Like all teams, the Edmonton Oilers prefer to play with a lead.
But they take it to extremes.
The Oilers failed to score the opening goal in six straight games, losing all six. They snapped that skid Thursday night in a 5-2 victory against visiting Columbus as Jesse Puljujarvi had two goals and an assist.
They’ll look to start a winning streak when they play Saturday night at the Seattle Kraken.
“This was big for us. We needed this win,” Puljujarvi said. “We need to keep building on this to get wins on other nights.”
Derek Ryan, Brendan Perlini and Warren Foegele also scored for the Oilers and backup goaltender Stuart Skinner stopped 36 of 38 shots.
Neither Connor McDavid nor Leon Draisaitl scored a goal, but McDavid had two assists to Draisaitl’s one, giving McDavid an NHL-leading 47 points this season — one more than Draisaitl and Washington’s Alex Ovechkin.
Puljujarvi scored power-play goals 46 seconds apart in the first period to give Edmonton a 2-0 lead. The Oilers are 10-0-0 when scoring first this season.
“I think everything has to come down to confidence. You start feeling good about yourself. That’s something we’re going to have to talk about, too,” said Oilers assistant coach Glen Gulutzan, who filled in Thursday with head coach Dave Tippett in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol.
“It’s obviously important for us to score that first goal, it’s important for any team. But maybe we can concentrate on the second goal a little bit, too, even if we don’t get the first one. Let’s just make sure we get the second. You’d want to have a stronger mindset than we need the first one to win.”
Tippett isn’t alone on the coronavirus list. Forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was placed in the protocol Friday, joining teammates Devin Shore and Ryan McLeod.
The Kraken return home after playing two games in as many nights in California. They defeated San Jose 3-1 Tuesday before suffering a 4-1 loss at Pacific Division-leading Anaheim on Wednesday.
That marked just the fourth time the expansion Kraken had to play on consecutive days, but they refused to use that as an excuse.
“Back-to-back shouldn’t matter in this league,” said Seattle captain Mark Giordano, a 16-year veteran. “Everyone’s in good shape. We just weren’t sharp enough with the puck and with our reads.”
Goaltender Philipp Grubauer started Wednesday but left after two periods with an apparent lower-body injury. He was replaced by Chris Driedger, who had made 33 saves the day before to win his third consecutive decision. Grubauer’s status for this weekend is uncertain.
“Coming into a back-to-back, we knew we would need both guys … you’re going to have to lean on your goaltending a little bit from time to time,” Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said.
“The bigger area for me was we didn’t manage the puck well enough to put ourselves into spots where we could forecheck well and generate more (offensive-zone) time. And that, ultimately, didn’t allow us to generate a whole lot offensively.”
This will be the third meeting of the season between the teams. The Kraken held off a late rally to defeat the Oilers 4-3 on Dec. 3 in Seattle. Edmonton won 5-2 at home on Nov. 1.
–Field Level Media