Player grades: Sweet justice as Edmonton Oilers outplay Vegas, beat them in shootout

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The Edmonton Oilers almost found a way to give away a hard won victory, giving up a 4-2 lead late in the game to the Vegas Golden Knights.

But in the shoot-out, Edmonton won, sweet justice after having significantly out-played VGK most of the game.

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The Oilers came out playing hard and fast hockey, and with luck being the residue of such determination the Oilers were rewarded with the first goal, an outside shot by Sam Gagner finding its way in.

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But Vegas found a way to get back into the game, scoring two goals on tipped outside shots, and seeing Edmonton’s defense collapse on the key fourth goal late in the third.

In total, when it comes to Grade A shots (which go in 25 per cent of the time on average, it was Edmonton 17, VGK, 9. In the subset of 5-alarm shots (which go in 33 per cent), it was Edmonton 10, VGK, 3.

Cult of Hockey player grades

Connor McDavid, 8. Shootout hero, scoring a big goal. One goal and two assists in the real game. He made a fine pass to Ekholm on Edmonton’s second goal. He lost the face-off on Vegas’ second goal, but that was a weird one, a face-off on the left dot with the right d-man, Evan Bouchard, way over the left side boards for the draw, a weird strategy indeed. McD more than made up for it a moment later, picking up a missed Vegas shot rounding the boards, jumping on it at centre ice, going in for a rocket of a breakaway and slam dunking the puck on the backhand. His stick was taken out of his hands by Brayden McNabb late in the third but, of course, no penalty. Contributions to Grade A Shots (GAS): Even Strength +3/-1; Special Teams +1/-0.

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Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 8. He also scored in the shootout for a bonus mark and was one of the heroes of the Oilers excellent PK work. He was part of the confused Oilers defence allowing a point shot on the first Vegas goal, but made a sharp pass on Edmonton’s second goal. GAS: ES +1/-1; ST +0/-0.

Mattias Janmark, 7. He allowed a pass for a Grade A shot on an early PK, but then took a way a goal, defecting away a pass before it went to Eichel. He went hard to the net and had Ekholm’s point shot go in off his body. As always a key player on the PK, not surprising as he’s the best defensive forward on the Oilers.  GAS: ES +1/-0; ST +0/-1.

Leon Draisaitl, 6. He got some good work done but wasn’t rewarded with a point. Solid on defence, which is a critical area for Draisaitl. He knocked down a puck with his brilliant stick work, kicking off the Virtuous Cycle leading to two quick first period Grade A shots, a Bouchard deflection and Brown’s rebound shot. Late in the second he had the collision of the year, one check that knocked down two VGK attackers, Alex Pietrangelo and Ivan Barbashev. GAS: ES +4/-0; ST +0/-0.

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Evander Kane, 7. He picked up a muffed shot and steamed up ice for a wicked breakaway wrister late in the first. He filled in nicely net-front for Zach Hyman on the power play, screening the goalie and bashing in a rebound shot for Edmonton’s fourth goal late in the second. He blocked a dangerous shot early in the third, then knocked Pietrangelo to the ice. He took an ill-advised penalty early in the third with a 2-0 lead but his mates killed it off. He was caught up ice on a 2-on-1 in OT. GAS: ES +4/-1; ST +2/-0.

Connor Brown, 6. Solid effort and impact. He went to the net and almost cashed in a Bouch rebound early on. Another strong PKer, set up Nurse for a dangerous short-handed shot. GAS: ES +3/-1; ST +1/-0.

Ryan McLeod, 5. Good start, rancid finish. He threw a hard early hit on Zach Whitecloud. He won a battle and went in with Foegele on a dangerous PK 2-on-1, then got his own Grade A jam shot later in the period. He almost jammed in a shot half-way through the second. He made a brain fart on the fourth Vegas goal, failing to cover his man in front of the net, the same attacker Kolesar who tipped in the outside shot. He lost marks on that one. He charged in hard in OT and jammed a hard shot on net. GAS: ES +4/-1; ST +1/-0.

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Warren Foegele, 6. The effort was there, as always. He jammed a hard shot on net on the PK from in tight half-way through the first. He set up McLeod for his third period jam shot. GAS: ES +2/-0; ST +1/-0.

Derek Ryan, 7. Another key part of Edmonton’s strong PK. He slammed a rebound shot off the post early in the third. GAS: ES +2/-0; ST +0/-0.

Adam Erne, 5. He caused some commotion in front of the net on Gagner’s opening goal. He threw a crunching hit on Whitecloud in the third. Next he threw the hit of the game, a blast on big Nic Hague that had the boards and the fans shaking. A moment later he charged up ice for a breakaway chance, drawing a penalty. But he and Desharnais failed to clear the puck leading to the third Vegas goal, with Erne also providing a screen for the VGK shooter. GAS: ES +1/-1; ST +0/-0.

James Hamblin, 5. Solid work in this one, part of a strong fourth line effort. Played just 6:26. GAS: ES +1/-1; ST +0/-0.

Sam Gagner, 6. He fired an outside, seeing-eye shot through a baffled Logan Thompson to open the scoring. “A goal he’s going to want to have back,” announcer Louie Debrusk said of Thompson, his standard statement when a goalie allows in a back-breaker of a goal against. He made a high skill backhand pass to send in Erne on his third period break-in shot. GAS: ES +1/-1; ST +0/-0.

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Darnell Nurse, 8. Another great game. A tower of power on the PK all game. He was assigned a super soft penalty early in the game. He fired off a swell stretch pass to send in Edmonton for an early Grade A shot. He made a solid clearance on a second period VGK power play. He made a fabulous hustle play, charging in for a 5-alarm tip on the PK late in the second. GAS: ES +2/-0; ST +1/-0.

Cody Ceci, 8. He, too, had a great game, winning defensive battle after battle. Like Nurse, he kept a clean sheet at even strength, not one major mistake on a Grade A shot against. He blocked off a scary shot/passing lane on the PK early on. He charged up ice for a 2-on-1 shot early in the third. He won all kinds of PK battles. GAS: ES +3/-0; ST +0/-0.

Mattias Ekholm, 6. Good effort but a few mistakes ended up in the Edmonton net. He made a hard play to take out Jack Eichel in the slot early on. Solid clearance on the PK later in the first. He allowed the Mark Stone tip on the first Vegas goal. His hard blast on net was the key piece of Edmonton’s second goal. He was slow to the net-front on the second Vegas goal. GAS: ES +1/-3; ST +0/-1.

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Evan Bouchard, 7. He got it done where he was needed to get it done, on the power play. He made an ill-advised o-zone trip and took a penalty in the first. He looked sharp on the power play, keeping the puck in with solid stops and making smart passes. His thundering bolt of a slapper took a rebound to Kane for Edmonton’s fourth goal. GAS: ES +2/-2; ST +2/-0.

Vincent Desharnais, 3. A few crucial mistakes on goals against, even as he was good on the PK, making a key shot block on a second period PK. But the puck skipped by him on the third Vegas goal. He gave up way too much gap on the outside shot leading to the fourth Vegas goal.  GAS: ES +1/-2; ST +0/-1.

Brett Kulak, 6. His turnover kicked off the Sequence of Pain on the third VGK goal. Otherwise played a sound game. GAS: ES +1/-1; ST +1/-0.

Stuart Skinner, 5. A hard won to judge him, as he was the better goalie in the shootout, but not in the game. But a win is a win. He only had nine Grade A shots against him but he gave in four goals. He gave out a big, fat rebound on his first shot but made a fine stop a moment later. He had little chance on the Stone tip but a great save on the Amadio goal would have been welcome. He was screened a bit on the third Vegas goal. No chance on the fourth goal, as Desharnais and McLeod made major errors in a key moment.

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