EDMONTON — The Edmonton Oilers appear to be on cruise control heading into the playoffs while collecting new milestones on a nightly basis.
Leon Draisaitl recorded a hat trick to get to 50 goals on the season and Jack Campbell made 36 saves to record his first shutout as an Oiler as Edmonton won its fourth game in a row to officially clinch a playoff berth with a 6-0 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday.
“It was a good night. There were lots of great plays by the guys around me, looking for me. I am proud and very fortunate to have done it,” said Draisaitl, who scored his third goal short-handed to become just the 12th player in NHL history to have three seasons with 50 goals and 50 assists.
“I was probably being a little too selfish in the third, I was shooting it from everywhere. I think that is all right. Usually, I tend to overpass it so for once in my life it is OK. There were some great plays. I didn’t think it was going to happen on the kill, but I will take it."
Zach Hyman, Darnell Nurse and Connor McDavid also scored for the Oilers (45-23-9), who have gone 13-2-1 in their last 16 outings.
Edmonton has managed to record shutouts in its last two games after not having one previously in the season, with Stuart Skinner in net for a 2-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday.
“I thought that Soup (Campbell) made some really big saves, especially early in the first,” McDavid said. “I thought we were a little bit sloppy at the beginning of the game, but he was solid and gave us a chance to get our feet under us.
"I am really, really happy for him. Obviously it has been an up-and-down year for him and he has battled so hard, so to be rewarded, the boys love that.”
The Ducks (23-43-10) have tied a season-high with their seventh consecutive loss.
“Edmonton has a top-notch explosive team,” said Ducks head coach Dallas Eakins. “I thought we had a really good first period, maybe one of our best periods of the year. But I think the discrepancy is finish on the two teams, they’re loaded with guys that can finish and we’re challenged with it.
"I think the differential of shots was four, they had 36 we had 32, we just couldn’t get anything past their goaltender tonight.”
Anaheim controlled much of the early play and was unfortunate not to be able to grab the lead as Ryan Strome had Oilers goalie Campbell cleanly beat 3 1/2 minutes in, but hit the post. With eight minutes left Frank Vatrano had a couple of opportunities in tight, but was stoned by Campbell, who would end up stopping 17 first-period shots.
However, Edmonton got the game’s first goal with 2:04 to play in the opening period as Hyman tipped a Mattias Ekholm shot and it just snuck past Ducks starter John Gibson for his 34th of the season and fourth goal in his last five outings.
The Oilers made it 2-0 two minutes into the second period as Evander Kane fed it across to Draisaitl who cut hard to the inside before beating Gibson on the backhand, extending his points streak to 12 games in the process.
Edmonton added to its lead five minutes into the middle frame as the puck came back to Nurse after a scramble in front and he sent a long blast through Gibson’s legs for his 11th. Nurse hit a new career high for points on the play, reaching 42.
Draisaitl scored his second of the game just before a power play expired with 8:16 remaining in the second period as he banged in a bouncing puck for his 30th goal with the man advantage. McDavid picked up an assist to extend his point scoring streak to 11 games.
Edmonton made it 5-0 just 4:25 into the third period as McDavid circled the entire net before casually picking the top corner to score his league-leading 62nd goal of the season.
Lukas Dostal came into the Ducks net to replace Gibson, who faced 36 shots before suffering a lower-body injury.
Draisaitl picked up his 50th goal of the season with five minutes left in the third as Ekholm hit him with a long pass before he scored a short-handed marker from the top of the right circle.
It was the third time in his career that Draisaitl has hit the 50-goal mark, and he also combined with McDavid to be the first teammates to hit 50 goals in the same season since Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr did it for Pittsburgh in 1995-1996.
“This one is very exciting to me because it was at home and the other two were on the road,” Draisaitl said. “It was great to do it in front of our home fans.”
Edmonton’s deadly league-leading power play, which came into the game with the best success percentage in league history at 32.4 per cent, is almost double as effective as Anaheim’s league worst 16.2 per cent. … The Oilers’ impressive 12-2-1 run in March was recognized by the NHL, as McDavid and Draisaitl were named the first and second star for the month. Goalie Stuart Skinner, who set a franchise record for most wins in a month at 10, was also named the NHL’s rookie of the month for March on Saturday. … Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins sits third on the Oilers in scoring but would be the leading scorer on 27 teams this season. … Anaheim has had four losing skids of six games or more this year. … Out for the Ducks were Adam Henrique (knee), Jamie Drysdale (shoulder), Anthony Stolarz (knee) and Troy Terry, who is on leave while awaiting the birth of a child. … Injured for Edmonton were Ryan Murray (back) and Ryan McLeod (upper body).
The Ducks are right back at it on Sunday when they head to Calgary to face the Flames.
The Oilers begin a four-game road trip on Tuesday against the Los Angeles Kings.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 1, 2023.
Shane Jones, The Canadian Press