Koskinen’s Nightmare Start Too Deep to Dig out of

It was supposed to be a rest day for Mike Smith, as Mikko Koskinen would make the start opposite Thatcher Demko in the third meeting between the Oilers and Canucks in a row. That all changed around halfway through the opening period, though.

The Canucks struck just over thirty seconds into the game for the second night in a row and jumped to a 1-0 lead off of a goal from Nils Hoglander. Just four minutes later, Koskinen would crack again as Defenseman Jack Rathbone scored his first career goal on the Canucks second shot. 2-0 Vancouver.

The bleeding just wouldn’t stop for Koskinen. Travis Hamonic would score his first of the year on the third shot for Vancouver just a minute later. Koskinen actually got a huge piece of this one with the blocker but it still found a way to trickle in. At this point, he was visibly frustrated and rattled.

Hoglander got caught interfering and it looked like it would be an Edmonton power play, but just 16 seconds in Draisaitl got caught slashing Alex Edler and the teams would skate 4 on 4 for 1:46. Demko would make his first big save of the night on Yamamoto, a diving stop that just trickled wide of the net. He would shine again shortly after as Nugent-Hopkins got the puck to Darnell Nurse on the rush who slipped behind the D, but would be denied by Demko on the chance.

The game returned to 5 on 5 with Koskinen yet to make a save, and he would never get the chance to do so. Jayce Hawryluk picked up a puck that rebounded off of a teammate and slipped it five hole to make it 4-0 on 4 shots, and chase Koskinen from the crease. Mike Smith threw his bucket on and got ready to take over for the rest of the night.

His presence had an immediate impact on the game. JT Miller would slip by the Oilers D with speed to the outside, and Smith would make two big saves on him to start his night in goal. Demko had an answer for that on the other end of the ice, as Nurse would pick up a pass that deflected off the stick of a defender, only to be denied emphatically.

Then Vancouver’s Graovac found himself headed to the box for a high stick in a scrum, and the Oilers would get the first real power play chance of the game. With McDavid and Draisaitl on the ice, they made it count. Connor came down the right side with the puck and made a drop pass to a trailing Draisaitl, and he wristed it to the far side underneath Demko’s blocker. Mike Smith would collect an assist on the goal. 4-1 Canucks.

Vancouver was doing a great job clogging the middle up to this point, but once they returned to 5 on 5 play the Oilers seemed to be coming to life. McDavid would make a cross ice pass to a wide open Jesse Puljujarvi who would one time it top shelf on the blocker side to pull the Oilers within two. That would wrap up a very eventful first period that saw McDavid pick up two assists, bringing him to 95 points on the year.

The early second period saw the momentum bounce back in Vancouver’s favor, they came out stating hard and keeping the Oilers to the perimeter for the first 5 minutes, but Smith stayed sharp and kept it a two goal game for the time being. Then Nate Archibald found himself in the Canucks end all one with the puck on edge, and he fired it wide on a great chance to get within one. A shift later, Quinn Hughes would stand up McDavid as he tried to toe drag around him, but Hughes came up with a strong takeaway.

Hamonic would hit Chiasson hard up high in the neutral zone, and when Chiasson got up Hamonic was ready to answer for it. The two dropped the gloves and had a pretty anti-climactic bout. The replay of the hit appeared to show Hamonic making direct contact to the head, but he would avoid a penalty for a headshot. Hamonic would go on to collect his second career Gordie Howe hat trick.

A face off came in the Edmonton end of the ice, and Graovac would get the puck, take it just below the goal line, and bank it off of Smith’s helmet and into the net for a highlight reel goal. 5-2 Vancouver.

Nurse would draw a double minor soon after, but the Oilers couldn’t get any sustained pressure early on in the power play and ultimately failed to convert on the 4 minute opportunity. JT Miller would block a shot during the kill and was visibly hurt, but he stayed on the ice and helped finish a great penalty kill. Nurse would go after MacEwan once he got out of the box, giving him a hard cross check, and when SportsNet came back from commercial, Vancouver was going on the power play this time. Edmonton would kill it off as Smith would stand tall.

With the period winding down, Edmonton put the pressure back on. Puljujarvi drove hard to net for a good scoring chance that was denied by Demko, who was the difference maker in a period that saw Edmonton record 17 shots on goal.

The final period would start with a short but spirited bout between Nurse and MacEwan. Nurse would eat a hard right hand after landing a few shots of his own, and then take MacEwan to the ice as they continued to swing at each other until the refs broke them up. Vancouver would get a power play out of the exchange that was killed off by Edmonton.

Mike Smith had a close call as he got caught behind the net, but Alex Chiasson would bail him out with a diving save in the crease to keep the comeback alive. Tyler Myers would go to the box for a trip, but the Canucks would swiftly kill the penalty as the Oilers only recorded one power play shot this time. Archibald would head to the box for an Oilers penalty shortly after.

The oilers would fail to convert on a short handed two on one chance, and when the puck came back their way, Mike Smith absolutely robbed Brock Boeser on a sure cross crease goal. The oilers would go back the other way and McDavid would draw a penalty shot. He came in slow trying to wait Demko out and go to the backhand, but he answered with a huge save of his own as his left pad shot across the blue paint to close the door.

The Oilers would kill the penalty and once they got back to 5 on 5, they would make a beautiful play to get back within two. McDavid dug the puck out of the corner and found Nurse on the blue line, and he would feed it cross ice to Draisaitl at the bottom of the opposite circle, who drilled home a one timer from a tough angle. The score became 5-3 just as Canada would defeat Russia by the same score in the U18 gold medal game, which saw Owen Power and Connor Bedard pick up a few points each. (There’s nothing like watching two hockey games at the same time.)

With just under 5 minutes to go, Draisaitl tried to clear the zone but the puck bounced into the feet of Boeser who would dump it back into the Edmonton zone. Tanner Pearson chased it down and got it back to Boeser in the high slot, who wouldn’t be denied this time and put the game away for the Canucks. 6-3 Vancouver.

Things got chippy as the clock ticked away, and Demko would make one more big save at the buzzer on James Neal. The Canucks snapped a 6 game losing streak by a final score of 6-3, and Demko was the difference maker in this one. He recorded 39 saves on 42 shots. The Oilers were able to keep it close, but they couldn’t recover from Koskinen’s porous start to the night.

McDavid picked up another assist in the third period bringing his point total to 96, just four short of the century mark. These two teams will face each other again this Saturday at 10 pm EST, and one more time next Saturday to wrap up the Oilers regular season after a trip to Montreal for games on Monday and Wednesday.

Author: williamjschindler

Born in 2000, live on Long Island, love to watch NHL hockey. Roller hockey player, revived Ward Melville High School’s Islandwide varsity team in 2017, coached POB/JFK Islandwide middle school in 2019, represented New York in State Wars 2017, 2018.

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