Edmonton Oilers' Skinner fires up highlight reel to stave off Ovechkin

“It’s pretty cool to stop the greatest goal-scorer of, potentially, all-time in the future here. But I thought he played a phenomenal game yesterday”

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First shot: One goal-against.

Second shot: Two goals-against.

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And who was about to take the Washington Capitals’ third shot on net, looking to make it three-for-three? None other than the most prolific goal-scorer in NHL history — or soon to be, anyway — Alex Ovechkin.

I mean, the 38-year-old veteran of 19 NHL seasons has only put 840 other pucks away to sit second all-time behind Wayne Gretzky’s 894.

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But Stuart Skinner managed to avoid an 841st, while turning aside the rest of the 23 shots he faced on the way to the Edmonton Oilers’ 7-2 win Wednesday at Rogers Place.

Ovechkin would take six more shots on goal — including an otherwise sure thing that required Skinner to come up with a highlight-reel glove save in tight — but be sent away with a single assist to show for his night.

WHAT DO YOU MAKE OF STUART SKINNER’S PLAY THIS SEASON? Have your say in the comments.

But if that first one would have gone in, it could have turned into quite a different story for Skinner & Co.

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“If I didn’t save that, it would have been 3-for-3 for them, so obviously more of a mental save than anything,” the Oilers goalie said following Thursday’s practice. “But my actual favourite one was probably the last one.

“I caught him with the glove and it definitely felt good.”

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It happened in a fast-and-furious final five minutes featuring about as much defence as an NBA all-star game. By either side.

“When you get up like that, as a goalie you usually tend to think that it’s going to open up a bit,” Skinner said. “Just for the fact that you’re up five with a couple minutes to go. So, that is kind of what happened but I was able to obviously make a couple saves.

“And I think for our group, the lesson learned there is no matter what the score is, you’ve got to finish out the game.”

And finish they did, taking the 2023-24 season series against Washington two games to none, by a combined score of 12-2.

But the result was far from guaranteed early on Wednesday, especially after seeing the Capitals’ first two shots end up in the net behind him.

“I knew it because I haven’t touched a puck yet and they scored twice,” Stuart said of his awareness of the situation at the time. “It’s kind of just something that you know.

“But I looked up and saw that it was 2-for-2. Obviously, Ovie had that empty-net one and I was able to make the save.”

It required nothing short of a diving effort across his crease to harness the snapshot from the top of the left circle by the Capitals sniper and get a glove on it.

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“It probably should have been 3-for-3, those saves are more or less lucky,” Skinner said. “Obviously, you’ve got to compete to make those types of saves, which I did. But we’ve definitely got to be a little bit smarter in those situations.”

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As in, maybe don’t leave someone like the Great 8 all alone at the side of the net for a Grade-A scoring chance.

Of course, if they hadn’t, hockey fans would have been robbed of one of Skinner’s highlights.

“Yeah, I definitely watched those ones a couple times last night just so I could get a little bit of a better sleep,” Skinner said with a grin. “It’s pretty cool to stop the greatest goal-scorer of, potentially, all-time in the future here. But I thought he played a phenomenal game yesterday.

“He was getting a lot of shots off, he was getting a lot of chances, he was skating and made some nice moves in the offensive zone, made some great plays for their other guys to score. That’s the kind of player he is.”

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From one great goal-scorer to another snake-bitten shooter, Skinner was on the ice — albeit at the opposite end of it — for one milestone goal Wednesday. No, it wasn’t Zach Hyman’s hat-trick sealing 46th of the season as he is on pace for 59. Rather, fellow Oilers forward Connor Brown, who scored the final goal of the game to end a drought that saw him go 71 games without a goal, dating back to March 24, 2022.

“It was awesome. I know he’s been working really hard every single day in practice, on ice, off ice to not only get that goal but also just play well,” Skinner said. “And I think that’s what he’s been doing. I know a lot of people outside (the dressing room) kind of look at stats and all that stuff, but I know from Brownie’s perspective he’s much more valuable than getting points.

“I think him on the penalty kill has been critical for our team this year. Not only that, but how he is able to get the puck in deep and just keep the other team defending. Obviously, that’s from a goalie standpoint, too. I don’t see so much of the goals, I see the little things that he does.”

E-mail: [email protected]

On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge

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