Last night, the Edmonton Oilers took the ice for the first time in a week. Any fears of the team being rusty were quickly thrown out the window as the club both outshot the Jets and had the better of the chances in a scoreless first period. Tyson Barrie buried a bomb on the powerplay in the second period, then Jesse Puljujarvi and Alex Chiasson added the insurance markers in a huge 3-0 win over the Jets.
The victory pulls the Oilers within three points of the Jets for the second seed in the North Division and ensures the Oilers win the season series against the Jets. Edmonton is 5-2-0 against Winnipeg with two more meetings to go. Edmonton also has two games in hand on the Jets.
“It’s a massive win,” Connor McDavid, who had a pair of helpers, said after the victory. “Any time you’re coming down the stretch and you’re playing teams ahead of you, you want to beat them and tighten the gap. Tonight was a big win for that.”
Not only was it a big win for the standings, but it was a statement win in terms of how the Oilers played. Yes, they won two of three games heading into their latest COVID induced break, but the Oilers hadn’t played good hockey in what seemed like weeks.
On Saturday night, outside of a stretch early in the third period, the Oilers controlled the game. They were the better team in just about every area. That hadn’t been the case in recent weeks.
“I thought we did a lot of good things tonight,” said Mike Smith, who made 26 saves for his third shutout of the season. “I thought we were okay in the first, did some good things and had some chances. And then we just built the game in the second and third, got better and better, got our legs underneath us and did a lot of the things we’d been talking about the last few days in practice. Credit to the group, we’ve had a bit of a layoff here and that’s never easy to come into a game like that. I’m really impressed with how we handled ourselves.”
The Oilers will now return home to Edmonton for a big test. They’ll play host to the Montreal Canadiens for a pair of games on Monday and Wednesday night, a team they are just 1-3-1 against this season. It’s a chance for the Oilers to send a message to the Habs, who have mostly dominated the season series to this point.
“We can’t just float our way into the playoffs,” McDavid added. “We’ve got to put a couple wins together.”
Doing so against Montreal, and expanding the gap between the third and fourth seeds, is a good place to start.