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Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl controls the puck under pressure Arizona Coyotes defenceman J.J. Moser during the first period of a game at Mullett Arena in Tempe Arizona on Monday, Feb. 19, 2024. Photo by Christian Petersen /Getty ImagesOilers 6, Coyotes 3Let’s give coach Kris Knoblauch some credit for this one. His Edmonton Oilers were going nowhere fast through the first 40 minutes against a hungry pack of Arizona Coyotes, particularly in a somnambulent second period that saw an early 2-1 lead mutate into a 3-2 deficit.

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The coach responded by changing up all 4 of his forward lines, and it was as if he’d reset the master breaker. The restructured Oilers swarmed the tiring Coyotes in the early minutes of the third, forcing multiple icings before pouring home 3 goals in 123 seconds to take command. They held that 5-3 lead for the duration before adding an empty netter to seal a 6-3 deal.

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Let’s give the ‘yotes their due. They had lost their prior 9 straight games and were playing on the minimum allowable amount of rest (22 hours between start times) after a tough contest at Colorado the day before; moreover their netminder Matt Villalta was making his NHL debut in this contest. They gave it the old college try, appropriate for a home arena that was built for NCAA puck.

Many, perhaps a majority of the capacity crowd of 4600 in attendance were sporting the blue and orange of the visitors, and they finally had their fun in the final frame. But it wasn’t a cakewalk. On the day the Coyotes had a 65-52 edge in shot attempts and 13-9 in Grade A shots (running count) while the Oilers narrowly led in shots on goal 26-25 and 5-alarm chances 4-3.

Player grades

#2 Evan Bouchard, 7. Collected a trio of assists with a couple of outside passes to players in good position and another that found Kane in the slot. His pairing was beaten for a pair of Arizona goals, though those were more on his partner. A rare game with negative shot shares. Contributions to Grade A Shots: Even Strength +2/-2; Special Teams +2/-0.

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#5 Cody Ceci, 6. Steady game, put out a couple of fires, no major issues in 21 minutes of action. GAS: ES +0/-1; ST +0/-0.

#10 Derek Ryan, 4. Burned on the Arizona powerplay goal that tied the game 2-2. Caught out for a long shift just before the 3-2, which was scored on a quick counter attack during the subsequent line chance. Had a bit better time of it in the third, but was among the culprits on a pair of great chances on a late Coyotes powerplay. 5/8=63% on the faceoff dot. GAS: ES +1/-2; ST: +0/-3.

#13 Mattias Janmark, 6. Credited with just his second goal of the season by going to the net front and deflecting home Kulak’s point shot to put Oilers ahead 2-1. Took a “good penalty” for hooking Mattias Maccelli and preventing what seemed a sure goal, even as it merely delayed the inevitable when the Desert Dogs connected on the subsequent powerplay. Made a key stop in the defensive slot seconds before his mates tallied the empty net goal. GAS: ES +2/-1; ST +0/-0.

#14 Mattias Ekholm, 5. Burned twice on goals by former Edmonton teammate Nick Bjugstad, both times with a failed pinch in the neutral zone which has been an issue in recent games. Bounced back hard with a pair of assists on a single third period shift. GAS: ES +1/-2; ST +0/-0.

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#18 Zach Hyman, 6. Ineffective on a line with Kane and RNH through 40 minutes. Missed what appeared to be a tap-in on an Edmonton powerplay. But made a massive contribution by scoring the game winner with a superb mid-air deflection of Ekholm’s point shot just 26 seconds after the Oilers had tied the score. GAS: ES +1/-1; ST +1/-0.

#25 Darnell Nurse, 6. Led the Oilers in TOI (22:52), shot attempts (5), shots (3), takeaways (2) and blocked shots (3). Oilers enjoyed a 10-5 shot advantage on his watch at 5v5. GAS: ES +0/-2; ST +0/-0.

#27 Brett Kulak, 6. Earned a primary assist with an outside shot into traffic that caromed into the net off Janmark. Steady otherwise. GAS: ES +1/-0; ST +0/-0.

#29 Leon Draisaitl, 8. Welcomed Villalta to the NHL barely 2 minutes in with a perfectly placed powerplay shot to the top corner. His gorgeous entry pass to McLeod set the table for Kane’s first goal, even as Leon got the “third assist” on the scoring play. Took a nasty “slash” from Matt Dumba that resulted in an Oilers powerplay. Bought some time in the corner, then set up a breaking McLeod for a slot shot that Kane tipped home. Made a wonderful play to weave his way into open ice, then deliver a splendid pass through the seam he created that Kane couldn’t quite convert. Earned an assist on the empty netter with a deft d-zone pass to wrap up a tidy 3-point night. 11/16=69% on the dot. GAS: ES +3/-0; ST +3/-0.

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#37 Warren Foegele, 6. On the wrong end of shot shares but the good outweighed the bad. Some strong board work in the right wing corner maintained possession and helped set the stage for Janmark’s goal. Rang the post with a wicked slot shot. Broke out of an 8-game pointless run by potting the empty net goal from the neutral zone.  GAS: ES +2/-0; ST +0/-0.

#55 Dylan Holloway, 5. Had his challenges at the pivot position, even as he more than held his own on the dot (4/5=80%). Was seemingly mesmerized by a Bjugstad pratfall on the zone entry and allowed a dangerous cross-seam pass in its aftermath. 1 shot, 2 hits in nearly 12 minutes of action. GAS: ES +0/-1; ST +0/-0.

#71 Ryan McLeod, 8. Led the Oilers with +3 and was full value for it, playing a key role on all 3 tallies even as only 1 resulted in a point. Switched from centre to wing in the third and found a way to contribute from both positions. Engaged in an extended battle in the corner and along the side wall to help maintain possession in the build-up to Janmark’s goal. Took Draisaitl’s pass and burst into the slot, drew a penalty, then made a sharp feed back to the point as Edmonton set up the 6v5 on the delayed penalty that ultimately resulted in Kane’s first goal. Had a more direct hand in EK’s second tally when he timed his burst into the slot to receive another Draisaitl feed and fire a shot that Kane tipped home from the doorstep. Engaged in numerous puck battles, won more than his share. Skated miles. GAS: +3/-1; ST +0/-0.

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#73 Vincent Desharnais, 6. A couple of adventures with the puck including a mishandle on his first shift that nearly led to a breakaway opportunity. Earned an assist on Janmark’s goal with a good keep-in and D to D pass. Nearly got another with a fine packdoor pass that Hyman couldn’t quite handle. Took (another) one for the team with a painful shot block in the third. 3 hits. GAS: ES +1/-1; ST +0/-0.

#74 Stu Skinner, 5. Looked a little out of sorts in the first half of the game. Went down a little early on both Bjugstad goals, both of which found the top of the net. The second was deemed a Grade B shot, a rare “bad goal” against the big stopper. Had no vision on the powerplay tally and peeked out the wrong side of the screen just as the shooter was picking the other side of the net. Settled down thereafter and turned aside the last 6 Grade A shots he faced to first keep his team in the game, then in the lead. 25 shots, 22 saves, .880 save percentage.

#89 Sam Gagner, 4. Played a team-low 9:12 and had his struggles, especially in defensive zone coverage. One extended shift (1:31) saw his group chase the play in their own end until finally getting the puck out but not deep; the Coyotes scored on the counter attack during the line change. His best moment was a nifty backhand saucer pass to Janmark for a good third-period chance. GAS: +1/-1; ST +0/-0.

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#90 Corey Perry, 5. In good initial position but lacked the necessary speed on the backcheck on the first Arizona goal. Had a good chance at the doorstep off a Draisaitl feed. Made a fine pass of his own to McDavid but the captain was unable to hit the open cage from a low angle. Intervened forcefully when Jack McBain pushed Kulak into Skinner after the whistle, leading to a scrum and offsetting penalties. GAS: ES +1/-1; ST +0/-0.

#91 Evander Kane, 7. His original line with RNH and Hyman spent a little too much time behind their own blueline, even as Kane himself twice relieved the pressure with well-placed lobs that cleared the zone and enabled the change. Came alive in the third on a new trio with Draisaitl and McLeod that clicked immediately. Scored the 3-3 on a wicked wrist shot from the slot, his 20th of the season. Added #21 just 2:03 later with a tip-in from the edge of the paint. Took a late penalty for roughing when his extended battle with Michael Kesselring ended with the Arizona defender’s helmet popping off (the Kadri-Nurse Rule). 3 shots, 2 hits, 1 block in 16:53. GAS: ES +2/-1; ST +0/-0.

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#93 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 5. Did his best offensive work on the powerplay. His no-look backhand pass to Bouchard initiated the sequence on Draisaitl’s goal on that unit. 2 terrific shots on Edmonton’s other PP, the first of which rocketed off of both goalposts and out. Struggling just now on the first-unit penalty kill. 2 shots, 2 hits, 4/7=57% on the dot. GAS: ES +0/-1; ST +3/-2.

#97 Connor McDavid, 6. Fairly quiet outing by his lofty standards, even as he set the tone early by drawing a penalty, then feeding Draisaitl for the 1-0. Found the scoresheet again at the other end of the game when he fed Foegele for the empty netter. 1 shot, 1 (hard) hit, 3/9=33% on the draw.  Led all forwards with a relatively tame 20:38. GAS: ES +1/-1; ST +1/-0.

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