In his first game as coach, Ken Hitchcock led the Edmonton Oilers into SAP Center where they eventually left with a 4-3 overtime win against the San Jose Sharks, despite playing tied or from behind for all of regulation.
The Sharks struck first in the opening period. Joonas Donskoi made it 1-0 just 45 seconds in, and it looked as though they would pile onto the Oilers’ woes. Unfortunately, the Oilers were able to answer back courtesy of Connor McDavid and lackadaisical defending by the Sharks.
The tie didn’t last long. A few minutes later, the Sharks made it 2-1 when Joe Thornton collected assist no. 1033 on a goal by Marcus Sorensen, tying him with Mario Lemieux for 11th place on the all-time assist leaderboard.
Though the Sharks had their issues on defense, they still controlled the majority of the puck with a 58 percent Corsi for in all situations and generated nine scoring chances. If it weren’t for Mikko Koskinen, the Sharks could’ve been up 4-1, as he denied Joe Pavelski, Thornton and Tomas Hertl of scoring opportunities.
The Oilers were able to get a short-handed goal to open the second period, but after that, they did little on the offensive zone, only generating five shots and three scoring chances.
As for the Sharks, Koskinen kept them off the scoresheet again, as he continued to make vital saves to preserve the tie, but Logan Couture was finally able to break through. After collecting the puck, Couture danced around Adam Larsson and beat Koskinen to give the Sharks a 3-2 lead heading into the second intermission.
In the third period, it appeared as though Hitchcock had seen enough of the Oilers lines and began double shifting the top line of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Drake Caggiula, ultimately resulting in the Oilers tying the game at three. It’s no secret that this is the line that pushes their offense, and double shifting allowed them to generate 11 shots and eight scoring chances in the third period.
With the game all tied at three, it went to overtime, and the Oilers once again relied on the tandem of McDavid and Draisaitl who scored to get the game-winner.
Usually we use this spot to talk about the players taking the ice tonight, but the real headline for this game is that the Edmonton Oilers made a huge change behind the bench. With a 9-10-1 record, the Oilers are sitting in sixth place in the Pacific Division. Certainly below expectations for a team that ices Connor McDavid on a nightly basis. Management thinks so too, so this morning they said good-bye to head coach Todd McLellan.
While it happened just hours ago, it must have been in the works for at least a few days now because the team immediately announced Ken Hitchcock would take over as head coach.
The Oilers offense runs through Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and to an extent Ryan Nugent-Hopkins; after that, it gets pretty thin. They have no consistent contributions from their wingers notably Milan Lucic, so if the Sharks want to get the win tonight, they’ll have to contain the one-two punch of McDavid and Draisaitl because if these two are having a difficult night, it will be hard for the Oilers to generate offense.
For the Sharks, they’ll look to continue their strong form as they’re 3-1 on their current homestand and have taken over first place in the Pacific Division.
Hitchcock left the Dallas Stars at the end of last season, a season that the Stars missed the playoffs. After 22 years of coaching in the NHL, he’s optimistic about what he can do in Edmonton.
“I went through this in St. Louis,” Hitchcock told the Oilers NHL blog this morning. “We turned it around in eight or nine days & started to really play for each other. I think I can help this group turn around.”
Sidenote: McLellan is the second head coach to get the boot in the last 24 hours. The St. Louis Blues fired head coach Mike Yeo Monday night. You’ll remember the Blues lost to the Sharks 4-0 on Saturday. They also lost to the L.A. Kings 2-0 on Monday.
As for the lines, looks like Tomas Hertl is back in tonight.
On the Oilers’ side of things, this is what it looked like at the morning skate:
Drake Caggiula - Connor McDavid - Leon Draisaitl
Ryan Spooner - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Alex Chiasson
Milan Lucic - Cooper Marody - Ty Rattie
Jujhar Khaira - Kyle Brodziak - Zack Kassian
Oscar Klefbom - Adam Larsson
Darnell Nurse - Kris Russell
Kevin Gravel - Matt Benning
I can’t say for sure, but I would imagine Cam Talbot is in net.
Where to Watch
Puck drop is at 7:30 p.m. PT / 10:30 p.m. ET at SAP Center and can be seen on NBC Sports California along with radio coverage on 98.5 KFOX. If you can’t do either of those, you can always join us here on Fear the Fin, where we’ll be live blogging as best we can. We can’t promise a good game, but we can promise good coverage.
Hey everyone! Eddie here to help liveblog tonight’s lone game in the National Hockey League, (weird right?) so let’s get this started!
20:00: [waiting patiently for puck to drop]
19:15: GOAL! Jonas Donskoi gets the rebound and makes it 1-0 Sharks! Not the start that the Oilers wanted for the Hitchcock era
18:16: Martin Jones is tested by Connor McDavid but denies him
11:53: Goal. It looked as though Jones denied McDavid but alas no, it’s a tie game and the Oilers top-heavy line makes its presence known
9:28: GOAL! Marcus Sorensen scores off a pass from Joe Thornton and it’s 2-1 Sharks
8:19: Sharks are heading to the power play as the Oilers are called for slashing
7:00: Koskinen stops Pavelski who was at the door steps
6:16: Oilers are back at even strength
4:34: Koskinen denies another Joe, this time it’s Thornton
2:17: Koskinen again coming up with a big save as he denies Hertl on the breakaway
:14: Sharks are heading back to the power play as the Oilers are called for hooking
End of the First Period
18:14: Goal. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scores a short-handed goal and we are tied at one
12:37: Oilers are called for high-sticking and the Sharks get their third power play of the game
12:26: Well that power play didn’t last long as the Sharks are get their own penalty and it’s four-on-four
5:47: A weird play almost gives the Sharks the lead but the puck couldn’t beat the crossbar
4:37: Sorensen tries to score on the wraparound but Koskinen is there to deny him
2:11: Kane shoots the puck towards Koskinen but not enough to generate a scoring opportunity
1:45: Koskinen denies Sorensen who had a point-blank chance
:55: GOAL! Logan Couture with a beauty and it’s 3-2 Sharks
End of the Second Period
16:28: GOAL. The Oilers won’t go away and we are once again tied
14:10: Jones denies Draisaitl as the Oilers top line are being double shifted
10:23: Koskinen comes up big to deny Kane the opportunity to give the Sharks the lead
6:26: Jones comes up big with some key saves on McDavid to keep it tied at three
3:02: Bodies around the crease but the puck stays out of the Oilers net
:56: Nurse and Kane decide to exchange pleasantries
:39: Kane with a quick one-timer but Koskinen is there to deny him
End of Regulation
4:19: Goal. Draisaitl ends it and the Oilers come away with a victory
Final: Sharks 3, Oilers 4