The Edmonton Oilers can move into second place in the North Division with another victory against the visiting Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night.
That’s a big deal for the Oilers.
The top two teams in each of the four divisions will have home-ice advantage in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and Edmonton has been playing very well at home lately, winning eight in a row, one shy of the franchise record set in 2017.
The Oilers (27-15-2) were trailing visiting Montreal 1-0 midway through the third period Monday when they suddenly caught fire, scoring four goals down the stretch to win 4-1 and pull within one point of the Winnipeg Jets for second place in the North.
The Canadiens (19-15-9) are fourth in the North, nine points behind the Oilers and six points in front of the fifth-place Calgary Flames.
“The game was so intense,” Edmonton star Connor McDavid said of the opener of the two-game series. “There was so much energy inside the building, even without fans.”
Both teams lost key players during the game, however.
Montreal goalie Carey Price did not return for the second period after colliding with Alex Chiasson during a disallowed goal in the first.
Price was starting a second straight game after missing six games with a lower-body injury. He had allowed three goals on 14 shots in his return, a 4-0 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Saturday.
Jake Allen filled in for Price while he was out with the injury and replaced him again on Monday.
“It’s unfortunate for Carey, but that’s what I’m here for,” Allen said. “I’m here to step up when guys go down. That’s my job, so I’ve got to always be ready.”
Edmonton lost forward Jujhar Khaira to a big hit in the first period, and he did not return. Oilers coach Dave Tippett said he expected Khaira to miss some time.
McDavid, who scored his 24th goal of the season on Monday, said the Oilers will need to continue matching the physicality of the Canadiens, who had won four of five against the Oilers before Monday.
“They’re a big team,” McDavid said of Montreal. “When they want to play that type of way, we’re not afraid to play that type of way. If you want to play physical, we can play physical.”
McDavid said it’s no secret what the Canadiens like to do against their opponents.
“It’s completely work-based against (Montreal),” McDavid said. “They do a great job of clogging up the middle, they have big rangy D-men who break the puck out well and are hard to forecheck. You just have to outwork them. You look at the teams that have had success against them, and that seems to be the recipe.”
The Canadiens are still trying to find the offense that helped them to a 7-1-2 start this season, when they scored at least four goals in eight of those games.
Montreal has been limited to 15 goals over its past nine games.
“We want to create more,” Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme said. “And obviously, at times, we were missing the net on chances. When you miss the net, you don’t give yourself a chance. There’s not one guy that takes a shot and doesn’t want to score, so it’s frustrating for them. It’s frustrating for everyone, because I think we can be scoring more.”
–Field Level Media