The Lightning went to Edmonton on Monday night looking to end a long road trip with another win. Instead, they flew back to Tampa having to settle for five wins on the eight game trip after the Oilers beat them thoroughly behind a four goal show from Connor McDavid. The final score was 6-2 and the game was exactly as one-sided as that score line suggests.
Edmonton has underachieved all season. Their 5v5 metrics have suggested they should be getting better results but that hasn’t translated into points in the standings. Poor shooting and goaltending as well as a terrible penalty kill have likely sunk their season. But for one night, they showed what they could be with decent percentage luck and a some magic from Connor McDavid.
The Oilers started the way they played the whole game: fast. Nikita Kucherov took a slashing penalty just over a minute into the game. The Oilers moved the puck well on the ensuing power play and scored as McDavid redirected Ryan Strome’s pass into the slot.
The Lightning responded well to the initial goal and looked ready to skate with Edmonton. Both teams played aggressively and traded chances on the rush putting pressure on the goaltenders. The Bolts’ unheralded dynamic duo of Alex Killorn and Yanni Gourde evened the score halfway through the period. Killorn collected a pass from Gourde in the slot and beat Cam Talbot. At that point, it looked like we might be in for a fun high scoring game.
The fast paced play continued following the Lightning goal. Both sides created odd numbered rushes requiring desperate defensive efforts to prevent open looks on goal. With a few minutes left in the period, Steven Stamkos committed a tripping penalty on Kris Russell. Once again, the Oilers took advantage of the power play opportunity. This time, Leon Draisaitl crammed the puck past Andrei Vasilevskiy on a scramble in front of the net.
At the end of the first period, the Bolts trailed 2-1 because Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos committed penalties that led to goals by Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. The Oilers stars carried them through the first period while the Lightning stars did the opposite.
The second period did not follow the pattern of the first. The fast paced play that flowed in both directions in the first period became one-way traffic. It didn’t take long for that traffic to result in a goal. A little over two minutes into the period, Connor McDavid proved that he’s not human by roofing a puck on the rush from an absurd angle that left Matthew Peca in an existential crisis after thinking he had forced the Chosen One wide of the net.
The Lightning protested this affront to the laws of nature by deciding not to play hockey at all for the rest of the period. They skated casually while the Oilers flew up the ice creating rush attack after rush attack as Vasilevskiy did his best to survive the barrage. Eventually, he yielded a soft short side goal to Iko Pakarinen making the score 4-1. Realistically, no one could blame him if he’d just skated off the ice five minutes earlier given how the defense in front of him played. Mercifully, he didn’t return for the third period.
With Louis Domingue in net, the Lightning showed some life early in the third period. Yanni Gourde scored a power play goal to cut the lead to two.
The Oilers settled into a more defensive game and it looked like the Lightning might have a chance to get back in the game. But any thoughts of a comeback ended when Mikhail Sergachev couldn’t control a bouncing puck at the blue line and Connor McDavid sped past him for a breakaway. In approximately one billionth of a second, the puck was in the net and hats rained down on the ice.
The mistake by Sergachev looked rough and followed an earlier ill-advised pinch into the offensive zone that contributed to the previous goal by Pakarinen. The coaches benched the rookie defender for two games prior to the all-star break. It will be interesting to see how they handle him after tonight’s game. An old school approach would probably involve cutting back on his ice time. The Lightning tend to think progressively about player development though so look for him to get a chance to redeem himself on Thursday against Vancouver.
After a failed power play opportunity for the Lightning, McDavid scored his fourth goal of the night on what might be the dumbest thing that’s happened in a Bolts game all season. This is the kind of stuff that happened last year. On a 2 on 1 rush (again), Draisaitl passed to McDavid who couldn’t convert on the initial shot. But his attempted pass behind the net deflected off Slater Koekkoek and Chris Kunitz into the net. Because that’s just what this game needed.
The rest of the game was mercifully uneventful. The Lightning will want to forget this performance. No teachable moments here. Nothing to learn. Just forget it and move on. Nights like this happen in a long season and especially at the end of a long road trip. Fortunately, Vancouver is the perfect opponent for a course correction. Expect the team to come out looking to erase all memories of this debacle when the return home on Thursday.