In quick turnaround, Oilers look to avenge loss to Canucks
Field Level Mediaon
As offensively gifted as the top-line skaters are for the Edmonton Oilers, the key to long-term success is stingier defensive play.
When the Oilers head to Vancouver to face the Canucks on Sunday in the second half of a home-and-home series on consecutive nights, rest assured coach Dave Tippett will remind his charges the biggest reason they've lost two straight games is their defensive zone play, which was very evident during Saturday's 5-2 loss to the Canucks.
"We're giving up too many goals right now, and it's costing us," Tippett said. "We're playing a little loose right now, playing looser than I'd like. We're chasing goals ... and don't have the same commitment to defending."
The Oilers remain atop the Pacific Division, but they have been a pedestrian club over the past few weeks, having posted a 4-4-1 record and seen their lead on the Arizona Coyotes reduced to one point.
Sure, the Oilers have been without arguably their best defensive forward, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, for the last three games due to surgery, but it's obvious Tippett has preached this message before.
"There's times you just need a little reset of the mind. Early in the year, it was all about defending and goals against," Tippett said. "We played some games we defended well, but ... the last couple we haven't defended as well as we'd like."
One saving grace for the Oilers is they don't have to wait long to try exacting a bit of revenge on the Canucks.
"We should look at our own game and come back strong," defenseman Adam Larsson said. "It's a game 24 hours later, so it's a quick turnaround and that's good for us. We have a chance to make something good out of it."
In beating Edmonton, the Canucks snapped a two-game skid and finished a six-game road swing on a positive note. Even though Edmonton star Connor McDavid collected one goal and one assist on Saturday, the Canucks were happy with the defensive job they did, with much of the responsibility handed to the forward trio of Tanner Pearson, Loui Eriksson and Bo Horvat.
Pearson responded with a career-high four-point game (two goals and two assists), while Eriksson scored his first goal of the season and Horvat collected three assists.
"We know we're going to play against the two best players in the world, and it's definitely a tough challenge," Eriksson said. "But I think we played pretty good, the whole team."
Especially key for the Canucks was the third period. In their previous game, they held a 6-3 lead over the Pittsburgh Penguins six minutes into the third period only to surrender five unanswered goals and fall 8-6.
"We needed that one after the way Pittsburgh went. That wasn't the third period we wanted," Pearson said. "So, to get the lead tonight and hold it, keep on pushing for that matter, was a big step."
They are certainly expecting the Oilers to do plenty of pushing in Sunday's clash.
"They will be hungry," Eriksson said. "We have to do the same thing we did today, work hard as a team. We know they have players who can make plays, so we have to be hard on them, limit their space and their speed."