Weird and wacky game sees Oilers play well, and get shut out by Nashville

They brought their rediscovered confidence home with them from the road, and yet they couldn't score a single goal.

'You can have those moral victories when you’re comfortably in a playoff position,' says coach Todd McLellan

The Nashville Predators celebrate a goal as Edmonton Oilers goalie Laurent Brossoit looks on during second period at Rogers Place on Thursday. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson)

And yet …

Keep those words in mind.

They'll come up again and again in this discussion of Thursday night's game at Rogers Place, which saw the Edmonton Oilers shut out 4-0 in yet another loss they simply couldn't afford.

For the second time in less than a week, they got blanked by a back-up goalie.

Juuse Saros of the Nashville Predators did the deed this time. His name will now be in the record books. He made 46 saves, and no one has ever made more in a shutout against the Oilers.

And yet, despite the score, the Oilers played another solid game, their fourth in a row.

The numbers were as shocking as the final score.

Shocking numbers? You got it

The Oilers fired 91 pucks toward Saros. Thirteen went wide, a staggering 29 were blocked, and you already know what happened to the rest.

The Predators had half as many shots on net.

And yet, it's hard to blame Oilers backup goalie Laurent Brossoit for the loss.

The first Predators goal came on deflection off what looked a lot like a high stick. The goal was called on the ice and upheld after video review.

The second goal, with the Oilers down a man and short one stick, came off a point shot that hit two Oilers defenders before it dropped at the feet of Predators winger Kevin Fiala. He had half an open net. The fourth goal came on a cross-crease pass with the Oilers down two men.
Nashville Predators' Mattias Ekholm is checked by Edmonton Oilers' Zack Kassian during second period at Rogers Place on Thursday. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson)

And yet.

"No one's pinning this one on the goaltender," coach Todd McLellan said. "At least not from our end."

So, somehow, the Oilers found themselves down 2-0 halfway through a game they dominated everywhere but where it counts most.

Normally, when a team loses by four goals, it's easy to single out the guilty parties.

And yet, it would be hard to point out a single Oiler who had a bad game.

The game from outer space

There was very little that was "normal" about this game.

This one was like the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Or that pale thing with eyes on its hands from Pan's Labyrinth. A game so weird, so off-the-charts strange, that those who saw it could only shake their heads and look puzzled.

It is impossible for professional hockey players to turn in a good game and lose 4-0.

And yet, by most metrics except the one that counts, that is exactly what the Oilers did.

They brought their rediscovered confidence home with them, fresh off a road trip that saw them soundly whip two good teams and chase two Vezina Trophy-winning goalies from their nets. Of course, sandwiched in between that was a 1-0 loss to the Maple Leafs.

And yet, for the third time in six days, the Oilers seemed to get exactly the start they needed. From the opening puck-drop, they skated hard and all four lines created chances. They spent very little time in their own zone in the first period.

They out-hustled the visitors, beat them to most pucks and got rewarded — not with goals but with two power plays.

And yet — this is a recurring theme — the Oilers didn't score on either one, despite a total of 11 shots on net with the man advantage. The Oilers power play remains terrible. Their penalty kill remains … whatever is worse than terrible.

By the end of the period, the home team was up 22-4 on the shot clock.

And yet, no score.

A second period to forget

The second period is one the Oilers and their fans would like to flush.

The Predators had only nine shots, and scored on four of them.

And yet, as mentioned, Brossoit can't be apportioned much of the blame.

And yet, neither can his teammates.

After dominating the game for 30 minutes, a deflection here, a ricochet there, the home team trailed 2-0. Results like that can really put the zap on a team's confidence. Two weeks ago, the Oilers might have folded right then.

And yet, they didn't. They kept their heads up and continued to work hard. They kept shooting, kept checking, and didn't come unglued, even after the third goal against. And the fourth.

Under other circumstances, it would be possible to chalk this game up as an aberration. An outlier, as Malcolm Gladwell would put it. Just one of those things, as Cole Porter might have said.

And yet, the Oilers can't afford to lose. Not with a record of 13-17-2. Not when they're a miserable 5-10-0 at home.

"I do think we're playing better hockey than we did two or three weeks ago," McLellan said. "But, you can have those moral victories when you're comfortably in a playoff position. And obviously we're not. We need the wins, and that's what it's about."

His team is now nine points out of a wild-card spot and getting closer and closer to some kind of algebraic purgatory where the playoffs will become all-but impossible to make.

And yet …

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Rick McConnell has worked as a writer and editor in Alberta for more than 30 years.