VANCOUVER—Ken Hitchcock wants Edmonton Oilers' fans to brace for a wild ride.
Edmonton's head coach thinks games will get tighter through the second half of the NHL season and look more like the intense action that saw the Oilers beat the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 in a shootout last night.
“You're going to be in a battle and there's going to be a lot of emotional times," Hitchcock said. ”And for me, if you're a fan of hockey, you're going to love this.
“If you're just looking for wins, you're going to go through a roller-coaster ride,” he added.
“But if you're looking for great hockey with people pouring everything in it, you're going to be looking at this for the next 40 games.”
Edmonton hockey-lovers could be in for some excitement if that's the case. A heart-racing overtime saw breakaways at both ends of the ice last night.
Darnell Nurse swiped the puck from Edmonton's crease halfway through the extra time to keep the Oilers in the game.
The play resulted in an Edmonton rush where Leon Draisaitl put a shot into the logo of Canucks' goalie Jacob Markstrom.
“I thought for sure we'd score for sure twice and then next thing I know, I couldn't believe they didn't score,” Hitchcock said.
“Overtime was really exciting.”
The shootout went into the fifth round before Alex Chiasson scored, who said watching Draisaitl's attempt helped him read Markstrom.
“I thought if I could come with a little bit of speed and go just above [his glove],” he noted.
“It worked out.”
The Oilers can take a lot from tight games, said the right-winger.
“We've got to learn how to play in these types of games, make good decisions, play until we have to,” stressed Chiasson, who won a Stanley Cup with the Washington Capitals last season.
“I thought tonight was a good example of making good decisions and building our game as it went on,” he remarked.
“Even though we had ups and downs, we kept going. And that's what we need.”
Edmonton (23-21-3) had not strung together two wins in a row since early December, and had lost their two previous match-ups with the Canucks (21-21-6).
“It's a tough building to play in. We've always had struggles,” Oilers' captain Connor McDavid noted.
“At least we were able to take advantage of it and get the two points.”
McDavid and Jujhar Khaira scored in regulation for Edmonton.
The game saw Khaira move back to the left-wing alongside Jesse Puljujarvi and Colby Cave—a centre the Oilers picked up off waivers from the Boston Bruins earlier this week.
Hitchcock said he thinks Khaira does better on the wing and the native of Surrey, B.C. showed what he's capable of last night with a spinning wrist shot for a short-handed goal midway through the first period.
“It was one of those things were it just kind of presented itself,” Khaira said.
“For myself, I need to be more of a shooter, so I'm just trying to focus on that right now,” he noted.
“It's nice when it pays off.”
Brandon Sutter and Markus Granlund scored for Vancouver. Markstrom had 28 saves for the Canucks while Oilers' goalie Mikko Koskinen stopped 20-of-22 shots.
Sutter was happy with the way his team played against the Oilers despite the result.
“It's fun hockey to watch and a little more nerve-wracking to play, but I like our game tonight,” he said.
“It was a grinding game, kind of that playoff feel against teams that are fighting for it, and that's what they are going to be like down the stretch,” he added.
“So I thought we played really well.”
Both the Oilers and Canucks are in a multi-team race for the Western Conference's two wild card playoff spots.
Elsewhere in the NHL, Ottawa beat Colorado 5-2, Buffalo nipped Calgary 4-3 (OT), Philadelphia edged Boston 4-3, and Arizona doubled San Jose 6-3.