Oilers gunning for past-season berth in matchup vs. Senators
It appears neither the Ottawa Senators nor the Edmonton Oilers are going to put an end to Canada's 25-season drought without a Stanley Cup this spring.
The Senators (25-43-6), who play Saturday afternoon at Edmonton, have a league-worst 56 points and have already been eliminated from postseason contention. The Oilers (33-34-7), despite a 4-1 victory Thursday against visiting Columbus, are five points back with eight games left in the race for the Western Conference's second and final wild-card berth, with four teams between them and the last spot.
"These are the biggest games of the year and all the excitement is here," Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen, who stopped 19 of 20 shots, told NHL.com. "As long as we have a (mathematical) chance, we're going to fight until the end."
Thursday's contest opened a five-game homestand for the Oilers.
"I know everybody around here talks about next year but that's not the focus in that locker room," Oilers coach Ken Hitchcock said. "Somebody is going to get in (the playoffs). We just got to keep playing and winning hockey games. If we play the way we played tonight, we're going to win a lot of games."
The Oilers scored three third-period goals to beat the Blue Jackets after entering the final period tied at 1-1.
Connor McDavid had a goal and an assist in the final period to give him 107 points this season (37 goals, 70 assists), one shy of his career-high set last year.
Two Oilers reached milestones, with Leon Draisaitl assisting on three goals to reach 300 career points and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored his career-high 25th goal of the season.
"It's nice to hit a personal high but at the same time, it's a lot sweeter with the win," Nugent-Hopkins told NHL.com.
The Senators are 0-2 on their three-game, western Canada trip after a 7-4 loss Wednesday in Vancouver and a 5-1 defeat Thursday in Calgary.
Dylan DeMelo scored the game's opening goal against the Flames, but Ottawa dropped to 3-12-1 in its past 16 games.
"At the end of the day it's everybody on the ice," goaltender Craig Anderson, who dropped to 0-13-1 in his past 14 decisions, told NHL.com. "It's veterans, it's rookies, everyone has to be a little bit better. You're in the National Hockey League. Whether you're a young guy or an old guy, it doesn't matter. You're in the National Hockey League. You're here for a reason. You're a good hockey player. You have to take care of the puck. That's what it comes down to.
"We come out of the gate pretty well and we're able to get the lead. We were just unable to sustain that. A couple times, just maybe unaware of how quick they were or how good their sticks were. They take the puck from us and come down and score. It's just one of those things where we've got to be a little bit harder on the puck, and when we have that lead, make sure we play a little tougher."
Added Senators rookie forward Brady Tkachuk: "It's a long year. We've all learned a lot. This last stretch is all about sticking together and working as hard as we can to win as many games as we can."
Ottawa forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau served a one-game suspension Thursday for boarding Vancouver's Ashton Sautner the previous night.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 22, 2019