The Oilers played Sunday like they were back in the franchise’s Stanley Cup days. They scored five goals in the first period and three more in the second and steamrolled the last-place Senators 8-5 in Edmonton.
A few of the current Oilers even got their names mentioned alongside Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier with their performances:
— Leon Draisaitl tallied six assists, one shy of the NHL record Gretzky shares with Billy Taylor. (Gretzky had seven helpers three times.)
— Dominik Kahun broke Gretzky’s franchise record by scoring eight seconds into the contest.
— Connor McDavid had five points (goal, four assists), his second consecutive night with three-plus points. Messier, in 1990, was the last Edmonton player to accomplish that feat, according to the NHL.
Of greater significance to today’s group: The victory moved it into a tie for fourth in the North with the Jets, who have played three fewer games. It will start its February slate with another home game vs. the Senators on Tuesday.
Three other takeaways from the victory:
The power play finds a spark
Edmonton (5-6-0) came in averaging just three goals per game, so eight was more than enough to make people happy. Better still for the Oilers, half of the eight tallies came with the man advantage. The 4-for-5 effort was a big boost to a special teams unit that was in the middle of the pack in the league prior to Sunday at 21.6 percent.
Draisaitl and coach Dave Tippett were both asked postgame about the unit having to adjust to new point man Tyson Barrie, a right-handed defenseman who replaced left-handed D-man Oscar Klefbom, who’s out for the season with a shoulder issue.
“It’s a different look, right?” Draisaitl said. “We’ve had this power-play unit together for so long, for so many years, and you have a new guy coming in, he brings different things to the table, a different player, so sometimes it just takes a little bit.”
“I think Tyse has done a great job of adjusting and understanding the way that we want to play on the power play,” Draisaitl added later. “Yup, he’s been a big help for us.”
“When you put a right-hander on there, it changed the look of it. It’s taken some time, but Tyson’s game, the last couple of games, I think, are the best games he’s played,” Tippett said. “He’s starting to move the right direction, the dynamic player we were hoping for. So he’s played better, our power play’s getting more comfortable and we’ve found some results.”
Porous defense puts a damper on the night
The five goals against were reminiscent of the Oilers’ title teams, too, and that’s something the ’21 squad will try to clean up before Tuesday.
“Obviously, giving up five, that’s not going to cut it most nights,” Draisaitl said. “Good start, and then we ended up scoring enough to win it. But we’re obviously looking to be a lot tighter next game.”
Welcome to the NHL, Stuart Skinner
Skinner had to deal with defensive breakdowns while also making his NHL debut with his hometown team and playing in a game for the first time in more than 11 months. The 22-year-old from Edmonton made 33 saves on 38 shots. He allowed three goals in the first and two more in the third, but the offense gave him enough breathing room.
“It definitely helps when you’re up five or however many we were at the time,” he said. “Kind of lets you get your feet underneath you and kind of take a couple of deep breaths and settle in.”
Skinner’s last game before Sunday was March 6, 2020, for the Oilers’ AHL affiliate in Bakersfield, Calif. The AHL halted its season days later amid the coronavirus pandemic.