Hungry for a jolt following a stretch of seven losses in 10 games, the Edmonton Oilers think they’ve rediscovered their spark.
Edmonton enters Wednesday’s visit to the Chicago Blackhawks with two straight high-drama wins.
After rebounding from a 3-0, third-period deficit to top the host New York Rangers on Saturday, the Oilers prevailed 4-3 in overtime on Monday, stunning the visiting Florida Panthers with the tying goal with five seconds to go in regulation before netting the game-winner 22 seconds into overtime.
“We haven’t had the greatest first quarter … not where we want to be,” Oilers star Connor McDavid said. “We want to go on a run. We have to put a string together.”
Can the club’s recent heroics be a turning point?
“Yeah, hopefully,” said Leon Draisaitl, who scored the winning goal against Florida. “You’ve got to work for those bounces, when it seems like it’s going your way. They don’t just come and fall on your plate. We’ve put in two pretty solid games here.”
The outlook is decidedly less sunny for Chicago. The Blackhawks have lost seven straight and nine of 10, with Sunday’s 7-2 home loss to Winnipeg tying for the most lopsided result of the current slide.
Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews challenged the team’s preparation following the Winnipeg game, which prompted a players-only meeting before the team spoke with the media.
“All in all, I think we all agree that, as a group, we need to be more mentally prepared,” Toews said. “Even if there’s a night where, it’s a long season and sometimes you don’t have the energy and you don’t have it, you’ve just got to find ways to play a better team game and keep yourself in games.
“And sometimes when you work to do that, things start going your way, you get a couple goals and all of a sudden it gives you that little burst of energy that you’re looking for.”
Both teams are familiar with slow starts, and reversing them figures to go a long way in deciding Wednesday’s winner.
The Blackhawks were outshot 17-7 in Sunday’s first period, but goaltender Petr Mrazek surrendered just one goal in that span.
Winnipeg, however, broke through in the second period, outscoring Chicago 4-2.
“Ultimately, we’re in a situation here where we’ve lost quite a few games, and it’s not a good feeling,” Toews said. “We’ve got to find ways to play together as a team and make things more difficult on the other team. As a group, though, we’ll keep talking and we’ll find ways to work ourselves out of it.”
Edmonton regrouped against the Panthers after allowing a goal to Florida’s Matthew Tkachuk 3:49 into the game. The Oilers have surrendered six goals in the first three minutes of a game this season, a league high.
With Oilers forwards Warren Foegele and Ryan McLeod out with undisclosed injuries, Edmonton native James Hamblin made his NHL debut. He didn’t record a shot in 9:56 of ice time.
McDavid had a goal and two assists, while Zach Hyman notched three assists.