Although the special teams units almost sank it, the Edmonton Oilers started off their five game home-stand with a victory over the Dallas Stars tonight by a score of 5-4. The win, Edmonton’s third of the year, was also the best offensive showing of the year for the team.
It wasn’t always pretty on this night, at times it was frustrating, but the Oilers stuck with it against a solid Dallas team and got a victory that they absolutely needed against a conference opponent. Tonight was also a big night for a few struggling players, who got out of the doghouse with either offensive contributions or solid play.
For the first time in almost three weeks, the Oilers got the game’s first goal and actually led a hockey game during regulation time. After being hauled down without a call moments before, Connor McDavid would break in and score his fifth of the season, creating separation and rifling a shot over the shoulder of Ben Bishop.
The lead didn’t last, however, as Jamie Benn would score Dallas’ first goal just 63 seconds later. Edmonton restored their lead late in the period, as Patrick Maroon’s pass to the net hit Marc Methot and deflected into the net with 25 seconds left.
Once again, Dallas would bounce back. This time it would be a powerplay marker, as Alexander Radulov absolutely scorched a shot past Talbot. The back-and-forth would continue late in the period, when Ryan Nugent-Hopkins potted his third of the season on a wraparound past Bishop. For a third time, Dallas would strike back as Jamie Benn tallied his second of the game under three minutes later, giving Dallas another powerplay goal.
The Stars would score their third powerplay marker 10:25 into the third period, giving them their first lead of the night when Esa Lindell would pick up the loose change at the side of the net and rifle it home for his second of the season. This time, it was the Oilers storming back, as Nugent-Hopkins finished a great shift off by firing a wrist shot through traffic that fooled Bishop.
Edmonton would score the game winner with just over two minutes left as Matt Benning’s blast from the point deflected off Radulov and into the net. It was Benning’s first of the year and his first career game-winning goal.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins certainly proved his worth to some people in Edmonton tonight. He was strong in the circle, played a really solid two-way game and scored two huge goals for the club. On a night that was physical and fast, Nuge was arguably Edmonton’s best player.
The entire McDavid line looked really good tonight, with Leon Draisaitl playing his best game of the season and Patrick Maroon once again looking like himself. I also liked Milan Lucic, Ryan Strome, Darnell Nurse and, yes, Kris Russell in this hockey game.
Eric Gryba struggled at times tonight, failing to mark his man on Benn’s first goal of the game. I think Gryba is a solid depth defender, but I’d like to see Todd McLellan get him into more favorable situations on home ice. Not only that, but I think he’s playing too much for a seventh defender on an NHL depth chart.
Mark Letestu didn’t look great tonight either, which has to be disappointing for him. Letestu was moved up to the second line to start tonight, but was ineffective early and took a bad penalty that resulted in a goal against. He had a big opportunity tonight and I felt he squandered it.
Edmonton’s penalty kill was horrendous, no way around that. On multiple occasions tonight, the PK was hemmed in and gave momentum up. Three powerplay goals against simply isn’t acceptable in today’s NHL, and it almost cost the Oil this game. Edmonton was clearly the better five-on-five team, but if they want to win games they have to stay more disciplined and be better on the PK.
While not as bad, the powerplay was also very poor tonight. There were some real good chances on Edmonton’s second man advantage, but other than that the Oilers spent more time chasing the puck than anything, that can’t happen.
Like I said above, it wasn’t pretty, but the Oil got it done. That was a gusty home win that could not have come at a better time for this team. The offense looked quite solid on the evening, and I thought the Oil controlled the hockey game at five-on-five. That said, special teams has to get better or it is going to be a long winter for the Oilers.
This five game home-stand is huge, Edmonton needs at least three wins on it. Tonight crosses out one, but things don’t get easier for this team. The Washington Capitals will be in town on Saturday, and they certainly will make you pay on the powerplay.
The Oilers should be happy with this win and bank the two points, but there are things they need to do better and will have to do better on Saturday night against Washington.