The Edmonton Oilers needed to get back into the win column on Monday night as they pulled into Ottawa at 6-7-0 on the season. The Oilers, thanks to a third period tally from Tyler Ennis, got the two points. The Oilers outshot the Senators 35-28, and defeated them by a final score of 3-1 to move to 7-7-0 on the season.
Veteran goaltender Mike Smith, who was injured in warmups on opening night and placed on LTIR shortly after, made his season debut and stopped 27 shots for the victory. In fact, Smith denied every single shot that came off the stick of a Senator. The lone shot that beat him? A horribly unlucky break that came off the stick of defenseman Adam Larsson and went top-shelf by Smith.
After a shaky performance by Mikko Koskinen on Saturday night in Calgary, Smith’s strong outing was exactly what the Oilers needed.
“He was really strong, he was really dialed in,” Dave Tippett said postgame about Smith. “The only one they got was one we shot in ourselves. he had lots of pucks thrown at the net by them. He was real strong in the cage and outside the net, he moves the puck as well as anyone.”
Smith’s puck handling can be hit or miss. While it helped the Oilers transition game quite a bit on Monday night, it also put them behind the eight-ball in August when Smith overplayed the puck and handed the Chicago Blackhawks a key goal in Game one of the play-in series.
Regardless, Smith’s performance on Monday is a good sign for the Oilers. Not only was he strong in a winning effort, but his return allows the team to give Koskinen the rest required to keep him at his top performance. While Koskinen is a good goaltender, asking him to play 12 games in a 13 game stretch is far from optimal.
Not only that, but getting Smith back also means getting a leader back in the fold.
“He’s a veteran guy, he’s a strong personality in the room,” Tippett continued. “He’s a leader in that room, he’s got a confidence about him and that shows when he goes in the net.”