal with the Oilers, since signing with the club in free agency. The score at 19:41 of the first gave the Oilers the 1-0 lead.
Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban pushed Oilers forward Matt Hendricks head first into the boards late in the first period. Hendricks immediately skated off to the locker room. He was not present for the start of the second period, but did return later in the frame.
Subban received a penalty at the buzzer sounding the end of the first. He was given a tripping penalty at the end of the frame to give the Oilers a power play to start the second.
Unfortunately for the Oilers, they could not capitalize on the gift.
They did however in crease their lead to 2-0 at 6:33 of the second. Mark Fayne’s shot banked off the boards behind the Canadiens net and out in front to Pouliot. The winger fed Nail Yakupov on the other side of the crease for an easy tap-in. The goal was Yakupov’s second of the season.
There was some pushback by the Canadiens late in the game but they could not break Scrivens.
“For us to wait until the third period to start playing the way we want to play is too late, we’re not that good,” Subban said. “We’re good when we’re playing the right way. We’re an average team at best when we don’t play the right way.”
With just under 10 minutes remaining in the game, the Oilers nearly scored their third and the possible dagger on a power play. Justin Schultz just missed on a loose puck out in front and bodies piled up in front of the net as the puck was covered.
The Oilers would net that dagger in the form of an empty net goal by Taylor Hall with 2:18 remaining in the game. He was assisted by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jesse Joensuu.
As a team, the Oilers blocked 21 shots. It was a superb effort by players like Gordon (5 blocked shots) and Fayne (6) to sacrifice the body and keep Montreal off the board.
“It’s a huge testament to those guys,” Scrivens said. “They’re fearless out there and it’s kind of crazy. I’ve got all the gear so it makes sense for me to block shots but those guys are laying themselves on the line and putting themselves in danger. Obviously, we’ve got to respond to that. I definitely can’t talk about this win without mentioning plays like that, those big blocked shots in the second and third there.”
Scrivens was named the NHL’s second star of the week on Monday morning and he backed up that distinction with his performance against the Canadiens. The goalie made 29 saves, including 12 in the third period to secure the win.
The Oilers four straight wins have not come against all weaker opponents. They handed Montreal just their second loss of the season and had already beaten Washington and Tampa Bay on this homestand.
“They’re in the top in the East, those teams right now,” Pouliot said. “For us to do that, to win those games and especially at home in front of our fans, it shows a lot of character from our guys and we’re doing the job right now.”