EDMONTON — There have been a scant few moments when Oilers coach Todd McLellan has discussed the Pacific Division standings with his players, but he alluded to the congested pack on Saturday between the second and third periods.
With the Oilers and Arizona Coyotes knotted 2-2 — and little to separate the teams on the stats sheet — McLellan made mention of the situation. A loss would drop the Oilers eight points back of the second-place Coyotes, while a win would put Edmonton four points back.
“There we were, sitting at home, with 20 minutes left against a team in our division. Against a team we have to compete against,” he said after Edmonton had secured a 4-3 shootout win. “It was one of the few times this year that I did bring it up.
“It was a good night, at the end, for us to get the victory. We needed it.”
With a pair of goals from Jordan Eberle plus shootout goals from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Matt Hendricks, Edmonton now sits five points back of the Coyotes.
The win also snapped Edmonton’s four-game losing streak. All four of those losses were against division opponents, including Thursday’s 1-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks.
“That’s a patient team and we wanted to make sure we didn’t get frustrated,” said Hendricks. “I think against Anaheim we did.
“Tonight, we knew it was going to be much of the same but we were able to play through a lot of their trap game.”
There were five minutes left on the clock when Eberle was contemplating a return to the bench to talk to the trainer about his left arm, which felt numb after he had been hit by a puck that came off the stick of defenceman Eric Gryba.
Then he saw Nugent-Hopkins make a spin move and elected instead to go to the net — a decision that paid off with his 300th NHL point, and more importantly, a goal that pulled the Oilers into a 3-3 tie with the Coyotes.
“Being the player he is, he found a way to beat two guys with a pass and put me in all alone so I really didn’t have to do too much after that,” said Eberle, whose second goal of the game prevented the Oilers from letting go of a contest in which they had had a 2-1 lead.
“The thing I liked about our game tonight is that they’re a stingy team. They don’t really give up much and they wait for you to make a mistake so they can pounce,” Eberle continued. “We worked on some things yesterday that we struggled with against Anaheim. I thought we created a lot more.”
Hendricks, also known as the Paralyzer, has an exemplary record during the shootout and he managed to put away another on Saturday, even though he bobbled the puck before putting a backhand past Louis Domingue.
“The ice was a little chippy but I was able to get it in the net,” he said. “I just made a read late and figured it was going to be my best chance to score.”
RNH is A-OK
The Benoit Pouliot-Nugent-Hopkins-Eberle trio was particularly effective on Saturday, producing five points and 12 shots on net.
“Our line has to keep producing and since the break, we’ve done a better job of that,” said Nugent-Hopkins. “This was a big game for us (as a team) and it was really good to see that we stuck with it. We got down a goal in the third and there wasn’t much lull. We really want to go get that one and played with some desperation.”
McLellan was particularly impressed with the work of Nugent-Hopkins, so much so that he said he wanted to keep sending him out.
He finished with 21:30 of ice time. Only defenceman Andrej Sekera had more (24:29).
“He wanted the puck tonight, he wanted it on his tape. He was ready to shoot it,” said McLellan. “That’s good for those three. That’s good for our team.”