THAT’S FOUR!

Oil­ers im­prove to 4-0

Edmonton Sun - - SPORTS - ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI rty­[email protected] @SUN_TYCHKOWSKI

NE­WARK — You can’t win ‘em all.

But four in a row is clearly doable.

The Ed­mon­ton Oil­ers ex­tended their per­fect record in gritty and dra­matic fash­ion Thurs­day, get­ting up off the can­vas three times to post a 4-3 vic­tory over the stub­born New Jersey Devils. Con­nor Mcdavid scored with 1:07 left in the third pe­riod and Leon Drai­saitl clinched it in the shootout.

“I didn’t think we played near as well as we played the other night, we looked a lit­tle slug­gish out there,” said head coach Dave Tip­pett. “But I like the way we hung around and bat­tled. Spe­cial teams ended up be­ing the dif­fer­ence in the game. Our PK was pretty good (two-for-two) and our PP got us a cou­ple of goals.

“They can’t all be mas­ter­pieces, so we’ll take the win and move on.”

The Oil­ers were ac­tu­ally favoured in this one against an 0-2-1 Devils team that was play­ing the sec­ond of backto-back games, but New Jersey’s des­per­a­tion looked like it was go­ing to out­weigh Ed­mon­ton’s mo­men­tum.

The Devils took the lead three times, 1-0 in the first, 2-1 in the sec­ond and 3-2 in third, but they couldn’t keep Ed­mon­ton down.

The Oil­ers, show­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics of the team that made the playoffs two sea­sons ago, fought back all three times, three min­utes af­ter it was 1-0, five min­utes af­ter it was 2-1 and three min­utes af­ter it was 3-2.

“We’re a re­silient group,” said Drai­saitl, the only player to score in the shootout. “We said that be­fore the sea­son, we’re not go­ing to stop un­til it’s over. I’m happy to be part of this group, I think we’re build­ing our game in the right di­rec­tion.

“We couldn’t re­ally find our ‘A’ game for the whole night, but it’s great to see that we can find dif­fer­ent ways to win games.”

Like when you’re out­shot 31-22 and trail three times on the road.

“You have to find ways to win in this league, that’s the way it is,” said Tip­pett. ‘That’s what our play­ers were talk­ing about in the sec­ond pe­riod — we don’t feel like we have our ‘A’ game but that’s no ex­cuse for not winning.”

The Oil­ers vowed to get off to a good start this year, but 4-0 might be bet­ter then even they were hop­ing for. Or maybe not.

“There’s a cul­ture change within the room where all any­one thinks about is winning, that’s all that re­ally mat­ters,” said de­fence­man Dar­nell Nurse. “It’s that be­lief within your struc­ture and be­lief within your team that you can get it done. That’s what we have right now. That be­lief needs to con­tinue be­cause we’ve shown through four games that we can win any type of way.

“It’s fun to be a part of. It’s only four games, we have a long way to go, but it’s been a promis­ing start.”

THE NEAL THING

The roll con­tin­ues for for­mer Cal­gary Flame (lol) James Neal, whose sec­ond-pe­riod power-play marker gives him seven goals in the last three games, five on the PP. The hand-eye co-or­di­na­tion on the de­flec­tion — get­ting his stick on a bul­let from Nu­gent-hop­kins, who let it go about from 10 feet away — was ridicu­lous. “That’s why we got him,” said Drai­saitl. “He’s a goal scorer.”

NO CHAL­LENGE

The Oil­ers coach­ing staff thought goal­tender Mikko Kosk­i­nen might have been in­ter­fered with on New Jersey’s third goal late in the fi­nal pe­riod, but the op­er­a­tive word there is “might.” With only 4:25 left they didn’t want to risk the de­lay of game penalty if they were wrong. So they de­cided to let it go and give their guys a chance to get it back.

“It’s hard when it’s not quite 50-50 and if you chal­lenge you take a chance that you get the goal called back if it’s not you get a two-minute penalty and now there’s un­der five min­utes with a two-minute penalty. I de­cided not to and trust our play­ers to find a way to get it back.”

BEAR­ING DOWN

It was an out­stand­ing play by de­fence­man Ethan Bear en route to the first Ed­mon­ton goal. With New Jersey at­tempt­ing to set up a cy­cle in the Oil­ers end, Bear stripped a Devil of the puck be­hind the net, made a quick deft pass to Mcdavid, who head-manned it to Zack Kas­sian. who passed it back to Nurse who slid it across to Drai­sail for the goal. All five Oil­ers touched the puck on the nicest goal of the year.

NICE NIGHT

Kosk­i­nen had fans fear­ing the worst when he gave up a goal, glove-side high, six min­utes into the first pe­riod, but he had a strong night in the Ed­mon­ton net, mak­ing some key saves early on the keep it from get­ting away from them and then again late in the third and in over­time when the Devils were press­ing hard.

“He was re­ally strong, he made some re­ally big saves for us,” said de­fence­man Matt Ben­ning. “He was re­ally good.”

BRUCE BEN­NETT/GETTY IMAGES

VIN­CENT CARCHIETTA/USA TO­DAY SPORTS

Oil­ers cap­tain Con­nor Mcdavid cel­e­brates af­ter his game-ty­ing goal in the third pe­riod against the New Jersey Devils at Pru­den­tial Cen­ter.

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