Oilers play well, still lose as Penguins’ Murray shuts the door

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When you’re a team that scores few goals, even a pretty good effort of a given night can be unraveled by a momentary lapse on the ice.

The Edmonton Oilers put in that pretty good effort on Wednesday Night Hockey on NBCSN but still came away with the loss, 3-1 to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

And the reason for that was a roughly four-minute stretch in the second period where they stopped doing what had made them successful in the rest of the game. The Oilers owned possession in the first and second periods (53 percent in the first; 70 percent in the second) and came up with a 1-0 lead in the first when Connor McDavid slid a cross-ice pass to Leon Draisaitl.

That lead lasted until early in the second when the Oilers just stopped defending while on the power play. The laziness that ensued produced a short-handed goal for Bryan Rust, who shouldn’t have been allowed the time he had to tuck the puck past Mikko Koskinen.

The 2-1 goal came when no one picked up a streaking Teddy Blueger through the slot. A tough rebound off Koskinen produced a juicy rebound and just like that, the Oilers trailed.

Matt Murray produced another solid outing after he stopped a career-high 50 shots in a 4-1 win against the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday.

Murray had to come up big again, stopping 38 shots, including a penalty shot from none other than McDavid (who is now 1-for-3 in those situations in his career).

Murray was on point again nearing the mid-way point of the third when he stretched out to stop McDavid once again.

This Matt Murray is the unbeatable Matt Murray that could lift the Penguins into the playoffs by himself down the stretch here if he keeps playing like this.

Speaking of playoffs and down the stretch run, the Penguins picked up two big points and are now three clear (67 points) of the Carolina Hurricanes (64 points) for the final wild card in the Eastern Conference.

Pittsburgh came into the game 1-3-1 in their past five games and just four wins in their past 12. The Penguins were without Evgeni Malkin (serving his one-game suspension for attempted decapitation) and Olli Maatta (who is out indefinitely with an upper-body injury).

The Oilers, meanwhile, are beginning to fall behind in the turtle derby. They’ve lost eight of their past nine contests and sit six points back of the Minnesota Wild for the final wildcard spot in the west. And there’s the loggiest of logjams in front of them queueing up for what appears to be quite the race to the finish line.

Weird stat via the NHL: McDavid is 0-3-3 against the Penguins when Sidney Crosby is in the lineup.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

WATCH LIVE: Crosby’s Penguins vs. McDavid’s Oilers on NBCSN

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with the Wednesday Night Hockey matchup between the Edmonton Oilers and Pittsburgh Penguins. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Never beating the Pittsburgh Penguins when Sidney Crosby‘s been in the lineup is the least of Connor McDavid‘s concerns, but it’s one of the many ways you can remind people that the Edmonton Oilers haven’t really put him in a position to succeed.

It’s almost too fitting that McDavid’s been fantastic in the five Oilers losses against the Penguins, generating nine points in those games, but not yet getting the win.

[Comparing McDavid’s early days to Lemieux’s troubles]

Both superstar players are hurting for a win, but not really because of an easily packaged rivalry.

Instead, their teams simply need it. The Oilers are a Dumpster fire right now, with things being so bad that Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman discussed rumblings about Ken Hitchcock straight-up wanting to walk away.

Things aren’t as dour for the Penguins, but they don’t have a large margin for error when it comes to making the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, so they’ll be keyed-in. With injuries mounting for the Pens, they might ask Crosby to do even more than usual. McDavid can relate.

One benefit for McDavid is that Evgeni Malkin won’t suit up, as he’s serving a one-game suspension for his wild stick-swinging at Flyers forward Michael Raffl.

Is it too greedy to hope that all of these circumstances will lead to another great duel between number 87 and number 97? Maybe, but let’s cross our fingers for that, anyway.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 7 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

What: Edmonton Oilers at Pittsburgh Penguins
Where: PPG Paints Arena
When: Wednesday, Feb. 13, 7 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Oilers-Penguins stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

OILERS

Leon Draisaitl — Connor McDavid — Zack Kassian

Jujhar KhairaRyan Nugent-HopkinsJesse Puljujarvi

Milan Lucic — Brad Malone — Alex Chiasson

Tobias RiederColby CaveTy Rattie

Oscar KlefbomAdam Larsson

Darnell NurseKris Russell

Alexander PetrovicKevin Gravel

Starting goalie: Mikko Koskinen

PENGUINS

Jake Guentzel — Sidney Crosby — Bryan Rust

Tanner PearsonNick BjugstadPhil Kessel

Teddy Blueger — Jared McCannPatric Hornqvist

Zach Aston-ReeseMatt CullenGarrett Wilson

Brian DumoulinKris Letang

Juuso RiikolaJack Johnson

Marcus PetterssonChad Ruhwedel

Starting goalie: Matt Murray

John Forslund (play-by-play), U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame member Eddie Olczyk (analyst), and Emmy Award-winner Pierre McGuire (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will have the call from PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh. Pa. Pre-game coverage starts at 7 p.m. ET with NHL Live, hosted by Liam McHugh alongside Mike Milbury, Keith Jones and Bob McKenzie. Additionally, Kathryn Tappen will be providing reports and conducting interviews on-site in Pittsburgh.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Oilers’ Hitchcock left dumbfounded after latest loss

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If we’re talking about National Hockey League coaches that have seen it all, Ken Hitchcock is in that upper echelon.

He’s orchestrated five different teams in his 22 years as a bench boss — some 1,571 regular-season games. And in those 1,571 games, he’s won 53 percent of them — 838 wins under his belt, third-most all-time.

He’s fifth in total games coached (third among active coaches) and has a Stanley Cup ring to back up those credentials.

And yet when it comes to the Edmonton Oilers, the man who could pen a coaching encyclopedia has been reduced to dumbfoundedness in Northern Alberta.

“At this time of year the coaches can’t want it more than the players,” Hitchcock said after another lackluster performance in a 5-2 loss against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night. “At the end of the day, it’s going to be decided whether we want to play the right way because it’s successful or whether we just want to do our thing. To me, today was a day we just wanted to do our thing and we paid dearly for it.

The only reason the Oilers can even sniff the playoffs this year is Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and a log jam of teams who appear to unwilling to want to separate themselves from each other.

But even a guy like Draisaitl seemed uninterested on Saturday.

In Hitchcock’s post-game presser, Sportsnet’s Mark Spector asked Hitch about the play, when Evander Kane, who eventually scored the 2-0, skated past Draisaitl, who was basically standing still.

“That’s a good question,” Hitchcock responded. “I think it’s a symptom of something much bigger. It’s priorities and what’s important. It just can’t be acceptable.”

The goal in question is here:

The Oilers sit four points back of the St. Louis Blues for the second and final wild card in the Western Conference. They’ve benefitted from the turtle derby (great phrase) around them, so even though they’ve only won three of their past 10, they’re still somehow relevant.

Of course, that won’t be the case for much longer. With 27 games to go, a couple teams around them are starting to figure it out. The Blues, for instance, have won five in a row. The Chicago Blackhawks have strung together six victories on the trot. And with efforts like Saturday’s — the status quo, it seems — their chances, despite their close proximity to a postseason spot, appear to be fading quickly.

“We can’t do the things we are doing and expect to be a playoff team,” Hitchcock said. “When you put skill ahead of work, you get burnt. And there’s too much of it going on.”

Hitchcock’s job is akin to Mission Impossible. But there’s no movie script here or no inevitable save-the-day-moment. There’s no Tom Cruise, either. It’s just a man who figured he might be able to make a difference on a doomed team but has begun to realize he most likely can’t.

And it’s no fault of his own.

He inherited a tire fire with seemingly unlimited rubber to burn. He took charge of a team that has been crippled by bad trades and handcuffed by horrible contracts. Reinforcements aren’t coming.

The table of contents in Hitchcock’s nearly 1,600-game coaching career doesn’t list a section for this.

There’s no manual. No Coaching the Edmonton Oilers for Dummies.

The problems run much deeper and God only knows when they’ll be solved.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

WATCH LIVE: 2019 NHL All-Star Game on NBC

The 2019 Honda NHL All-Star Game at SAP Center in San Jose on Saturday night on NBC, with four teams vying to share a $1 million prize.

Coverage gets underway at 8 p.m ET, with puck drop between the Central Division all-stars and the Pacific Division all-stars set for 8:15 p.m. ET. That game will be followed by the Metropolitan Division all-stars battling the Atlantic Division all-stars.

The winners of both games will square off for a deciding third game, with a cool $1 million on the line.

[WATCH LIVE – NHL ALL-STAR GAME 8 P.M. ET – NBC]

Atlantic Division

F Jack Eichel, BUF
F Nikita Kucherov, TBL
F Auston Matthews, TOR
F Jeff Skinner, BUF
F David Pastrnak, BOS
F Steven Stamkos, TBL
F John Tavares, TOR
D Thomas Chabot, OTT
D Keith Yandle, FLA
G Jimmy Howard, DET
G Andrei Vasilevskiy, TBL
Coach: Jon Cooper, TBL

Metropolitan Division

F Sebastian Aho, CAR
F Cam Atkinson, CBJ
F Mathew Barzal, NYI
F Sidney Crosby, PIT
F Claude Giroux, PHI
F Kyle Palmieri, NJD
D John Carlson, WSH
D Seth Jones, CBJ
D Kris Letang, PIT
G Braden Holtby, WSH
G Henrik Lundqvist, NYR
Coach: Todd Reirden, WSH

Central Division

F Patrick Kane, CHI
F Nathan MacKinnon, COL
F Ryan O'Reilly, STL
F Mikko Rantanen, COL
F Mark Scheifele, WPG
F Blake Wheeler, WPG
F Gabriel Landeskog, COL
D Miro Heiskanen, DAL
D Roman Josi, NSH
G Devan Dubnyk, MIN
G Pekka Rinne, NSH
Coach: Paul Maurice, WPG

Pacific Division

F Johnny Gaudreau, CGY
F Clayton Keller, ARI
F Connor McDavid, EDM
F Joe Pavelski, SJS
F Elias Pettersson, VAN
F Leon Draisaitl, EDM
D Brent Burns, SJS
D Drew Doughty, LAK
D Erik Karlsson, SJS
G Marc-Andre Fleury, VGK
G John Gibson, ANA
Coach: Bill Peters, CGY

The NHL All-Star Skills event took place on Friday.

McDavid was one against crowned the winner of the fastest skater, clocking a time of 13.378 seconds for his third consecutive triumph in the event.

Gaudreau retained his title in the puck control contest, finishing with a time of 27.045 seconds to edge out Kane.

Lundqvist is the oldest all-star among this year’s cast, but the “King” would take his throne, recording 12 straight saves in the Save Streak contest.

Draisaitl showed his peers how it was done in the Premier Passer event with a time of 1:09:088.

Carlson took home the hardest shot, blasting a puck 102.8 MPH.

Pastrnak was first up in the Accuracy Shooting event and his time of 11.309 seconds went unmatched.

[RELATED: 2019 NHL All-Star Skills: Winners, funny moments, Gritty]

If you haven’t yet, take some time today to watch P.K. Subban’s excellent All-Star Special that air after Friday’s All-Star Skills. Subban had several guests appear on his show, including 13-year-old Ty Cornett, who reached out to Subban earlier this month after experiencing racism while playing youth hockey.

And if you’re looking for more ASG coverage, don’t forget to read these stories from PHT’s Sean Leahy, who is on the ground in San Jose and has been providing top-notch coverage from the event.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

U.S. captain Brianna Decker to be paid $25K from CCM for All-Star Skills success

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Kendall Coyne Schofield wasn’t the only U.S. women’s national team player to make an impact during Friday’s NHL All-Star Skills event.

U.S. captain Brianna Decker showed off her passing talents during the Premier Passer demonstration before the NHL players took part. Her time of 1:06 beat out the event’s winner, Leon Draisaitl (1:09) of the Edmonton Oilers, but she was ineligible for the $25,000 prize.

“She beat me?” Draisaitl said afterward. “Wow. That is impressive. That’s really impressive. Good for her.”

Hockey fans rallied around Decker’s result and started the #PayDecker hashtag on social media. On Saturday afternoon, hockey equipment manufacturer CCM announced it would pay out the money to the Calgary Inferno (CWHL) forward.

 

Decker responded in a Tweet writing, “Sincerely thankful @CCMHockey You have been nothing but 1st class the last 5 years I have been a part of your family! Thank you for supporting the men’s and women’s game equally!”

After her demo, Decker had no idea how good her time was.

“[Erik] Karlsson went after me, so I was like, ‘OK, I think I might have beaten him,’ but I didn’t know how long it took me,” said Decker via The Hockey News. “I was just casually going through the demo. That passing was pretty tough. But I had no idea, actually.”

The NHL announced during the All-Star Game that they will be donating $25,000 to the charity or hockey program in the name of the four women — Decker, Coyne Schofield, Renata Fast, and Rebecca Johnston — who helped with the All-Star Skills event demonstrations. Coyne Schofield, of course, made a big splash on the night when she replaced Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche in the Faster Skater event and clocked a time of 14.346, beating out Arizona Coyotes forward Clayton Keller.

UPDATE: There was some uncertainty with the clock during Decker’s demo, and the NHL has apparently reviewed it and determined her time was around 1:12-13, per Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.