Wild game in New Jersey brings end to strange year for Edmonton Oilers

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It was a wild way to end a crazy year.

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Jack Hughes scored his second goal of the game at 2:55 of overtime to give the New Jersey Devils a 6-5 win against the Edmonton Oilers at Prudential Centre in a New Year’s Eve matinee Friday.

Hughes was able to muscle a shot through Oilers goaltender Mike Smith in the three-on-three overtime session. The Devils had tied the game 5-5 with 31.5 seconds left in the third period as Yegor Sharangovich tipped in a point shot from Dougie Hamilton.

Ryan McLeod, 22, playing against his older brother Michael, 23, for the first time, had two assists for the Oilers, while Connor McDavid and Kailer Yamamoto each had two goals. The Oilers battled back from a deficit on four occasions before taking the lead in the third period.

“It was back-and-fourth all night and they were able to get the win,” McDavid said. “Fighting back is never the way we want to be playing, but it’s better to fight back than to roll over. I like the way we responded, but we need to find a way to make it a two-point game.”

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Yamamoto gave the Oilers a 5-4 lead just over eight minutes into the third period under strange circumstances as the goal came on a delayed penalty after Hamilton had played the puck, but the play was not blown dead.

Yamamoto was taken down going to the net by Hamilton, who then swept the puck away towards the blue line. It came to Duncan Keith at the point, who fired it cross-ice to Leon Draisaitl, and he found Yamamoto at the side of the net for a tap-in.

The Devils complained, claiming both Hamilton and Hughes — on the pass across to Draisaitl — had touched the puck and the play should have been blown down.

After nearly 10 minutes of reviewing the play, referees Dean Morton and Francois St. Laurent determined the play wasn’t reviewable to begin with and the goal stood.

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“It was a good game, I thought we played a lot better than we played in St. Louis (4-2 loss Wednesday) so we have to tip our hat to that,” said Yamamoto. “That’s a really good team over there, you have to give them a lot of credit, they know how to score goals too.”

Yamamoto’s goal looked as if it would stand up as the game winner for the Oilers, but Sharangovich tied it, sending it into overtime, where the teams traded chances until Hughes won it.

Hughes opened the scoring, on the third shift of the game 98 seconds in, one-timing a shot from the right face-off circle on the power play past Smith, who finished with 35 saves in his second game back from a lower-body injury that kept him out of the lineup for 26 games.

It was the ninth time in the past 10 games the Oilers conceded the first goal and 18th occasion this year, they’ve had to chase a contest.

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“It was a rollercoaster game,” said Oilers head coach Dave Tippett. “I thought we started well and then ‘boom’ we take a penalty and it’s in our net. We get one right back and give one back again.

“Then between a so-called challenge that wasn’t a challenge; the four of the six goals scored against us were at some point deflected and bounced in the right direction for them. It’s one of those games, a lot of bounces going the other way, we just have to stick with it.

“We had some guys play very well, we had some guys put in real good efforts and we have to stay with that and go at it tomorrow the same way.”

McDavid tied it just over a minute later, taking a pass from McLeod at the side of the net and flipping the puck in past Mackenzie Blackwood.

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The game wasn’t tied for long as 17 second later, Nico Hischier put the Devils up 2-1, banking the puck in off Smith after the rebound came to him at the side of the net off a shot from Jesper Boqvist.

The three goals from three first-overall picks marked the fourth time in NHL history that each of the first three goals were scored by former No. 1 picks.

The Oilers were able to tie the game 2-2, six minutes into first period as Yamamoto tipped in a shot from Slater Koekkoek. The Devils, however, were able to take the lead into the first intermission as Dawson Mercer was able to flip in a shot from in tight past Smith.

McDavid tied the game 3-3, eight minutes into the second period, taking a long breakaway pass from Keith and firing it past Blackwood.

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“Our attitude during the game and on the bench was great, there was no quitting, we just wanted to keep pushing,” Tippett said. “We thought we played really well, we just couldn’t get overtop of it. Sometimes as much as you try to keep the puck out of your net, it finds a way in and that’s what it was today.”

Janne Kuokkanen restored the lead for the Devils five minutes into the third, taking a drop pass from Andreas Johnsson and stepping into a shot to the top corner over the glove of Smith.

Devin Shore tied it 4-4 taking a pass from McLeod in front and snapping it past Blackwood.

The Oilers continue their road trip with another matinee encounter (Noon a.m. MT, Sportsnet) at the New York Islanders on Saturday.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins left the game in the third period with an undisclosed injury, leaving the Oilers with 10 forwards as they went with 11 and seven defencemen in the game.

“It was mid-way through the third period, he mentioned to (head athletic therapist) TD (Forss) that he was having an issue and didn’t come back,” Tippett said.

Notes … The NHL announced Friday eight more games in Canada would be postponed due to provincial crowd restrictions to combat the spread of COVID-19, four involving the Oilers. The Oilers home games against the New York Islanders on Jan. 8, Minnesota Wild on Jan. 12 and Vegas Golden Knights on Jan. 14 have been postponed, as has their road game at the Winnipeg Jets on Jan. 16.

Email: dvandiest@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @DerekVanDiest

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