Oilers end rough trip with win at Boston
BOSTON — The Edmonton Oilers found the perfect way to end a miserable road trip: play a team they haven’t lost to in more than three years.
Although Edmonton came into TD Garden on Sunday having won just once in the first four games of its five-game road stretch, the Oilers capped the trip with a 4-2 victory over the Boston Bruins. Edmonton (9-13-2) extended a six-game unbeaten streak against Boston that dates back to Nov. 6, 2014.
“We finished the trip off the way we wanted to as far as tonight goes,” Edmonton coach Todd McLellan said. “Not enough points in the bank, but tonight was a well-played team game by everybody that dressed, starting with the goaltender out.”
Oilers winger Ryan Strome broke a 2-2 tie at 2:07 of the third period. He took a pass from Leon Draisaitl in the high slot and fired it past Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask, who made 32 saves in his first appearance in five games for the Bruins.
Draisaitl went on to add an empty-net goal to seal it with 51 seconds to go.
Rask, generally accepted as Boston’s No. 1 netminder, has struggled this season to the tune of a 3-8-2 record, an .897 save percentage and a 2.89 goals-against average. That, combined with backup Anton Khudobin’s 7-0-2 record, .932 save percentage and 2.22 GAA has led to talk of a goaltending controversy in Boston.
On Sunday, though, Rask was hardly the Bruins’ biggest problem. The Oilers held the Bruins to 25 shots — just 11 in the first two periods combined — and although Boston pumped 14 shots on Cam Talbot in the final frame, Edmonton’s own beleaguered goalie was up to the task, finishing with 23 saves.
“Well, (Rask) needs a win,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. “He wants a win, obviously. He’s a goalie. They’re judged on their wins and losses generally speaking. It would help him a lot to get offense. Having said that, we’re not a four-, five-, six-goal team most nights anyway. We’re in that three area. When we get it to three, we’re usually OK, and we didn’t get it there tonight.”
Boston’s David Pastrnak opened the scoring at the 14:03 mark of the first period. Pastrnak walked in through the right wing, put a nifty deke on Oscar Klefbom and wristed a shot over Talbot’s glove for a 1-0 Boston lead. The goal, which came 39 seconds into a hooking penalty to Michael Cammalleri, marked the Bruins’ first power-play tally in 17 tries.
Patrick Maroon tied it for the Oilers 9:50 into the second period, settling a cross-ice pass from Zack Kassian and snapping it between Rask’s blocker and the left post to make it 1-1.
The Oilers took a brief lead at the 14:20 mark of the second when Adam Larsson’s wrister deflected off Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy to make it 2-1.
Boston (10-8-4) tied it just 71 seconds later when Riley Nash drove deep into the Edmonton zone and fed David Krejci for the equalizer.
That was where the offense ended for the Bruins, though, and Strome’s goal early in the third was all Talbot and the Oilers needed.
“We lacked energy, I think that was very visible to everyone,” Cassidy said. “It’s disappointing. You’re at home. We’ve played well of late. We started well Friday (in a 4-3 win over Pittsburgh). We just didn’t have it tonight.”
Edmonton returns home to face the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday, with an opportunity to win back-to-back games for just the second time this season, before welcoming the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday.
“You hope with a game like that, guys gain some confidence in this game,” said Oilers left winger Milan Lucic, who was battling with McAvoy in front when Larsson’s second-period shot went off the defenseman’s leg. “If we buckle down and play the right way, things seem to happen for us. Got two home games coming up next week and got to make them count.”
The Bruins are off until Wednesday, when they host the Atlantic Division-leading Tampa Bay Lightning. Whether the Boston net remains in Rask’s hands or goes back to Khudobin is anybody’s guess and Cassidy’s decision. Rask projected an unworried air about the matter.
“It’s been different that I haven’t been playing. It can affect you mentally if you let it. But I try not to,” Rask said. “(Khudobin) has played unbelievable. He’s getting the wins. And that’s what matters. We need wins. The only thing I can control, like I said, is the work. Show up and have a good work ethic, a good attitude and whenever you get the chance to play, you try to give the team a chance to win.”
NOTES: Oilers F Leon Draisaitl slotted into the center position between LW Drake Caggiula and RW Ryan Strome after playing most of this season on the right wing. ... G Cam Talbot made the start for Edmonton after missing the Friday game with the flu. ... The Bruins announced that LW Peter Cehlarik, who sustained a leg injury in Boston’s Friday win over Pittsburgh, will be out a minimum of four weeks. ... Edmonton LW Patrick Maroon’s goal in the second period was his sixth in just three games against the Bruins over the past two seasons. ... Oilers D Adam Larsson snapped an 11-game scoreless streak with his goal. ... Bruins G Tuukka Rask had an assist on RW David Pastrnak’s goal in the first period, marking his first assist since he had two against the Winnipeg Jets on Oct. 17, 2016.