EDMONTON — OK, no one is kidding anybody anymore.
The Edmonton Oilers got stomped again Monday night, the fifth time in the past six games the opposition has had the better of the play. The shots on goal were 48-24 for the Vegas Golden Knights, after recent wins against Columbus (46-24) and Dallas (43-27).
They had four — count ‘em — shots on net through 30 minutes, for Pete’s sake.
That goalie, Mikko Koskinen, pilfered five of a possible six points in those aforementioned games, playing spectacularly again in a 3-2 overtime loss Monday, is a case for Interpol.
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That the Oilers are playing some of their worst hockey in weeks at the most important time of the season, that’s a matter that detective D. Tippett will be investigating at Tuesday’s practice.
“This is as disconnected as we have been for a long time,” said Oilers head coach Dave Tippett. “And it is not just tonight’s game I am talking about. It’s been a number of games here. We have our first practice in a long time tomorrow and hopefully we can fix some of those issues, but we can’t continue to play like that and feel like we are a good team.”
With Connor McDavid (ill), missing the game, this was worst-case scenario for the rest of the Pacific Division, watching the top two teams squeeze a three-point game out of an affair that should have been over early. Idle Calgary fell to four points behind Edmonton, while the Vancouver Canucks are now seven behind the Oilers.
“We’ve been able to get points because of our two goalies, but going down the stretch, you can’t rely on them to make 40 or 50 saves a night,” said winger Alex Chiasson, who tipped him the game-opening goal. “This is real adversity with (12) games to go in the season and we have to find a way for our group to create some momentum.
“There’s a disconnection in our game right now,” he continued. “There was a stretch where we were all five going up the ice, then another five, breaking out together, forechecking together. Now, we’re reading to see what one guy’s going to do, then reacting.”
Edmonton falls three points behind Vegas in the Pacific, as the Golden Knights walked through Alberta, winning on back to back nights. The good news is, this result put a couple of logs on the fire that would be the Battle of Alberta in Round 1.
“It’s just a statement,” said Vegas winger Jonathan Marchessault, who tied the game late in the third period then set up Shea Theodore’s OT winner. “A statement to us and to the League that we’re a good team, that we’re in for the long run and it’s that time of the year we’ve got to find a way to win games no matter what and have good habits.”
Fleury watched the Koskinen show from 180 feet away, trying to be ready in case the Golden Knights might eventually require his services.
“Waiting. Cold toes,” Fleury said. “It’s a cold rink, right? But it just showed how well the team was playing. I knew they would come with some shots and some traffic and they did, but a huge goal by Marchy in the third to tie it up.”
The six-foot-seven Koskinen arrived from Finland nicknamed “The Three Metres of Koskinen,” but as the Oilers rode him so ridiculously hard near the end of last season that his game deteriorated, he looked more leaky than intimidating.
His glove hand? It was as bad as his contract, with as many holes in it as former GM Peter Chiarelli’s trading record.
Today, as Koskinen carries the Oilers while challenging Mike Smith for the No. 1 job, we all owe Chiarelli an apology for mocking the three-year, $13.5 million deal he handed Koskinen just days before the Oilers fired him. (You first.)
“For me it’s fun to play when I face a lot of pucks,” said the Finn of few words.
“Looking at the whole,” added Adam Larsson, “we just need to play a whole lot better in front of him. He was excellent tonight.”
Edmonton barely touched the puck in the overtime session, a period in which Leon Draisaitl should have taken the chance to get off the ice when it was presented at about the 90-second mark. He stayed out, and was trying to change when Ethan Bear was stripped of the puck.
With McDavid out, the Oilers overtime record fell to 6-9 — not the first time they’ve been done in when one or both of their stars take far-too-long shifts in the extra session.
The fact they were still alive to see overtime however, was a true miracle.