(Image courtesy of TSN.ca)
It appeared to be an inauspicious January game against an Eastern Conference opponent. Instead, the Oilers served up a historic night for the crowd at Rogers Place, with both Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid hitting the 100 career point marks, and Jordan Eberle snapping an 18-game goal drought to send the game to extra minutes.
Even more exciting than the fact that the goal ended the longest goalless drought of his career is the way in which he scored it. Finding himself on a two-on-one rush with Beniot Pouliot, Eberle looked momentarily like he was about to dish off. I don’t know if that was an intentional fake, or if he just suddenly remembered how good his shot is. All I know is what I saw: Jordan Eberle unleashing a lightning wrister that handcuffed James Reimer, knotting the score at three with minutes to play. It brought to mind memories of his first few seasons in Oil Country. It’s the Eberle that fans haven’t seen yet this season, and have missed dearly if one is judging by the roar that went up as he celebrated.
From the beginning of the three-on-three overtime, the Oilers looked unstoppable. McDavid, Draisaitl, and Sekera have become the de facto top overtime line for the Oilers and there’s no question why. The Panthers looked hapless against them. However, it took the trio until the dying seconds of overtime to orchestrate one of the most stunning moments since McDavid’s physics-defying display against Columbus last year: With just over five seconds left, Draisaitl spotted McDavid breaking for center ice, and bombed a saucer pass to the red line. McDavid collected it and tortured Reimer with about 17 dekes before unleashing a backhand that Reimer caught. I say “caught” instead of “saved”, because his glove was so far behind the goal line that even a video review (which has been a thorn in the Oilers’ collective gluteus maximus all season) couldn’t undo it.
Rather than anti-climactic, the review on McDavid’s jaw-dropper had a sort of poetic justice for a long-suffering fan base: with one goal, Connor McDavid won the game for the Oilers, got Leon Draisaitl his 100th career point (and first major career milestone), and finally survived a video review. Given that he’s been robbed time and time again, it added an extra dimension of sweetness for the home crowd.
Odds & Ends:
- Eric Gryba dressed in place of Matt Benning. Presumably either just a maintenance day for Benning or Gryba was overdue for a game. Fans love Gryba’s devastating hitting ability, but Benning’s well-rounded game has relegated the hulking defender to the press box on most nights this season.
- Jaromir Jagr of the Panthers played his 1,676th career game, and his assist on Greg McKegg’s third period goal puts him at 1,896 career points. The second-highest scoring player in NHL history, his longevity as a 44 year old in a league of elite young men is unparalleled. This clearly isn’t lost on Edmonton fans, as they cheered when his assist was announced.
- Jordan Eberle wasn’t the only Oiler to break a career-long goal drought. Zack Kassian’s first period tap-in from McDavid halted his scoring drought at 37 games. He had last scored on October 23, 2016 against the Winnipeg Jets.