| January 16, 2022, 2:06 AM
January 16, 2022, 2:06 AM
EDMONTON — Can’t kill a penalty, can’t get a save, can’t win a game. There are some serious, serious issues in Edmonton — and yes, they still need to find a goalie.
“Same group,” began Zack Kassian. “Beginning of the year, we were one of the best teams in the league. Now it seems like we’re finding ways to lose. That snowball going downhill, that’s not an excuse anymore. We’ve had a long break.”
The Edmonton Oilers had nine days off, and on the 10th day they rested, folding up like a tent against the Ottawa Senators. Edmonton turned a 3-1 lead after 40 minutes into a 6-4 loss to log their second six-game losing skid in their past 14 games.
Allowing five third-period goals to the 30th place Ottawa Senators ranks as perhaps the biggest regular season disaster in Connor McDavid’s NHL career.
“It’s definitely up there,” said McDavid, who was dangerous but pointless Saturday. “I’m not sure what to tell ya. It’s been a long layoff, we come in and work ourselves to a 3-1 lead… And we give it away.”
“I wish I had an answer.”
The Oilers aren’t just awful, but something south of that. They are a club that has to score six goals to win, playing in a 3-2 league.
As the old joke goes, calling this a train wreck is an affront to the railroad industry. The Oilers have fallen entirely off the rails after a hot, 16-5 start. Like that old TV commercial, they have literally fallen and they can’t get up.
“We need to wrap it up. We need to win that game,” spat Kassian. “Now we’re sitting here talking about the same s— we were talking about heading into the break. I’m running out of stuff to say.”
McDavid went pointless on a minus-2 night, while Leon Draisaitl added only an assist, exacerbating the fact the Oilers finally got a good dose of support scoring. Edmonton got four goals from players not wearing No. 97 or 29 — and they couldn’t find a way to win a hockey game.
The penalty kill is gruesome, allowing two goals in three Senators attempts Saturday. Defensively, the Oilers are playing like 20 guys who all showed up for Saturday morning shinny who have never met anyone other than the guys they drove to the rink with.
Offensively, four goals — and a 3-1 lead after 40 minutes — are two ingredients that good teams parlay into two points better than 90 per cent of the time. This team, however, played the third like they hadn’t a clue what to do with the commanding position they’d put themselves in after 40 minutes.
Young Stuart Skinner got the start, a sign that the team is moving on from Mikko Koskinen and a huge vote of confidence for the rookie. Alas, he did not repay them.
Skinner, the great hope with the Oilers goaltending situation at critical, red alert levels, was well below average. The guy at the other end, Matt Murray, had to be far better and he was just that, giving his team a chance to win a game where the shots favoured Edmonton 16-6 after 20 minutes and 24-13 after 40 minutes.
Two goals in 2:26 early in the third turned a comfortable 3-1 lead into a 3-3 nail biter. Ottawa went ahead 4-3, and then Darnell Nurse tied the game a 4-4, one of his nine shots on goal.
With seven minutes to play, all that had to happen was to win the final seven minutes against a 30th place team and skate away with the points. Yet in the end, it’s clear as day: the better team won.
“You look at teams that are going well, and they find ways to win games. Teams that are losing find ways to lose game. Tonight we definitely found a way to lose it,” said McDavid, who had no answer when asked what’s next. “I wish I had an answer for you. We’ve talked it over and over and over again in that room, and obviously we haven’t found an answer yet.”
“We thought the break would help us with that,” added head coach Dave Tippett. “It did, for two periods.”