The Oilers close out their road trip against the Kings in Los Angeles on Saturday night at 8 p.m. MT. The game can be seen on CBC or heard on 630 CHED.
EDMONTON, AB – Head Coach Todd McLellan was mad following the first period effort of his Oilers squad. Down 2-0 after the opening 20 minutes, the players in the locker room got a vocal assessment of their performance to that point and it helped spark a response.
“The message was we were getting out-worked, out-competed, out-hustled, and not being very smart,” said McLellan. “We’ve been a competitive, scrappy team. We may not win as many games, but the effort has always been there. I thought we let ourselves off the hook in the first. I challenged them and they came out and responded well so that’s a real good sign for us.”
From that point forward, the Oilers played much better and rallied to cruise past the Sharks 6-3 in San Jose, spoiling their chance to clinch a playoff spot on home ice.
“He was pretty mad, but we were mad at ourselves too,” Oilers winger Taylor Hall said of his coach’s first intermission address. “We didn’t really need him to come give us the jolt, but he did and it worked out for us.”
Fireworks were expected based on an incident the last time these two teams met. Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse was the predicted target for retribution from the Sharks after his altercation with Roman Polak on March 8 led to a three-game suspension. The Sharks recalled Micheal Haley, a veteran pugilist, from the American Hockey League prior to the game.
“They were in control with how the game was going to go in that situation,” said McLellan. “They had a lot more to lose than we did and Darnell did his thing and from there the game just took on a life of its own away from that stuff. It was no big deal when it was all said and done.”
Nurse and Haley dropped the gloves 3:11 into the first period to settle down the tensions.
“He’s a big man, a big boy, he can take care of himself,” McLellan said of Nurse. “We were well-equipped for anything else and I actually think that distracted us a little bit to begin the game.”
It was Polak’s shot that set up the game’s opening goal with Nurse and Haley in the box. Polak’s point shot zipped through a mess of bodies and was redirected past Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot by Tommy Wingels just 36 seconds after the fight, giving the home team a 1-0 edge.
The tension between the two squads did not immediately diffuse, with pushing and shoving behind the San Jose net leading to some yelling back and forth between Oilers forward Patrick Maroon and San Jose’s Brenden Dillon.
Oilers winger Zack Kassian received a two-minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty at 11:05 of the first as he was involved in more extracurriculars. The Sharks increased their lead to 2-0 at 11:41 on the ensuing power play. Joe Thornton set up Joe Pavelski in front for a one-timer, while Logan Couture had the second assist.
The Oilers had some more jump in their game to start the second, outshooting the Sharks 6-1 in the opening eight minutes of the frame.
Directly following an offensive zone draw, the Oilers made it a 2-1 game 1:39 into the middle frame. Mark Letestu won the faceoff and the puck came back to defenceman Adam Clendening. The blueliner sent it on net and Lauri Korpikoski got a piece of it for his 10th goal of the season.
The Oilers tied the game at 8:18 of the second with Hall sneaking a shot through James Reimer, and their rally continued 45 seconds later with Clendening firing home a point shot for the go-ahead goal. That was Clendening’s first goal as a member of the Oilers, and was assisted by Maroon and Nurse.
Maroon received a slashing penalty at 11:45 of the second, which allowed the Sharks to stem the tide and tie the game. Patrick Marleau scored, assisted by Thornton and Brent Burns.
The Oilers were able to take back the lead with 1:56 left in the period. Connor McDavid and Maroon had a 2-on-1 rush and the rookie centre flipped the puck perfectly to the hulking forward for a beautiful goal. Nail Yakupov had the second helper.
“I told him I was coming, screaming up the ice and he had good patience, good vision and it was a great pass,” said Maroon.
Maroon finished his night with a goal and two assists, plus five shots, as he earned first star of the game recognition.
Much like McDavid was pulling away from defenders with his speed, the Oilers pulled away on the scoreboard in the third.
Moments after the rookie blazed past the Sharks defence and Reimer made a huge save to keep him from finishing the play, the Oilers scored to go up by two. Andrej Sekera fired a shot on net, it rebounded off Maroon in front and Jordan Eberle buried it at 12:54 of the third to tie Hall for the team lead with 24 goals.
Hall made sure the Sharks were completely out of the water by potting the empty-net goal at 19:55 of the final frame, closing out the 6-3 victory and putting him back ahead of Eberle with his 25th.
“It’s good. It shows good character in the locker room,” Maroon said of the Oilers response in the game’s final 40 minutes. “It shows we can play with any team in the league, especially down the stretch when these games matter for San Jose and the teams that are trying to clinch a playoff spot and try to move up in the standings and earn home-ice advantage. That’s huge, and I thought we responded pretty well tonight with that.”
The Oilers end this three-game road trip out west against the Kings in Los Angeles on Saturday night at 8 p.m. MT. The game can be seen on CBC or heard on 630 CHED and the Oilers Radio Network.