The Vancouver Canucks held Connor McDavid to a single assist for the first time this season. But they couldn’t skate away with a win over the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night.
Mikko Koskinen made 29 saves and was seven seconds away from his first shutout of the year as the Oilers beat the Canucks 2-1 at Rogers Arena.
“It starts with Mikko,” said forward Zach Hyman. “He made some huge saves, so you can’t have a game like that without him. I thought it was a good game. We bounce back after a loss, on the road, playing a good Vancouver team. Get the win and not give up an even-strength (goal).”
Koskinen made his fourth-straight start, with Mike Smith sidelined with an upper-body injury. The Oilers improved to 6-1-0 this season while the Canucks fell to 3-5-1. Thatcher Demko made 32 saves in the losing effort.
Vancouver is winless this season at Rogers Arena and has scored just four goals in total during three losses in their season-opening seven-game homestand.
“There was times where we created a lot, but we’ve got to do that kind of stuff for a full 60 minutes,” said Canucks captain Bo Horvat, who went 16 for 23 in the face-off circle and finished the night with three shots on goal. “Sporadically is not going to win you hockey games. We’ve got to figure out ways to get it done.”
At even strength, both teams were sound defensively. The Oilers went 2 for 2 on the power play, with goals from Warren Foegele and Leon Draisaitl. Vancouver’s only goal came from Brock Boeser in the dying seconds, with Demko pulled for the extra attacker.
The Canucks’ only power play of the game came with 3:01 left in the third period, as the team pressed to score with Demko already on the bench.
“It is a good job at 5-on-5, but we’ve got to find a way to win those hockey games,” Horvat said. “When you do hold a team like Edmonton to two goals, you’ve got to figure out a way to score three.”
The Oilers opened the scoring at 11:39 of the first, after Tyler Myers was whistled for hooking Edmonton’s Jesse Puljujarvi. With one second left in the man advantage, Foegele deposited a rebound off a shot by Darnell Nurse past an outstretched Demko for his second goal of the year.
It was a rare tally from Edmonton’s second power-play unit, which sees limited ice time playing behind superstars like McDavid and Draisaitl.
“It came up with a big goal for us, that’s for sure, a real big goal,” said Oilers coach Dave Tippett. “It got us going, and our power play got us a big one at the end of the second and that was enough to get us a win.”
“It was nice to get an opportunity there and our unit cashed in on one,” said Foegele, who was acquired in an off-season trade with the Carolina Hurricanes. “There’s a lot of special talent on that first unit there and we get to watch it on the bench just like you guys get to watch.”
Draisaitl tallied his fifth of the campaign with 40 seconds remaining in the middle frame. With Oliver Ekman-Larsson in the penalty box, Draisaitl beat Demko with a one-timer from the right circle, set up by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and McDavid, who started the play by bouncing a shot off the shin of defender Luke Schenn.
With the assists, McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins both extended their season-long point streaks to seven games. And while it was the first time all season that McDavid has been held to just one point in a game, he moved back into first place in the NHL scoring race with 16 points from his first seven games.
McDavid finished the night with 13 shot attempts, including nine shots on goal. Early in the third period, Demko denied him on three quick close-in shots from the goalmouth.
For Vancouver, Schenn played his 800th career NHL game, while Tucker Poolman and Jason Dickinson drew back into the lineup after being sidelined with injuries.
“It was a hard-fought hockey game tonight, no goals 5-on-5,” said Vancouver coach Travis Green. “We came out on the wrong side of it.
“I don’t like losing. Our team doesn’t like losing, but I thought we probably took a step in the right direction for some of our guys tonight.”
“Things are going well,” said Foegele, on the Edmonton side. “But like we keep saying, it’s early, try to take it day by day. You don’t want to get too far ahead of yourself and you know how good this league can be. So keep playing fast, simple and the results should show.”
The Oilers return home to host the Seattle Kraken for the first time on Monday, while the Canucks host the New York Rangers on Tuesday.
NOTES: It was the second meeting between the Oilers and Canucks this season. On Oct. 13, Edmonton beat Vancouver 3-2 in a shootout in both teams’ season opener Edmonton held a 6-4-0 edge in last year’s North Division season series The Oilers and Canucks both lost to the Philadelphia Flyers in their last games. It was Edmonton’s first defeat of the year.