ANAHEIM, Calif. â€” After years of ineptitude and unrealized potential, the Edmonton Oilers are right in the thick of the Pacific Division race this year.
And Connor McDavid only played a supporting role when the Oilers routed the four-time defending division champions in one of their biggest wins of this breakout season.
Leon Draisaitl scored two goals and Cam Talbot made 26 saves in his 15th career shutout, leading Edmonton to a 4-0 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday night.
Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Zack Kassian scored during the second period for the Oilers, who pulled within one point of Anaheim for second place in the Pacific with a game in hand. Edmonton has won eight of 11, earning points in seven straight â€” but none of those games meant as much to this young team’s quest to earn league-wide respect.
“It’s huge,” said Talbot, who posted his fourth shutout of the season. “We’re within one point of them now, and we’ve got a game in hand, so that’s a four-point swing for us. It’s a good thing to do right before we go into the break.”
The Oilers are closing out the first half of the schedule with back-to-back games against Anaheim and San Jose, the two teams above them in the Pacific standings. Thanks to this blowout, Edmonton could reclaim sole possession of second place with a win at the Shark Tank.
Draisaitl scored early in the second and third periods, giving the German four goals in three games against Anaheim this season. McDavid had only one assist for his NHL-leading 57th point, but it was a clever pass back to Draisaitl for the Oilers’ first goal.
“Standings are tight,” said Draisaitl, whose 19 goals lead the team. “Teams are trying to make the playoffs. We’re very tight with the other two teams up there. Every point we can get is huge for us. To beat them in their own rink is big for us.”
John Gibson stopped 19 shots for the Ducks, who stumbled into the All-Star break with their first shutout loss in 35 games since Nov. 12. They hadn’t lost in regulation at Honda Center to the Oilers in over four years.
“It wasn’t like we didn’t have anything going,” All-Star centre Ryan Kesler said. “Just stupid mistakes. We beat ourselves. We have to forget about this one and move on.”
Edmonton managed just one even-strength shot in the entire scoreless first period, but Draisaitl put the Oilers ahead early in the second. He stole Kevin Bieksa’s clearing attempt and scored his 18th goal on a give-and-go with McDavid to extend his scoring streak to five games.
Nugent-Hopkins then got his 11th goal on a deflected shot that pinballed past Gibson after a turnover by Bieksa.
Kassian turned it into a rout on a partial breakaway for his fourth goal with 16 seconds left, beating Gibson with a phenomenal backhand to the top near corner.
The Ducks didn’t show any signs of a comeback late in their 12th game in 22 days.
“We’ve played a lot of hockey, and they had more energy than we did,” Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said of the Oilers, who had the previous three days off. “That was certainly the way it looked out there.”
NOTES: Anaheim has been shut out three times this season. … Kalle Kossila made his NHL debut for the Ducks. The 23-year-old Finn is having a strong AHL season, and the Ducks called him up from San Diego after losing Stefan Noesen on waivers to New Jersey. … Anaheim D Sami Vatanen returned from a one-game benching as a healthy scratch. … After a rare day off last Saturday, Talbot played for the 19th time in 21 games. … Ducks F Jakob Silfverberg missed his third straight game with a likely head injury.
Oilers: At Sharks on Thursday.
Ducks: Host Avalanche on Tuesday.
Greg Beacham, The Associated Press