Oilers 4, Capitals 5
In theory it was the Washington Capitals who were shorthanded on Monday night. The Caps had $40 million worth of hockey players unavailable to play due to injury, including their top defence pair, their #1 centre and their #1 right winger. Then they took the decision to rest their #1 goalie, Darcy Kuemper. In all, just 3 of Washington’s 9 players with cap hits north of $5 million actually played.
Not surprisingly under the circumstances, the Caps entered the game on a 4-game losing streak, most recently having blown a 2-0 lead at home to fall to lowly Arizona in regulation. That brought them to this game in a snarly mood.
The visiting squad, the Edmonton Oilers, were by comparison the picture of health, with all of their top players available to play. The Oilers too had reasons to arrive to this game in ill humour, having lost their previous 2 games with 0 points to show for either. Yet it was the Oilers who were chasing the play, and too often taking unnecessary if not downright careless penalties, all of which proved to be costly.
5 times an Oiler went to the penalty box, and all 5 times that player watched from the sin bin as his hapless mates allowed a powerplay goal, typically within 30 seconds of the initial penalty. In all, the visitors allowed 4 powerplay goals (1 of which was scored with 2 Oilers in the box), with each of those goals stretching a 1-goal Edmonton deficit to 2. The Oilers kept clawing back, but were never able to produce a game-tying tally. That included failing to convert their one and only powerplay opportunity, trailing 4-3 midway in the third. On a night Washington’s PP was lethal, Edmonton’s high-powered unit couldn’t produce so much as a shot.
In large part due to the powerplay disparity — in both opportunity and execution — the Caps wound up on the leading edge of all shot and scoring chance metrics: officially 65-57 in shot attempts and 31-29 in shots on goal, and by our own counts at the Cult of Hockey, 16-10 in Grade A shots and 8-6 in 5-alarm chances. And the key stat, 5-4 in goals… in regulation, as usual.
#2 Evan Bouchard, 4. Made a few solid plays in the early going to create space and get the puck moving north. Blew the zone on the first Caps goal, isolating Foegele to do Bouch’s normal job of breaking out the puck. Undressed by Alex Ovechkin in an extended 1-on-1 midway in the third, but Skinner made the stop. Got tripped deep in his own territory with 30 seconds left in Edmonton’s only powerplay but the foul went undetected. His only shot on net was a Bouch bomb that might have beaten a right handed goalie but was gloved by the southpaw Charlie Lindgren. Couldn’t get his shot through the high defender when it was desperately needed late in the third, and took a high-sticking penalty in the aftermath that produced the game winning goal just 30 seconds later.
#5 Cody Ceci, 2. Had a dismal time of it right from the get-go, twice getting drawn out of position and burned for a 5-alarm chance from an unguarded man in the low slot. Skinner stopped one, the crossbar the other. Was among the victims on the first 2 Caps powerplay goals, and in the box himself on the next after applying the horse collar on Caps bottom sixer Garnet Hathaway for no apparent reason.
#10 Derek Ryan, 4. On for 2 powerplay goals against in just 1:31, though neither was particularly his fault. Had little happening offensively, and just 3/10=30% on the dot.
#13 Jesse Puljujarvi, 5. Got an opportunity on the McDavid line and responded with a robust effort in 14 minutes of ice time. 3 shots, 3 hits, and a number of good short passes that found #97 on the move. Alas, his clever lob pass that might have sent McDavid off to the races was batted down on a fine emergency play by Nic Dowd. As the lines juggled, he was involved in a dominant shift with RNH and Hyman that pinned the Caps in their own end.
#14 Devin Shore, 5. Decent effort in 10 minutes of ice time, not much to show for it. 1 shot, 1 block, 1 hit, 1 faceoff win. Had a great chance in tight but heeled it wide.
#18 Zach Hyman, 7. Gorgeous plays on 2 Edmonton goals, with well-earned primary assists on both. Really turned on the jets to win a race to the puck and managed to force it in front where RNH rapped it home for the 3-2. Then made a heads-up pass across the net front to Draisaitl on the 4-3. Took a penalty at the end of a 98-second shift where his line was pinned deep.
#22 Tyson Barrie, 6. Had a strong game at even strength, with excellent shot shares including an impressive 9-1 in high danger chances. Barely missed converting a splendid McDavid feed from the edge of the blue paint. Had a terrific shift on the second period 4-on-4, Earned an assist on a nice 3-way passing sequence that led to McDavid’s goal, and won a key battle in the build-up to Draisaitl’s. Made a fine play to tip an Ovechkin slot rocket into the netting. Among those beaten on 2 Caps powerplay goals, however.
#25 Darnell Nurse, 2. Had a horrendous night on the penalty kill, on which he played just 2:50 but was on the ice for 4 goals against. We tagged him on 3 of those, allowing an outside shot that redirected off his skate on the 2-0, yielding the cross-ice pass on the 3-1 (the 3v5 scenario), and hustling back to take the man but unable to stop Alex Ovechkin’s superb drop pass on the 5-3. (More “Ovi good” than “Nurse bad” on that one.) Did make a nice play to set up RNH for the 5-4, but too little, too late. Played 23:38 but with 0 shots on a game the Oilers needed to push the attack. Perhaps worth noting he crashed heavily into Edmonton’s net in the early going.
#27 Brett Kulak, 5. Active and involved with some good, some bad. His outside shot played a role in Draisaitl’s goal.
#28 Ryan Murray, 3. Inserted into the line-up in place of Markus Niemelainen, he responded with another spotty game. Inexplicably stepped up and hit a man on the side wall on a 3-on-2, which instantly became a 2-on-1 and a shot off the post. Took a careless high-sticking penalty late in the first with Washington scoring on the carry-over in the first minute of the second to establish their first 2-goal lead of the night.
#29 Leon Draisaitl, 7. Took a while to get going, but emerged in the final 2 periods to post 1-1-2, +3 on the night in 21 minutes of action. His best moment may have been the kick pass he improvised to keep alive an extended cycle that ultimately resulted in Edmonton’s first goal. 4 shots, 3 blocks, and 14/24=58%, though he did get whipped by Kuznetsov twice in a row on plays that led to instant Ovechkin chances.
- It was that kind of night for Warren Foegele.
#37 Warren Foegele, 3. Made the critical turnover on the game’s first goal, when as the last man back he tried to stickhandle around Dylan Strome inside his own blueline. Strome came away with both a clear path to the net and the puck, which he promptly buried for Washington’s only even-strength tally of the night, opening the scoring in the process. It was all uphill for Edmonton after that. Nothing doing at the other end, either, where Foegele’s goalless streak was extended to 31 games including playoffs, with just 2 assists in that entire span. Did make a decent centring pass but Shore was unable to connect.
#55 Dylan Holloway, 5. Played just 8 shifts and 6:05. Had a chance on a 2-on-1 and likely made the right decision to shoot, but waited a split second to long allowing the d-man to get a piece of his shot and take most of the sting off of it. Fair to say he’s still learning the speed of the NHL game, which includes the ability of defenders and goaltenders to take away time and space.
#56 Kailer Yamamoto, 3. Another ineffective showing. Started the game on the fourth line and things went downhill from there. The only Oiler forward without a shot on net, or indeed an attempt. Couldn’t handle a centring pass that represented his best shooting opportunity. Key moment came on a second period penalty kill when on a clearing opportunity he overskated/overreached a puck in the slot and responded by hooking the Washington player who pounced on it. That put the Oilers 2 men short for 1:51 (in theory; in reality it took just 21 seconds for them to connect). Saw very little ice after that, including just 66 seconds of the third period and 6:49 overall.
#71 Ryan McLeod, 6. Skated well and made a positive impact on flow of play, including a high-speed end to end rush. Made the most of some third-period ice time with McDavid, chipping in on a pair of 5-alarm chances that resulted in Lindgren’s 2 best stops of the night. Remains without an assist on the season, and now 7 games without a goal either.
#74 Stuart Skinner, 4. Just so-so. Beaten for 5 goals and was saved by his ironworks on at least 3 other occasions, 1 of which needed replay to overturn a called goal. Did make a couple of sparkling saves but his team needed a couple more. 31 shots, 26 saves, .839, including just .200 on the penalty kill (5 shots, 4 goals).
#91 Evander Kane, 5. Another slow starter who gradually got involved in the game in his bull-in-a-china-shop style with 3 hits, a couple of rushes and a little crease-crashing. Was on the receiving end of a heavy dart from new Cap Nicolas Aube-Kubel. Earned a secondary assist on the 4-3. Had a tough last couple of minutes, first making a dreadful pass behind all 3 of his teammates on an all-men-up shorthanded chance, then being slow to join the backcheck on the subsequent jailbreak the other way. That resulted in the winning goal. Then in the last minute with the Oilers back within 1, Kane highsticked the puck causing a whistle and faceoff outside the blueline, had his late outside shot blocked, and then his subsequent pass back to the point tipped out of the zone, ending Edmonton’s final chance.
#93 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 7. Scored a pair of goals by going hard to the slot and cleaning up the loose change, the 3-2 off a feed by Hyman and the 5-4 from a Nurse setup. Splendid shot shares across the board including 13-2 in shots on goal during his 14 minutes at 5v5. On the lone Oilers powerplay he just missed the post on a fine chance that was heavily screened. Lost a faceoff on the penalty kill that wound up in Edmonton’s net 5 scant seconds later.
#97 Connor McDavid, 8. Came up just short in his 500th career game, but not for want of effort. Finally got the Oilers on the board midway in the second on a brilliant effort, blowing past his man in the slot and deking Lindgren for his 252nd career goal. Later added his 472nd (!) assist on RNH’s late tally, becoming the sixth highest scorer of all time at this particular milestone, and #1 in the current century. [Wayne Gretzky 1,186 (!) points, Mario Lemieux 971, Peter Stastny 759, Mike Bossy 757, Jari Kurri 730, McDavid 724.] Central to 8 of Oilers 10 Grade A shots, 5 of them coming off his own stick. Played a team-high 23:57 and even managed to draw a call for the Oilers one and only powerplay of the night.
Recently at the Cult of Hockey
Follow me on Twitter @BruceMcCurdy