NEWARK, N.J. — Four games. Four wins.
The Edmonton Oilers haven’t played even five percent of the 2019-20 season yet, leading head coach Dave Tippett to caution that it’s still early. But all things considered, something appears to be brewing, as the team’s enjoying its best start since 2008-09.
A 4-3 shootout victory over the New Jersey Devils saw Connor McDavid and company overcome a one-goal deficit three separate times for Edmonton’s latest victory. McDavid’s late power-play goal withstood a video review and sent the game to overtime. Goaltender Mikko Koskinen made 28 saves on 31 shots, and the Oilers ultimately snuck away with another win after Leon Draisaitl’s shootout goal sealed the victory.
“We’re a resilient group,” Draisaitl said postgame, noting the team fought through a less-than-perfect game for the win. “We said that before the season, we’re not going to stop until it’s over.”
Draisaitl himself contributed a goal to the effort in the first period, one of only 22 shots on goal that Edmonton managed throughout the game. This win wasn’t pretty like Oct. 9’s 5-2 victory over the Islanders — which featured James Neal’s four-goal scoring spree — but between multi-point nights from McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Neal’s seventh goal of the season, Edmonton rests atop the Pacific Division standings undefeated.
“Winning makes everything easier and better, but we’re working for it,” Draisaitl said about the team’s current mood. “We’re playing the right way, working hard for our wins. It’s great to see different guys contribute and make a difference every night.”
Neal, who already matched last season’s seven-goal total on a tip-in during a second-period power play, said the locker room has stayed even-keeled when facing adversity so far. The veteran scorer’s near-instant return to shooting success has dominated early-season storylines, but Neal said whatever held him back last year “really doesn’t matter anymore.”
“I think It’s just a change of scenery,” Neal said. “Playing with some great players. Kind of just having fun again playing the game. I think everyone that’s come in here kind of just stepped back and has a lot to prove. We’re sticking together, we’re becoming a team really quickly and having a lot of fun doing it.”
Tippett, who is four games into his first year behind the Oilers’ bench, praised how hard his team has competed so far — whether they’re trailing or not. And on Thursday, despite being outshot and the lead being snatched away from them at times, that’s what Edmonton did: kept competing.
“You have to find ways to win in this league, that’s what it is,” Tippett said. “That’s what our players were talking about after the second period – we don’t feel like we got our A-game but that’s not an excuse for not winning, so let’s find a way to win.
“Some nights you’re not going to feel the best or you’re not going to have your A-game, but you still have to try and find a way,” Tippet added. “That’s the belief we’re trying to build.”