If home is where the Hart is, Edmonton Oilers broke Carter’s.
In his homecoming, the Sherwood Park youngster’s first game in net at Rogers Place, the Edmonton Oilers scored early and often against the Philadelphia Flyers’ goalie, enough for a 6-3 victory on a night when they were often very sloppy with the puck but rode their own netminder Mikko Koskinen’s red-hot hand (49 saves) and the league’s best power play to its ninth and 10th goals in 22 attempts.
Leon Draisaitl scored on the game’s first shot, Ethan Bear on their sixth in the opening period, and Connor McDavid on their 11th and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on their 14th in the middle period to send a kid who, as former NHL goalie Jamie McLellan says, “has all the tools to be a great goalie, reminds me of a young Carey Price,” to the bench for Brian Elliott in the game’s 35th minute.
Draisaitl scored on a ripper off the post and by Hart 73 seconds in, and Bear scored on a sweet 20-footer. Then McDavid, who also had four assists for his third career five-point night, out-fought and out-legged Flyers’ defenceman Justin Braun on a long alley-oop pass from Kris Russell to beat Hart before Nugent-Hopkins got one past the 21-year-old on a power play.
Elliott came in and was helpless on Draisaitl’s sixth of the year, off a McDavid feed, two minutes later, also on the PP.
A tough pill to swallow for a great kid Hart, who had an army of friends and family in the seats Wednesday night.
“You’ve got to stop pucks. I didn’t do my job and it cost us,” said Hart, taking all the blame on his shoulders. “You have to come up with a couple of saves to keep your team in the game and tonight I didn’t do that.”
“Sure there’s guys with a lot of skill, like Mc David and Draisiatl. But at the end of the day, you’ve just got to stop the puck,” said Hart, on the bench with a ball-cap on his head after the fourth Oilers goal.
“Connor’s goal was the big momentum shift, then the power play took over,” said Nugent-Hopkins, who got his first goal of the season.
“I saw him (Russell) flip it and tried to guage where it would come down and it ended up in a perfect spot, put the D-man in a tough spot,” said McDavid.
“Stupid read on my part,” said Hart, feeling the tough play was Braun’s. “I was over-aggressive and should have let the play come to me.”
Lost in all the pyrotechnics was an outstanding effort from Koskinen, who is now 3-0 on the year.
The Oilers had the game’s first four shots, then the Flyers outshot them 24-6 before McDavid scored to make it 3-1.
Koskinen was fantastic in a game where the Oilers were outshot 52-22. He gave up two to Jake Voracek on two power plays (one on a 6-on-3) and one on a tip by Oskar Lindblom.
“Should have been the first, second and third star,” said Oiler coach Dave Tippett, who didn’t his team’s defensive work, at all, on a night when four Flyers–James vanRiemsdyk (9), Sean Couturier (8), Voraceck (7) and Shayne Gostisbehere (6)–had 30 shots. That’s eight more than the Oilers as a team.
The Flyers had 84 shot attempts at Koskinen with the Oilers only managing 37 at Hart and Elliott, but the Oilers have the big guns in McDavid and Draisaitl.
“Didn’t really feel that bad, not like 52 shots…a lot were from the outside, until the 6-on-3 and 6-4, whatever it was at the end. By then I felt pretty good (that the Oilers had enough of a cushion),” said Koskinen.
“After the first two shifts of the game, they outplayed by a wide margin,” said Tippett. “Between Leon’s first goal and Connor’s goal in the second, that’s not how we have to play. This game will be good learning tool.”
McDavid’s other five-point nights were against Tampa and Toronto. He had four goals and an assist Feb. 5, 2018 in a 6-2 win. He had two goals and three helpers against the Maple Leafs on Feb. 11, 2016. They were also in Edmonton.
“He was average tonight,” joked Oscar Klefbom of McDavid’s five-spot.
The Oilers are almost 50 per cent on their man advantages through the first seven games, but on this night James Neal wasn’t the big weapon. Neal leads the NHL with six PP goals but in this one, Nugent-Hopkins and Draisaitl scored, both within 10 feet of the net, just where Neal has been setting up shop.
“It’s the personnel out there. Give them room, they’ll make plays,” said Neal, who has been getting open but, in this game, was a cheerleader for other people.
“You want to be good on your power play and we’ve set the standard high with the guys we have,” said Neal.
AN OILERS HERO
The Oilers players all have an orange decal on their helmets with the initials TG to celebrate the life of Ted Green, the late former assistant/associate coach who won five Stanley Cup rings here from 1984-1990, and became head coach in the early ’90s. The team had a moment of silence and a video tribute to Green, who passed away Oct. 8 after a long illness at 79.
HOW SWEET IS THAT?
Brandon Manning, who had sat as the seventh defenceman for the first six games, ripped a third-period 40-footer past Elliott. He came in for Joel Persson against his former team after running the team stretch at the morning practice, a tip-off that he might be playing. Persson skated and had some power-play time at practice but was scratched, perhaps because he wasn’t cleared to play after absorbing a huge hit from Andrew Shaw behind the net in Chicago Monday night.
“He’s in concussion protocol and out seven to 10 days,” said Tippett, who’ll have to call up a D-man to replace him, maybe William Lagesson.
This ’n that: Neal picked up his first assist after eight goals, feeding Bear for his first snipe of the season…Oilers winger Patrick Russell’s mother flew in from her home in Copenhagen to see her boy play live in the NHL for the first time Wednesday … Klefbom picked up his 100th NHL assist on McDavid’s goal.