The Senators finally had an answer for Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
Unfortunately for Ottawa, the Oilers’ supporting cast – and some exceptional goaltending – picked up the slack.
Devin Shore scored the winner in the third period and Mike Smith made 39 saves as Edmonton completed a nine-game season sweep of the Senators with a 3-1 victory Thursday.
In a pandemic year where teams are locked in division-only play, the Oilers set a franchise record for victories over the same opponent, surpassing the 8-0-0 mark Wayne Gretzky and friends registered against the Winnipeg Jets in 1983-84.
“There’s always going to be games when maybe you’re not feeling your best or the other team gets some bounces,” said Smith, who improved to 14-3-2. “To get 18 points against one team is obviously pretty impressive.
“It can get repetitive playing the same team over and over again. Teams find ways to combat your offence and find different ways to try and score goals, but we’re just finding different ways to win.”
Kailer Yamamoto and Jesse Puljujarvi, into an empty net, had the other goals for Edmonton (25-14-2), which won despite the fact Ottawa largely limited McDavid and Draisaitl after the pair combined for eight points in Wednesday’s 4-2 victory in the nation’s capital.
Edmonton’s superstars entered with a total of 41 points in the teams’ eight previous meetings – all regulation victories – but a player not usually counted on for offence helped fill the void.
“Everyone’s got a role,” Shore said. “When we can help them out on the scoresheet it feels good.”
The Oilers are now 7-1-2 over their last 10 contests and moved back within five points of the Toronto Maple Leafs for first in the Canadian-based North Division.
Connor Brown tied a franchise record by scoring in a sixth straight game for Ottawa (13-24-4). Anton Forsberg stopped 20 shots for the Senators, who failed to secure a single point against Edmonton in 2021.
“We deserved that game,” Ottawa winger Brady Tkachuk said. “It’s frustrating. We did a lot of great things.
“We played our best game of the series.”
The Oilers outscored the rebuilding Senators 41-18 this season – including 8-5, 7-1 and 6-2 blowouts in Edmonton – but Ottawa went toe-to-toe with McDavid and Co. at Canadian Tire Centre, where head coach D.J. Smith had the last change and could better dictate matchups.
“We played really hard,” Smith said. “We ran into a hot goalie tonight, and they win.”
Shore snapped a 1-1 tie at 12:58 of the third when he was left all alone in front to tip a Caleb Jones point shot past Forsberg, who signed with the Oilers prior to the season before bouncing around the league on waivers, for his fourth goal of the campaign.
“There wasn’t much out there for us,” Shore said. “It was a little frustrating at times. It was nice to get a bounce.”
Ottawa pressed to get even as the clock wound down with an extra attacker, but Smith denied Tkachuk before Puljujarvi hit the empty net to secure that ninth consecutive win.
“There were some games that were real close that could have gone either way,” Oilers head coach Dave Tippett said. “There were some games where I don’t think their goaltending was as good as it could have been (and) we took advantage.
“They probably deserved a better fate tonight ... kind of weird the way it ended up.”
After the Senators carried the majority of the play through two periods with a 26-13 advantage on the shot clock, the Oilers came out a lot harder to start the third. McDavid had a couple of chances seven minutes in, but Forsberg was there to shut the door on the NHL scoring leader.
Nick Paul then had two opportunities on Smith with under eight minutes to go off the rush before Shore gave Edmonton the lead for good.
Minus centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins because of an upper-body injury, the Oilers broke a 0-0 tie 11 minutes into the second on their first power play. McDavid funnelled a pass towards Forsberg’s goal where Yamamoto poked the loose puck home for his eighth as Edmonton improved to 10 for 27 on the man advantage against Ottawa this season.
Brown had 2-on-1 chance later in the period before Senators rookie Tim Stutzle, who has just one goal in his last 22 games, forced Smith into a nice stop.
“They were coming at us pretty good,” said the 39-year-old netminder.
Ottawa would find the equalizer with 1:57 left in the second when Brown’s shot beat Smith through the five-hole for his 12th.
The winger’s six-game goal streak equals the franchise mark shared by teammate Drake Batherson (2020-21), Jason Spezza (2009-10), Dany Heatley (2006-07), Daniel Alfredsson (2006-07) and Bob Kudelski (1993-94).
Ottawa held McDavid and Draisaitl without a shot in Thursday’s opening period thanks to some strong play in the neutral zone and a focus on keeping the duo on the outside in the Senators’ end.
Edmonton’s first good chance came on a Gaetan Haas breakaway off a Stutzle turnover, but Forsberg was there to bail out the No. 3 pick in the 2020 NHL draft.
After the Oilers killed two penalties, Brown came close from in tight when his shot clanked off Smith’s post and stayed out.
“The game we play has a lot to do with bounces,” Shore said. “You’re just trying to play the right way so more of those go your way.
“[Nine wins against the same team] is something our group should be really proud of.”