For a good 50 minutes there, the New Coach Bump had been replaced by the Old Team Slump.
In just their second game under new head coach Kris Knoblauch, the Edmonton Oilers looked as tepid and careless as they ever did under Jay Woodcroft.
They were dead and buried and fully deserving of a back-breaking home-ice defeat Monday — trailing 3-1 to the Seattle Kraken late in the third period — until Evander Kane came out of nowhere to save the day with a natural hat-trick for the ages.
Kane made it 3-2 with 6:32 left in regulation, tied with 46 seconds on the clock and then won it 2:27 into OT to absolutely steal a 4-3 victory over the shell-shocked Seattle Kraken.
For a beaten-down team that needed something good to happen, this was it.
“We talked about it in the second intermission, we have to create some energy, we have to flick the switch,” said Kane, who scored his fifth, sixth and seventh goals of the season, each of them bigger than the last one. “I thought we did a pretty good job.
“When you keep working and stick with it, as I think our entire group has done, the bounces and the finish will eventually come. We’ve seen a little bit of that, guys are making some really good plays out there and we had a little bit of finish in the third period.”
Beyond the two points, which are crucial when you have to leapfrog eight teams in order to get a wildcard spot, the emotional impact of this come-from-behind win is enormous. The difference between where this game was headed and where it ended up is the difference between a team that was broken and one that has something to believe in.
“The season is never going to be easy; there’s never going to be no adversity,” said Knoblauch, who improves to 2-0, while the Oilers improved to 5-9-1.
“The more things that you work through and fight through and have success with when it’s all done, it’s great for team building. Then the next time things are in difficult situation, they know they can handle it. They know they can do this.
“Hopefully the way that we won today makes us a better team in the long run.”
This is nobody’s blueprint for long-term success, but when a team is dying on the vine and in dire need of points, nobody is going to critique an unexpected reprieve.
“We talk in here about being a resilient group, we’ve seen it countless times from the guys who have been here for a while,” said defenceman Darnell Nurse, who made a game-saving shot block with Edmonton’s net empty.
“Showing up when our backs are against the wall, I don’t think can really be questioned. It was great to see it tonight. It’s a big win.”
There were plenty of flaws in this one, though. The hard-working team trying to impress the new coach didn’t show up until it was almost too late. The Oilers were all kinds of sloppy in this one, serving up too many high-quality giveaways, forcing all kinds of risky, hopeful passes across the zones and losing far more puck battles than they won.
Goaltender Stuart Skinner kept the Kraken from pulling away early. He was the Oilers best player in the first 40 minutes, which is good because he had to be. The score was 0-0 at the intermission but Seattle had a 9-2 advantage in turnovers.
And if you thought the first period wasn’t good, you should have seen the second.
Connor McDavid started things on the right foot with his second goal in two games since the coaching change, after no goals in the previous eight, but Edmonton’s game caught up with them after that in the form of three straight Seattle goals.
“I saw a 50-50 game in the first period, then I saw a team relax and make a lot of mistakes after we made it 1-0,” said Knoblauch. “Third period, we played with a lot of passion. We worked hard. We won a lot of battles and just really worked to score goals.”
Playing 10 minutes of hockey isn’t going to win them a lot of hockey games, but it won them this one, and that’s all that matters right now.
“I think our play has been better than our record, but we were giving up way too much and the pucks weren’t going in the net (offensively),” said Kane.
“But the last couple games we’ve had big third periods that propelled us to wins. I think we’re starting to find our groove here a little bit.”
The Oilers recalled defenceman Philip Broberg and winger Adam Erne as well as Raphael Lavoie, who’d been sent down to the AHL to save a little cap space between games. Broberg didn’t play but will accompany the Oilers on their four-game road trip. “Having seven defencemen as we head on the road trip will be good for us,” said Knoblauch. … Forward Connor Brown, who’s been out for six games with a lower-body injury, is close to returning. “We hope that when we hit the road he’ll be in,” said Knoblauch. … Hard-luck winger Dylan Holloway, who battled a wrist injury in college, then a shoulder injury last season in Edmonton is now out several weeks with a knee injury suffered in Monday’s game against the Islanders.
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