Player grades: Oilers squeak past Habs in overtime, set franchise mark with 10th straight win

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Oilers 2, Canadiens 1 (OT)

Another nail-biter, another win. That’s how it’s been going of late for the Edmonton Oilers, who have been struggling to score this last while but are still finding ways to collect 2 points in the process.

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For the second time since Christmas, the squad swept a 3-game road trip, though there were no San Jose/Anaheim-style blowouts this time around. In a tour of Original Six cities, the Oilers eked out a 2-1 regulation win in Chicago, a 3-2 overtime triumph in Detroit, and a 2-1 decision in Montreal, again in overtime. Each time they allowed the game’s first goal, but came from behind to pull out the 1-goal victory. In the process, the Oil extended their overall winning streak to 10 consecutive games, a first in the franchise’s storied history. They also pushed their season record to 23-15-1, .603.

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Evan Bouchard played the overtime hero this time, pounding home a powerplay slapshot that caromed off the post, then the backside of first star Sam Montembault and into the net behind him. Not pretty, but the desired result — a microcosm of the most recent stretch of games.

The Oilers were the better team on the night, with 85 shot attempts to 46 including a 41-24 bulge on the actual shot clock. By our own analysis at the Cult of Hockey, Edmonton held a 14-7 advantage in Grade A shots, including 5-4 in the most dangerous 5-alarm shots (running count).

Player grades

Cult of Hockey game grades player grades

#2 Evan Bouchard, 7. Not his finest hour, but more good than bad. Delivered Edmonton’s first Grade A shot of the night, and a doozy, when he hammered a bomb off the post early in the second period. A standout shift came early in the third when he coughed up the puck in his own end leading to a great Montreal chance, then on the continuation made a silky smooth lead pass to Foegele for a 2-on-1 opportunity that rang iron just 8 seconds later. Led the Oilers with 27:01 TOI including a whopping 7:16 on a powerplay unit that had its issues breaking through until Bouchard himself finally got the bounce that decided things 4-on-3. His 10th goal and 40th point of the season, becoming just the second Oilers rearguard to reach 40 points in &LT40 GP (assistant coach Paul Coffey did it 6 times).  Contributions to Grade A shots (GAS): Even Strength +3/-2; Special Teams +2/-0.

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#5 Cody Ceci, 6. Played a solid 20 minutes including a team-high 4:36 on the penalty kill unit. Oilers owned a tidy 14-6 edge in shots during his even-strength time. Drew a penalty late in the third which gave the Oil a golden chance to win in regulation. GAS: ES +1/-1; ST +0/-0.

#10 Derek Ryan, 4. Had a rare off-night on the penalty kill, where he lost all 3 of his faceoffs and was among those beaten on no fewer than 4 Grade A shots. Case in point, Montreal’s early PP when he lost the faceoff, was unable to clear the puck in a subsequent opportunity, and ultimately was beaten on the cross-seam pass for the goal after nearly a full minute of pressure. Had a similar extended PK shift in the third, though fortunately no damage done that time. Kept things simple at even strength. GAS: ES +0/-0; ST +0/-4.

#13 Mattias Janmark, 5. Had one tough shift where he was stripped of the puck twice by the same opponent, then tripped him. Made a key defensive play late in the third to anticipate and intercept a pass and clear the puck after some extended pressure. Mr. Low-Event. GAS: ES +0/-0; ST +1/-0. 

#14 Mattias Ekholm, 5. Strong shot shares as usual, but was fighting it a bit. 0 hits or blocked shots while 6 of his own 7 attempts were blocked. Had a couple of giveaways. GAS: ES +0/-1; ST +0/-2.

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#18 Zach Hyman, 6. His usual strong effort, but no finishing touch. Like many teammates, struggled to get shots through, even as he was credited with 4 shots on net out of 9 attempts. 0 contributions to Grade A shots, however, very rare indeed for this player. GAS: ES +0/-0; ST +0/-0.  

#21 Adam Erne, 5. Played 7 minutes on a makeshift fourth line and sawed them off. Played a robust game to my eye, though was credited with just 1 hit. GAS: ES +0/-0; ST +0/-0.

#25 Darnell Nurse, 7. A very steady night’s work with 3 shots, 3 blocks, 3 hits and excellent shot shares in 22 minutes of work. Smoked Michael Pezzetta with a heavy hit. Drew the penalty in overtime that led directly to the game-winner. GAS: ES +2/-1; ST +0/-0.

#27 Brett Kulak, 6. 12 quiet minutes, all at even-strength, during which time the Oilers managed just 3 shots on net while yielding but 1. GAS: ES +0/-0; ST +0/-0.

#28 Connor Brown, 6. Delivered 12 solid minutes in a support role, firing 4 shots on net in the process. His best look was a shorthanded breakaway, winning a puck battle in the neutral zone, skating in alone but failing to beat the red-hot Montembault with a nice deke. Played 9:22 at even strength during which time Montreal mustered 0 (zero) shots, and added another 2:15 on the PK. GAS: ES +0/-0; ST +1/-0.

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#29 Leon Draisaitl, 7. Was the only Oiler to solve Montembault in regulation, following up Foegele’s net drive and jamming the puck about 6 inches in the right direction, off Montembault’s pad and just over the goal line. Nervous moments followed as a coach’s challenge was issued, but this time the Oilers came out on the right end of the decision. His line dominated possession with a 21-8 edge in shot attempts, 12-5 in actual shots. Also delivered on the powerplay, including a secondary assist on the game winner. Drew a penalty. 5 shots on net, 12/25=48% on the faceoff dot. GAS: ES +3/-0; ST +3/-1.

#37 Warren Foegele, 7. Brought energy and competitiveness, chipping in a crucial assist on the 1-1. Sat in the sin bin for 2 nervous minutes midway in the third after a but of an unlucky penalty, but his mates bent but didn’t break. Broke away on a 2-on-1 and let fly with a bullet that beat Montembault cleanly but rang squarely off the post. 3 shots, 3 hits. GAS: ES +6/-0; ST +0/-0.

#57 James Hamblin, 5. Played 8 minutes with a variety of depth wingers — one of them a d-man in real life — and sawed them off, with the Habs mustering just 1 shot in that time. GAS: ES +0/-0; ST +0/-0.

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#73 Vincent Desharnais, 6. Jumped into the slot for a good shot on the game’s opening shot, otherwise just stuck to his usual business of being a thwart to the other team. Played 11:38 at even strength (shots 5-1 Oilers) and another 1:44 on the PK, yielding nothing. Took a pound of flesh from Pezzetta in a post-whistle skirmish. GAS: ES +0/-0; ST +0/-0.

#74 Stu Skinner, 7. With Edmonton dominating play, Skinner was not in position to “steal” this game, but with the way his counterpart was playing he sure could have lost it. On a night Montreal could be expected to score 2.4 goals (to Edmonton’s 4.7) they got just the 1. Beaten on the first shot he faced with no chance to stop it, he slammed the door thereafter, making a few key stops along the way. Best among them was a terrific blocker save of a labelled one-timer with Montreal pressing on a third-period powerplay. During the win streak he has played 7 of the 10 games, allowing just 10 goals on 204 shots for a gaudy .951 save percentage and 1.41 goals against average. On this night, 24 shots, 23 saves, .958 Sv%.

#76 Philip Kemp, 5. With Ryan McLeod out with an illness and Sam Gagner still not quite ready to return, the Oilers turned to their would-be extra defenceman to fill in at right wing for his NHL debut. Played just 2:03 on 3 first-period shifts and acquitted himself just fine. GAS: ES +0/-0; ST +0/-0.

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#91 Evander Kane, 6. Bumped up to the second line in McLeod’s absence and got the job done in 16½ minutes. Did his best work in the offensive zone, with 8 shot attempts of which 4 were on net. Best of those was a wicked mid-air tip that forced one of Montembault’s finest stops. Earned an assist on Draisaitl’s goal, winning a battle in the corner to work the puck to Foegele. Had some trouble breaking out pucks from his own end. 0 hits as he continues to deal with a core body issue that limits his rambunctious style. GAS: ES +5/-0; ST +0/-0.

#93 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 6. Had a tough first period, including a first-minute penalty that resulted in the skate of shame 57 seconds later. Came on strong from then on, ultimately leading both teams with 8 shots and 12 attempts. Unable to solve Montembault but not for lack of trying. Played a whopping 25:42 including over 10 minutes on special teams. GAS: ES +2/-1; ST +1/-2.

McDavid streak

Connor McDavid, 7. Marked his 27th birthday by becoming the first Edmonton Oiler to captain his team to a 10-game winning streak. Waited until the game’s final play to extend his own point streak to (wait for it) 10 games when he teed up Bouchard’s one-timer. That ties him with the magnificent Mario Lemieux for the third most such streaks of 10 or more games with 14, just 1 behind Habs legend Guy Lafleur. It will, however, take him a while longer to overtake the incomparable Wayne Gretzky who had a remarkable 31! On this night the Canadiens checked #97 relentlessly as he battled to break through in 26 hard-working minutes. Held to just 1 shot on net, he was nonetheless involved in 6 Grade A shots. Took a ridiculous even-up penalty for goalie interference within 2 minutes of the Habs losing a challenge for the same infraction. Later drew a penalty the other way when hauled down behind the play, and was relentlessly booed by the Bell Centre faithful any time he touched the puck the rest of the way — which, it turned out, was quite frequently. Had the last laugh with the apple on the game winner. GAS: ES +2/-1; ST +4/-0.

At the Cult of Hockey

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