Tonight was the first Oilers game of the season I watched from buzzer to buzzer, and I was constantly reminded why I chose to carry their flag into the playoffs. McDavid and Draisaitl are the most electrifying duo the league has seen in decades, and the Vancouver Canucks had absolutely no answers for them.
Boeser came out hot with a tap in goal just over 30 seconds after puck drop, but the Oilers adjusted, shut them down for the rest of what was an extremely tight first period, and headed to the locker room down by one.
Then the game got interesting. McDavid and Draisaitl hit the ice for period two ready to fly, and they found themselves on a 2 on 1 early on. Connor came down the left side with his signature speed and wired one across the ice to a trailing Draisaitl, but the puck wasn’t totally level and he whiffed on a chance that seemed destined for the back of the net.
After that, the Oilers started to open things up a little. Tyson Barrie pinched, drove to the slot and got a solid one-time chance, but Demko had the answer. Jujhar Khaira made a smart read in the neutral zone, picked off a lazy pass and got it deep in the Vancouver end. Him and his line continued to forecheck hard and bullied Vancouver in a shift that seemed to set the tone for the rest of the game, as Edmonton would dominate possession through the final 30 minutes. Yamamoto had a great chance down in front of Demko but just missed wide on the backhand, and the Oilers continued to have strong shifts and create chances. And then they broke through.
Mcdavid drove to the net, got a pass from Draisaitl and looked low blocker, but Demko got a piece of it and the rebound landed on the stick of J.T. Miller, who made a critical mistake. He made a blind pass and turned the puck right back over to McDavid behind his own net, who quickly found Leon Draisaitl in the high slot and his one timer would not be denied. Tie game.
Next, penalties started falling from the sky. Tanner Pearson drew an interference call and put Vancouver on the PP, then he canceled it out 10 seconds later by hooking the hands of Darnell Nurse. Immediately after that, Miller would wear the horns again as he got caught with his stick where it shouldn’t be, a high stick on Ty Barrie sent him to box and the teams would skate 4 on 3 after 3 penalties were called in just 30 seconds. Coach Tippet put McDavid and Draisaitl back out with much more real estate to work with and it paid off quickly. With Ryan Nugent-Hopkins creating a screen down low, McDavid would once again put one right on the tape of Draisaitl who one timed a bomb that Demko never had a chance to see. 2-1 Oilers.
The teams went back to 4 on 4, but Edmonton retained the momentum. Jesse Puljujarvi had one great chance before the Oilers penalty ended, and another one on the brief power play that followed, but neither one beat Demko. Then, in his first game in over a month, Evan Bouchard would convert on the same PP, sneaking one past Demko with a wrister from the high slot, who was once again denied vision with a great screen. 3-1.
Vancouver returned to even strength and had a strong late period push that saw the Oilers’ Adam Larsson swat away a dangerous rebound that would have bought the Canucks within 1 heading into the penultimate period. For those on the lookout for a 100 point season, McDavid’s total drew to 93 following the second frame.
The third period was a strong defensive display from Edmonton, but they gave Vancouver too many chances to get back in the game on the power play. Tanner Pearson drew a roughing call out of Larsson, but the Oilers killed it off. Then the Canucks returned to the box for a too many men penalty, and the Oilers failed to convert this time. Larsson would then return to the box for another undisciplined play, an elbow up high on star defender Quinn Hughes, which resulted in an eventful Oilers penalty kill which saw both Bouchard and Mike Smith lose their sticks mid-play, yet they managed to clear the puck and survive the kill.
Jimmy Vesey had what was maybe the Canucks best chance at 5 on 5 to this point, but he didn’t get everything on it and Smith stood tall. After that, the Canucks would turn it over at their blue line, and Josh Archibald would feed Darnell Nurse for his 16th goal of the year. Nurse continues to score at an impressive pace, as he’s now second in the league among defensemen. 4-1 Edmonton.
Puljujarvi had one more chance down low but Demko would remain sharp on him, and Vancouver would go to the power play one more time with just over 2 minutes to go. The Oilers PK would remain perfect for the night, but they saw way too much action in the third period. The team has to clean it up when playing with the lead in order to make a run in the playoffs. A strong penalty kill is not an excuse to take careless penalties.
Draisaitl finished the night with 2 goals, McDavid had 2 assists, and the Oilers got 2 goals from defensemen. Connor is just 7 points away from the 100 mark, the Oilers road win streak continues, and Mike Smith remains undefeated in Vancouver this year. A strong 4-1 win after a slow start on a Tuesday night in B.C.