Player grades: Three periods of nasty as Edmonton Oilers stage glorious 4-1 comeback win over Montreal Canadiens

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They say that hockey is no game for cowards. Monday night’s game between Edmonton and Montreal proved it.

A lot of hate in this savage game. A lot of nasty. And a fierce and glorious comeback by the Oilers in the third that saw them out-chance Montreal 13-0 and out-score them 4-0 in that stretch.

In total Grade A chances were 16-6 for Edmonton (running count).

Connor McDavid, 9. He scored one of the best goals of his career in a game where he played his heart out, especially after an embarrassing mistake late in the second period. 97 was equal parts Bobbly Clarke and Guy Lafleur out there, flying with the puck and playing with an edge. It all got started when he threw a hard hit on Montreal cheap shot artist Phillip Danault in the first. Later in the period Danault caught him back with a dangerous late hit. Then came the mistake: McD muffed the return pass from Jesse Puljujarvi on a two-on-zero breakaway opportunity, which is the equivalent of Tiger Woods in his prime missing a gimme putt. But after that error McDavid wasn’t the same player. It was like it gave him a jolt of adrenaline. He came to life on an Edmonton power play late in the second and was unlucky not to engineer goal on his multiple forays. He got a Grade A shot of his own on net off a sweet Darnell Nurse feed half-way through the third period. On his great goal, he made two very good Montreal d-men Jeff Petry and Joel Edmundson look like beer leaguers as he split them to get in alone for the go-ahead score. The cherry on top was his feed to Jesse Puljujarvi for a breakaway 3-1 goal.

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Leon Draisaitl, 7. He played 27 hard and effective minutes. He rammed Corey Perry hard into the boards in the first. He also rammed on net a one-timer on the power play later that period, the 17th time he’s had a Grade A one-timer on the power play this year off a Connor McDavid feed. It was great to see him come to Caleb Jones’ defence after Jones’ collision with Paul Byron. He set up Kailer Yamamoto on a dangerous power play slot shot. He stretched a fine pass to Josh Archibald for a break-in chance in the third, and also set up a Kahun one-timer.

Jesse Puljujarvi, 8. He broke up one Montreal attack in the first with a solid back check. He won a key battle with a hard check on McDavid’s winning goal. He made up for any gaffe he might have made on the 2-0 breakaway by hammering in the insurance goal on another breakaway.

Gaetan Haas, 6. He was part of Edmonton’s solid PK effort and held his own at even strength.

Dominik Kahun, 5. Quiet most of the game, but he ripped a one-timer off a Draisaitl feed in the third.

Kailer Yamamoto, 6. He was in the battle all night. He got one good redirection shot in the second. He put the puck to Josh Archibald on the empty net goal.

Josh Archibald, 8. He powered hard to the net on a rush in the third and almost scored. A moment later he almost hammered home a rebound off a Darnell Nurse drive and shot. Also did solid work on the PK. The Oilers outshot Montreal 12-1 when he was on the ice, and he certainly contributed to that strong even strength play. He was rewarded for all that good work with an empty-net goal.

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Alex Chiasson, 6. He tried to bend the rules and was rightly called on a goalie interference call in the first on a McDavid shot that went in. But as Oilers coach Glen Sather used to say about such plays, if you’re not cheatin’, you’re not tryin’. He failed to drain a wide open look off a Caleb Jones outside shot early in the third, but to give Jake Allen credit, brilliant save.

Jujhar Khaira, Incomplete. He got blasted by huge Alexander Romanov hit in the first that left him wobbling on his feet, then heading to the dressing room.

Devin Shore, 5. Hustled hard, played fine.

Joakim Nygard, 5. His hard work on the forecheck in the first led to a Grade B shot for Chiasson.

Zack Kassian, 7. He came at Shea Weber like the Mindbender rolling down the tracks and blasted him with a hard hit in the first. He failed to cover for Kris Russell in the second leading to an Artturi Lehkonen breakaway in the second. Hit Romanov hard in the third. He set up Shore for a great shot in the third. He and Archibald led the team with six hits each.

Darnell Nurse, 8. He was a tower of power out there. He led the team with seven shots on net. The refs gave him a weak penalty in the first, high-sticking on Nick Suzuki, but only after he’d been tripped and lost his balance. He could not stop Staal’s punt on Montreal’s first goal. HIs great rush and shot almost gave Edmonton a 2-1 lead late in the third, but Jake Allen stoned him.

Tyson Barrie, 3. He struggled this game, with five major mistakes on Grade A chances against. He lost a blue line battle in the first leading to a two-on-one and Tyler Toffoli chance against in the first. A moment later, another moment of Matador defence, as he tried for the puck in the neutral-zone, lost the battle and another dangerous Montreal chance happened. Just to prove these mistakes weren’t a fluke he made another bad pinch later in the first leading to another two-on-one and a Eric Staal Grade A shot. Early in the second, he lost another battle leading to a Tomas Tatar Grade A slot shot. He and Haas allowed the cross-seam pass leading to Eric Staal’s goal.

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Adam Larsson, 7. Solid game, part of a solid pairing.

Kris Russell, 7. Also solid, with a clean sheet on defence, not making even one mistake on a Grade A chance against.

Caleb Jones, 7. His best game of the year? Likely, yes, even as he played just 12 minutes. He got his stick and body in the right spots on defence. He moved the puck well all night. He got rocked by in a nasty perhaps unintended collision with Paul Byron late in the second. He came back to get an outside shot on net in the third, leading to a juicy rebound for Chiasson.

Ethan Bear, 8. Best game in weeks. He moved the puck like the Ethan Bear of 2019-20. He almost scored on a hard Grade B scoring chance shot late in the second, off a McDavid feed. He picked a good time to get his first Grade A shot of the year, hammering in McDavid’s feed from the slot. A moment later he sent in Zack Kassian and Devin Shore on two-on-one.

Mike Smith, 7. He covered up for Barrie, making four early saves off the d-man’s mistakes. His brilliant clearance led to McDavid and Puljujarvi’s two-on-zero breakaway. He was good when he needed to be good.

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