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Momentum grows for Oilers after third-straight win: ‘I think we can feel it’


EDMONTON — There’s something different going on here. A new scent that you can’t smell, a new look that you can not quite see. 

Maybe it’s coming off that purple suit Evander Kane is wearing. Or maybe all the bad karma got flushed out by that warmup wrist shot that caromed off the crossbar and left Darnell Nurse looking like he’d gone 12 rounds with the champ.

What is it that’s hanging around the Edmonton Oilers these days?

“It is momentum,” said Connor McDavid. “Definitely there is momentum in our room. I think we can feel it.”

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The Oilers took two points from their nemesis Tuesday, beating the Vegas Golden Knights in a 5-4 shootout win, Edmonton’s third straight. But it wasn’t quite like the scoreboard makes it look. 

Edmonton led 1-0 after one, 4-2 after 40, and had several chances to score the fifth goal to close out the game in the opening half of the third period. 

Then Vegas scored with 6:30 to play, and again with 2:08 left, and suddenly a very solid night of Oilers hockey was at risk of being thoroughly wasted. 

But McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins rescued the night with shootout snipes, and Edmonton stretched its winning streak to three. 

So will they savour the opening 54 minutes, or lose sleep over the final six? 

“Sometimes, as a team you let in two late goals like that end you can just tell that was our fault. But they were kind of fluky goals. It was bounces here and there,” said defenceman Mattias Ekholm. “The way we’re going right now, I’m taking the first 54 for sure. Obviously they came back but we showed some resiliency in the end.”

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Vegas will surely take the point, on a night when they likely didn’t deserve one. Edmonton, meanwhile, has waited too long this season to find its game. The Oilers won’t waste this good feeling on a bad six minutes in November, as they continue to reel in teams like the Kraken and Ducks in the wild-card chase out West.

“We are starting to get better performances from everybody these last couple of games, and we just have to keep that rolling,” said Evander Kane, who scored his eighth goal in his past eight games. “We are not seeing big mistakes. We have limited the ‘boo-boos’ and we are obviously creating a lot more offence and putting the puck in the net.

“When you play a tighter game you end up in the win column more than you know.”

On an off night offensively for Leon Draisaitl, McDavid had another three points (1-2-3).  He has 4-5-9 in his last three games, and Edmonton has scored 18 goals in that span.

“I think we’ve liked what we have seen out of our last three (games) and it is something to build off of,” McDavid said.

“There was a lot less frustration with (McDavid) than there was two weeks ago,” noticed head coach Kris Knoblauch. “But other guys, too. When you win games and get some offence everyone just feels better about themselves and they’re able to play hockey.”

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In Ken Holland’s 2,000th game as an NHL general manager, the Oilers’ depth was tested when Zach Hyman called in sick Tuesday afternoon. Mattias Janmark drew into his spot to McDavid’s right, and Sam Gagner came out of the bullpen to score a goal on the fourth line.

Gagner also sent Adam Erne in alone in the third period, a goal that would have iced things for Edmonton. 

“We absolutely needed guys stepping up,” Knoblauch said. “It was nice to see from Sam, who hadn’t played in a couple of games. He scores a lot in practice because he is always shooting to score.”

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It’s a far more solid defensive effort than it was a couple of weeks ago around these parts, when the Oilers’ work in their own zone was simply not at an adequate level to win in the NHL. And the penalty-killing units were flawless, killing all five Vegas powerplays.

They’ve killed 18 straight powerplays in these three straight wins.

“We’re in sync, so to speak,” Ekholm said of the PK. “We’re better at the entries, and we’re pressuring teams more to make plays. And then, your best penalty killer on every team has to be your goaltender, and he has been. So I think there’s a bunch of little things that makes the big picture better.” 

Stuart Skinner was solid, beaten by two deflections and a breakaway on three of the four he allowed. He was perfect in the shootout, a shootout the Oilers never should have found themselves in. 

“We’ll take wins any way we can get them at this point,” McDavid said. “Obviously it would be nice to close it out, up by two with five minutes to go.”

“You expect to close that out,” he admitted, “but we will take the win any way we can.”

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