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You try and give referees the benefit of the doubt given the speed of the NHL but on a night like last, it’s hard to do so.

You can’t help but think the outcome of the came could’ve been different from the 4-3 Habs final it was if not for some textbook penalty calls. Instead, the Oilers stars in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are hounded with crosscheck after crosscheck, hold after hold, and interferences after interferences.

But they have to play through it, right? So they do and with little complaint. The second either did anything that ever so slightly resembled a penalty, they found themselves in the penalty box.

McDavid takes a late jab at Corey Perry, who sells it like he got shot, and sits for two. Five minutes later, there’s an absolute phantom call on Draisaitl who was simply finishing a check on Joel Edmundson as the Oilers are fighting back from 2-1.

“An interference call on a guy that just passed the puck and (took) a body check,” is how Oilers head coach Dave Tippett described the play, choosing to bite his tongue on the rest of the reffing. “I don’t know, it is what it is. I’m not gonna comment on the referees. It was… it was… I’m just gonna leave it at that.”

Don’t even get me started on the Habs’ fourth goal, one that Edmonton challenged and ended up being the game-winner. Josh Anderson clearly kick Mike Smith’s skate thus pushing the netminder further out out of his crease and out of position from attempting to make a save. Frankly it could’ve been a completely different game.

“You could tell in the first they kind of put the whistles away,” said Oilers defenceman Caleb Jones. “In the third period they started calling more which I thought was weird, because in the first two periods they were letting us play. It is what it is.”

It’s this kind of inconsistent reffing, in the eyes of this reporter, that’s doing more harm than it is good in the NHL. It’s time for them to begin to crackdown and last night’s game tape could be a great launch point for them.

Give the Oilers credit, though. They fought hard and a late surge in the third period made things entertaining as while down 4-1, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and McDavid both got on the board closing the total.

You always want to come out of any game at any point in the season, but the truth is that last night’s game had about as little of an impact on the Oilers season as possible. By losing in regulation to Montreal, the Oilers chances of missing the playoffs fall from 99.1% down to 98.6%, according to moneypuck.com.

It’s not to say that lessons can’t be taken from the game.

“That’s how the playoffs are going to be, the way they just played,” said Caleb Jones, who sprung McDavid with a beautiful stretch pass for the captain’s second period tally. “They’re a desperate team right now. I thought we battled hard and the refs were kind of letting us play tonight, and it didn’t go in our favour.

“We still have some work to do in games like that. We have to try and learn how to win those games.”

Montreal continues to give Edmonton a hard time this year especially when it comes to producing offence. Edmonton’s scored only 14 goals this year against Montreal in seven games with seven of those goals coming in the Oilers wins, and three last night. Four times this year Edmonton’s scored two or less goals in a game against Montreal.

The Oilers, while above them in the standings, are clearly struggling to figure out how to break through the Montreal defence on a regular basis. They’re a big, physical team who haven’t really given the Oilers much space to work with on any inch of the ice. While a matchup with the Jets is most likely for the Oilers in round one, they undoubtedly will need to learn how to up their game on nights like this.

Apr 21, 2021; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Montreal Canadiens forward Corey Perry (94) and Edmonton Oilers forward Alex Chiasson (39) fight during the first period at Rogers Place. Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Backhanders…

  • Alex Chiasson held his own admirably in a scrap last night with Corey Perry, his first since Jan. 31, 2018. Chiasson had to answer the bell for clipping Carey Price Monday night who is now in concussion protocol. I don’t suspect there was any intent from Chiasson to either A) clip Price in the first place, or B) do anything that would cause him to be injured. This whole thing kicked off in warmups, when Anderson had a chat with Zack Kassian and Chiasson himself.
  • Kassian, meanwhile, left the game early after an awkward collision with Shea Weber. Kassian finished his check on the defenceman and appeared to suffer some kind of an injury to his left leg. Tippett said Kassian would undergo more testing Thursday.
  • Tippett put Archibald up with McDavid and Jesse Puljujarvi last night and I thought that trio looked pretty solid. The numbers supported it too, as according to moneypuck.com they controlled 84 percent of the expected goal share. In comparison, the Oilers second line of Nugent-Hopkins-Draisaitl-Yamamoto controlled an awful 10 percent of the expected goal share.

What they’re saying…

It was the game Josh Anderson promised his team would play and the one he helped them deliver, with the most important goal coming off his stick just 11 seconds after Connor McDavid planted a seed of doubt with a beautiful goal of his own.

Anderson added another one for good measure and was a broken stick away from a hat-trick into an empty net, but his leadership was apparent even before he came up with the most crucial plays in this 4-3 win for the Montreal Canadiens over the Edmonton Oilers.

It was Anderson who said this prior to the game: “I think our battle level has to come up a little bit and we’ve got to be more hungry, because we know what’s at stake here and it’s getting into the last part of the season with a certain amount of games left and we’ve got to start playing playoff hockey now. We can’t wait any longer.”

It was also Anderson who set the tone in warmup, serving notice to Alex Chiasson that he’d have to answer for the hit that concussed Carey Price in Monday’s 4-1 loss to the Oilers. – Eric Engels, Sportsnet


Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@oilersnation.com.


 


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