Koskinen helps Oilers defeat Golden Knights

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Dave Tippett had a tough choice on Saturday as to where to place his confidence in a major heavyweight tilt with another Western Conference contender.

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Maybe that was a question that didn’t have a wrong answer, with Stuart Skinner posting a .928 save percentage and Mikko Koskinen going 10-2.

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Still, with both goalies fresh and coming out of strong games, Dave Tippett had a tough choice on Saturday as to where to place his confidence in a major heavyweight tilt with another Western Conference contender.

He picked veteran Koskinen, and the move paid off early and often in a 36-save performance that laid the groundwork for a huge 3-2 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights.

“Quite special for sure,” said forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. “At the start of the game, I think he made five saves on the highlights.

“As a team we don’t want to force him to do that, but it was incredible saves to start the game and he was solid too when we needed him late.”

In a game where Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl were both left off the scoresheet, Nugent-Hopkins, Zach Hyman and Jesse Puljujarvi did damage for the Oilers, who improved to 15-5-0 this season with their route 2-1. trip.

It’s a good enough place to be at the quarter-pole of the season.

“We’re in a good position for sure,” said Nugent-Hopkins. “You can nitpick a little bit and say you want to improve here or there, but overall if you get the two points every night, that’s what we’re looking for.”

“It says a lot about our group here. We have confidence and we must have confidence. This is how we want to start the year, but we have to keep going. “

Tippett will always find something that needs to be tightened up, but he’ll give the team a moment to reflect on the shift for a job well done.

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“There are things we did very well in the top 20 and things we need to work on to improve,” he said. “But overall if you look at what we’ve accomplished so far it’s a good start to the season.”

  1. Edmonton Oilers left winger Zach Hyman (18) celebrates after scoring a first period goal against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena.

    Hyman shows why he is a candidate for the Olympic team

  2. Edmonton Oilers defenseman Kris Russell (4) checks Josh Morrissey (44) of the Winnipeg Jets on March 18, 2021, in Edmonton.

    Russell approaches the black and blue milestone

Goalkeepers, whether it’s Mike Smith at the start, Koskinen in the middle, or Skinner lately, have rarely been a problem. And that was the backbone of victory on Saturday as Koskinen, who struggled early in games, held the fort early as the notoriously slow Oilers were under siege in the opening 12 minutes.

“We knew they were going to come strong and we had to survive the first 10 minutes and that’s exactly what happened,” Koskinen said. “We got on our feet and ended up leading 2-0 after the first period. “

Nugent-Hopkins started with his second goal of the season, a beauty at the far post, at 5:50 PM and Hyman topped it in a partial breakaway at 7:44 PM.

It was Nugent-Hopkins’ first goal in six games and Hyman’s first goal in eight.

By the end of the period, shots had gone from 12-5 in Vegas to 16-14 in Edmonton.

It was a similar scenario in the second period, with Koskinen making a sensational three or four saves until Puljujarvi broke his eight-game drop in a breakaway at 6:39.

Koskinen finally blinked at Vegas’ 24th shot of the night, a Chandler Stephenson backhand to the short side at 10:50 of the second period and Reilly Smith had a lucky rebound on his skate at 4:04 of the third to make things very interesting down. stretching.

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There was plenty of time to go to a tough building, but the Oilers find a way to end those games and did it again against Vegas.

“We knew they were going to push, but I think we did a good job holding the fort,” Nugent-Hopkins said.

There were nights when Koskinen needed four or five supporting goals to get a win, but that night the team found themselves leaning on him.

“Every night is different,” Koskinen said. “Some nights you have to make fewer stops. But all that matters is that we have the win and the two points.

ALL-TIME BLOCKER

It didn’t take long for Kris Russell to climb to number one on the NHL’s all-time shot blocker list. He started the game with 1,997, one behind Brent Seabrook, and by the 11th minute of the first period he was 2,000.

“It’s pretty amazing,” said Koskinen. “They weren’t like soft shots either. Full slaps and one-timers.

“He always puts the team first, night after night. You always know what you’ll get from Rusty. Everyone was so happy for him.

UNKNOWN HEROES

The Oilers’ 2-0 lead after 20 minutes was made possible by the painstaking work of the penalty shootout quartet of Russell, Derek Ryan, Colton Sceviour and Evan Bouchard, who were stranded in their own camp during the two minutes from a Vegas Power Play.

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