On a night when Gretzky and Company were in the building, the Edmonton Oilers turned the clock back to the high-scoring 1980s with a weird and wild game that featured a dozen goals.
The 1984-85 Oilers, voted by fans as the greatest team in NHL history, used to win a lot of high-scoring games.
The 2017-18 Oilers, who fans wouldn’t have picked as the greatest team on the ice Monday at Rogers Place, found themselves on the wrong end of a 7-5 score.
The loss to the Florida Panthers was the team’s fourth straight. With the playoffs now well out of reach, from here on, the 23-28-4 Oilers will have to find other reasons to get inspired for their games.
In Monday’s loss, the Oilers were done in by sloppy defensive play, the league’s worst home-ice penalty kill (now at 54.8 per cent) and sub-par goaltending.
On a night that saw two penalty shots, the Oilers didn’t get a single power play.
The Panthers opened the scoring in the first period with an early power play goal. A shot wide of the Oilers net caromed off the back boards straight to Panthers defenceman Aaron Ekblad. His errant shot was headed harmlessly for the far corner before it hit Oscar Klefbom’s leg and bounced into the net.
The Oilers responded immediately.
Less than a minute later, Oilers defenceman Yohann Auvitu got off a point shot with Patrick Maroon screening in front of the net. Maroon scooped the rebound and put it home for his 14th goal of the season.
Early in the second, the Oilers got dinged by the referee again, this time for too many men on the ice.
Sometimes, the best defence is offence. With his team short handed, Leon Draisaitl used his speed to manufacture a scoring chance but got hauled down by Ekblad before he got off a shot. The referee awarded a penalty shot.
Draisaitl veered toward the right-side boards to change his angle, then slowly cruised in front and beat Panthers goalie James Reimer to put the Oilers ahead 2-1.
Denis Malgin tied the score with a wrist shot from the slot less than four minutes later.
The Oilers quickly regained the lead. Drake Caggiula, wearing a full shield to protect his injured face, deflected a point shot past Reimer from the high slot to put the Oilers ahead.
This time, they held the lead for all of 33 seconds.
This time it was Evgenii Dadonov’s turn to beat Talbot from much the same place his teammate had.
The Oilers goalie did not have a good night.
‘I didn’t give us a chance’
“I’d say about four of them I’d like to have back,” Talbot said in assessing his game. “Any time we go out and score five goals, we should win the game every night. I didn’t give us a chance to win tonight.”
Kris Russell took a hooking penalty in the dying seconds of the period to put the Oilers penalty kill back on the ice.
Eighteen seconds into the third, the Panthers cashed the cheque. A Keith Yandle pass sent Vincent Trochek in alone from the Oilers blue line. Trochet beat Talbot to make it 4-3 Panthers.
‘One individual gets delinquent and misses an assignment, and that’s basically game over.’ -Todd McLellan
“We pre-scouted that,” Oilers coach Todd McLellan said later of the head-man pass. “We knew that was coming, we talked about it. One individual gets delinquent and misses an assignment, and that’s basically game over.”
McLellan seemed to be referring to Klefbom.
Another Oilers penalty followed. It took the Panthers a dozen seconds to score on that one. Trochek got his second of the game with a wrist shot Talbot should have had to make it 5-3.
Anton Slepyshev gave the Oilers hope less than a minute later. He showed off his speed and skill to score a beauty which brought the Oilers back within one.
The goal parade continued. Dadonov scored again and Connor McDavid got his 23rd of the season before Trochek finished his hat trick with an empty netter.
McLellan was clearly frustrated with his team’s overall play.
“Individual responsibility has got to go way up,” he said. “We have to play some players. It’s not like everyone can sit out, so it has to improve.”
McDavid also had an assist to give him 66 points on the season. He is now tied for second in league scoring, five points behind Nikita Kucherov of Tampa.
The Oilers head back out on the road now for three games against Las Vegas, Arizona and Colorado.