The Edmonton Oilers couldn’t get it done Wednesday against the Vegas Golden Knights, losing by a final score of 3-0.
The battle was critical for the Pacific Division breakdown, with Vegas now sitting atop the group with 78 points. The Oilers have 74, tying them with the Vancouver Canucks and putting them two ahead of the Calgary Flames.
The Oilers are 5-3-2 in their last 10, but they’ve lost their last two.
Vegas is 8-1-1 in their last 10, surging at exactly the right time. They’re pulling away with the division lead and snagging a win over a tired team Wednesday was just the ticket. They’re 11-3-2 since firing Gerard Gallant and bringing in Peter DeBoer, a move that’s looking like it may be the shrewdest of the season.
Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury had the shutout, turning aside all 29 Edmonton shots. It was his 61st career shutout, tying him for 17th on the all-time list with Toronto Maple Leafs stalwart Turk Broda. Fleury improved to 5-0-0 in his last five starts.
“I feel you’re always more comfortable when you’re winning, right?” Fleury said. “You stop worrying about mistakes or looking for mistakes in your game. I haven’t changed the way I play; it’s been going well, my teammates have been playing great in front of me so that helps me a lot and makes me look better. A lot of my success comes from our team game.”
The Oilers got out to a hot start Wednesday, outshooting the Golden Knights 12-9. Speed was the order of the day and the home team spent a long time chasing the puck, but Edmonton never capitalized on the jam.
Max Pacioretty scored in the first period for Vegas, his 30th of the season. After a scoreless second, new hire Nick Cousins put the Golden Knights up by two in the third and Shea Theodore sealed the deal about halfway through the final frame.
The Oilers learned what they always knew: you can’t chase the Golden Knights. Vegas held the edge in shots, hits, faceoffs, takeaways, and blocked shots. Edmonton went zero-for-three on the power play.
“We needed a powerplay goal,” said Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl. “We had enough chances to score, especially the first two powerplays. Just couldn’t get one over the line.”
Edmonton has three out of a possible six points on this road swing, so it’s not all bad news, but they have some losses to make up for. And the departure of new guy Andreas Athanasiou due to an apparent injury isn’t great either, as this team certainly has its share of wounded warriors.
The Oilers will return home for a Saturday showdown against the Winnipeg Jets. After that, it’s back to the road for their next three.
Photo credit: NHL.com