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Oilers run out of comebacks in wild offence-first loss to Devils

These 6-5 games are fun, even if your team doesn’t win them.

Hey — you can always say, “Scoring five goals on the road is pretty good. That was fun.”

But allowing six to the New Jersey Devils to lose 6-5 in overtime? Does an Oilers fan gnash their teeth or shrug their shoulders?

“I thought we played a lot better than we did in St. Louis,” reasoned Kailer Yamamoto, of Wednesday’s 4-2 loss to the Blues. “But that’s a really good (Devils) team over there. They know how to score goals too.”

They do indeed, as the Oilers fought back from one-goal deficits to tie the game four separate times, then took a 5-4 lead into the final moments. In a game like this one, however, you just knew it wouldn’t last, and Dougie Hamilton’s long wrister somehow made it through the bodies to be deflected home by Yegor Sharangovich with just 32 seconds to play.

Of course this one was headed to overtime, tied 5-5.

“They win a draw there, get the puck and shoot it,” deadpanned Connor McDavid, who lost that defensive zone draw to Nico Hischer. “They have a bunch of guys there and it finds a way in.”

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McDavid was fantastic in Friday’s matinee, with two goals in 27:57 of ice time, before losing that crucial draw. The Oilers went with 11 forwards, and lost Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to an unknown injury midway through the third period.

It was a game right out of the ’80s — two teams playing very loose defence, with goaltending that was spectacular one minute and Murray Bannerman-esque the next. Mike Smith made some great saves, but had two or three bloopers. He fabulously stopped a pair of breakaways in overtime to give his team life, then let Jack Hughes’ wrist shot bleed over the line for the winner seconds later.

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Ugh …

“Our attitude on the game was great,” said head coach Dave Tippett. “No quit — keep pushing, keep pushing. Sometimes as much as you try to keep the puck out of your net, it finds its way in. We weren’t giving up much, and the tying goal is a deflection from way out. A seeing-eye puck that finds its way in. Disappointing.”

First-goal blues

Once again, the opponent scored first.

This time it was the Devils, last game it was the St. Louis Blues, and Saturday, the odds say, it will be the New York Islanders.

And, yes, it is becoming a problem.

The Oilers have given up the first goal in nine of their past 10 games, 18 of their past 22 games, and 21 times in 31 games this season. No team in the NHL scores first less often than the sleepy Oil, who have identified the problem — they just can’t fix it.

So instead, they dwell on being that feisty team that can overcome, which they certainly were on Friday.

“It shows the character in our locker room. If we go down, we’re willing to fight back,” said Yamamoto.

That’s great and all. But at some point the issue of not starting well enough has to be diagnosed and corrected.

In our books it’s a players’ issue, and we’ve seen Tippett and his staff try several different line combinations off the start of games to try to break the jinx. At some point, the guys in the uniforms — not the ones wearing suits — have to take control and fix the problem.

Goofy call

Well, that was a first.

The Oilers saw their longest delay of the season when New Jersey challenged a missed stoppage in play, only to have it ruled that the Devils weren’t allowed to challenge said play after all, and the goal would stand.

That was Edmonton’s good luck, as in our eyes the question — whether the whistle should have been blown when Dougie Hamilton touched the puck on a delayed penalty to the Devils — was in New Jersey’s favour. Hamilton touched the puck with control, and the whistle should have blown. The refs missed the call.

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But the Devils can’t complain. They did not receive a penalty for an unsuccessful challenge, once the NHL’s Situation Room deemed the play unchallengeable. To me, that should still be a penalty. Similar to calling a time out in basketball when you have none left, the coach should know the rules when he makes a challenge.

“We had a challenge that wasn’t a challenge,” marvelled Tippett. “We had four of the six goals against us were, at some point, deflected. It was one of those games — a lot of bouncers going the other way.”

This bounce went Edmonton’s way. Here is how the NHL explained it:

“New Jersey requested a Coach’s Challenge for a Missed Game Stoppage Event to further examine if defenseman Dougie Hamilton played the puck with 11:47 on the clock (8:13 elapsed time) during a delayed penalty, which was prior to Kailer Yamamoto’s goal.

“However, the play was not challengeable as Rule 38.2 (b) states, “that a play that results in a ‘GOAL’ call on the ice where the defending team claims that the play should have been stopped by reason of any play occurring in the offensive zone that should have resulted in a play stoppage caused by the attacking team but did not.” The spirit of this rule is to address Missed Game Stoppages in the offensive zone created by the attacking player (not the defending player in the defensive zone).”

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