The Edmonton Oilers will have to wait at least two more days to clinch second place in the Pacific Division, after missing a golden opportunity Sunday, April 24 afternoon to secure home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. playoffs.
Needing just two runs to take the division’s second seed, the Oilers took a 2-1 third-period lead against the Columbus Blue Jackets before allowing four unanswered goals and to lose 5-2 at Nationwide Arena.
Evander Kane scored in the first period and Leon Draisaitl scored in the middle of the frame for the Oilers, who may have finally run out of gas, given that Sunday’s puck drop at 1:00 p.m. EDT in Columbus came only 37 hours after the Oilers completed a 6-3 home win over the Colorado Avalanche 1,700 miles away at Rogers Place.
Related: 3 Takeaways From Oilers’ Decisive Playoff Victory Over Avalanche
Edmonton’s magic number for second place remains any combination of two points won by the Oilers or lost by the Los Angeles Kings. They now have three games to play and will be next in action on Tuesday (April 26) against the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Arena. The Kings have just two games left and are out until Wednesday, April 27, when they visit the Seattle Kraken.
Here are three takeaways from Edmonton’s 5-2 road loss to the Blue Jackets:
Oilers Miss Nurse’s Presence
Edmonton was playing Sunday without defenseman Darnell Nurse, who suffered a lower-body injury against the Avalanche on Friday and did not travel with the team for their two-game trip through Columbus and Pittsburgh.
Nurse has become a lightning rod in Oil Country, in large part because of his eight-year, $74 million contract extension signed last summer, but his importance to the Oilers is made very evident every time he’s out. of the lineup, and Sunday was no different.
With more than 25 minutes of Nurse’s average ice time in the lineup, the rest of Edmonton’s blue line corps struggled to rise to the occasion as they saw an increase in their shifts . It was a particularly tough outing for fullbacks Cody Ceci and Brett Kulak, who were both at 2 under.
Edmonton is now 4-3-1 (.563 percentage points) without Nurse, compared to 42-24-5 (.627) when the 27-year-old veteran is in the lineup.
When asked Sunday if Nurse would be available for Game 1 of the Oilers’ first-round series, which could be next Monday (May 2), Woodcroft replied, “We’ll see.
“We don’t want to put deadlines on him, or anything like that,” Woodcroft said. “We haven’t taken him on the trip and we’re allowing him to heal.”
Notable goals scored by Draisaitl and Kane
Kane stayed hot on Sunday, putting the puck past Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins just 3:08 from the start of the game to give Edmonton a 1-0 lead.
It was Kane’s 21st goal in 40 games since being signed as a free agent by Edmonton on Jan. 27. It’s the most goals by any player in his first 40 games with the franchise since 1988-89, when Jimmy Carson lit the lamp 32 times in his first 40 games as an oiler.
Including his hat trick against the Avs on Friday, Kane has scored in three consecutive games and has five goals and three assists on a five-game point streak.
Meanwhile, Draisaitl added to his career high by scoring the No. 55 goal of 2021-22, 5:30 into the second period. Prior to this season, the German striker’s personal best was 50 goals, set in 2018-19.
Draisaitl also tied with Wayne Gretzky in 1980-81 for the eighth-most single-season goals in Edmonton NHL history. With three games left, he still has a chance to join Gretzky and Jari Kurri as players with a 60-goal season for the Oilers.
Oilers goalie questions answered
If Mikko Koskinen were to create any doubt as to the identity of Edmonton’s number one goaltender in the playoffs, he had to do it on Sunday when he made his first appearance between the posts in 12 days.
The 33-year-old Oilers guard wasn’t bad on Sunday, but he wasn’t great either, stopping 26 of 30 shots in a losing effort. Koskinen is 0-2-1 with a 3.28 goals-against average (GAA) and 0.885 save percentage (SV%) in just three starts this month and hasn’t won a single. game since March 30.
While Koskinen has slipped back to average and had limited action in recent weeks, his Mike Smith cohort is playing at a near-elite level. Smith is 8-0-0 with a 1.75 GAA and .949 SV% in April and hasn’t lost a game since March 26.
Until recent weeks, Smith had been through a dreadful campaign. He had spent much of the season sidelined by a host of injuries, and when he was able to play his performance was significantly below standard. The Oilers needed one of their veteran guards to establish themselves as “the man” heading into the playoffs, and Smith delivered.
Oilers gear up for Pittsburgh
The countdown is on for the playoffs now, and the Oilers know they’ll be there. They just don’t know who and where. The most likely scenario is against the Kings in a series that opens at Rogers Place. The other two possibilities: against the Kings in a series that begins in Los Angeles at the Crypto.com Arena; or against the Vegas Golden Knights in a series that begins in Edmonton, which is highly unlikely.
All of that could be determined on Tuesday when the Oilers look to sweep their season streak against the Penguins. Edmonton beat them in their first meeting of the season, 5-2 at Rogers Place on Dec. 1.
Brian is an Edmonton-based sports journalist and broadcaster. His experience includes working as a sportscaster for the Edmonton Sun, where he covered the 2013-14 Edmonton Oil Kings Memorial Cup championship season.