The Edmonton Oilers started Sunday’s game with star forwards Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on separate lines. By midway through the first period, coach Ken Hitchcock decided to load his first line with the team’s leading scorers.
The Golden Knights countered with depth and balance.
All four lines produced a goal, and the Knights earned their 40th victory with by downing Edmonton 6-3 in front of an announced St. Patrick’s Day crowd of 18,317 at T-Mobile Arena.
“They’ve got a couple superstars over there, for sure,” Alex Tuch said. “But you know what? I thought our team played better than theirs tonight.
“We were able to capitalize on some opportunities and get a few more shots on goal, which was good. I think we had a little more puck possession, so I think that’s our style of play right now.”
Jonathan Marchessault finished with two goals and tied Max Pacioretty for the team lead with his 22nd.
Mark Stone notched his first goal at home with the Knights since he was acquired at the trade deadline, while William Karlsson and Reilly Smith each added two assists.
Cody Eakin, Brayden McNabb and Alex Tuch also scored for the Knights, who enter Monday’s game at second-place San Jose with victories in eight of their past nine games.
The Knights moved seven points ahead of Arizona for third place in the Pacific Division with 10 games remaining.
“I was happy with the performance,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “We rolled the lines all night long. We played real good hockey, and our forecheck was excellent. There’s not much to be disappointed about.”
Neither goaltender was outstanding, but Malcolm Subban outdueled Edmonton’s Mikko Koskinen to earn his fifth win. Subban started with Marc-Andre Fleury sidelined with a lower-body injury and made 16 saves.
Edmonton managed six shots on goal in the final period.
“We’re waiting anxiously for (Marc-Andre Fleury’s) return, obviously, and we need him here down the stretch and in playoffs,” Subban said. “Not saying we made it yet, but that’s the way we’re thinking. For the meanwhile, I’m trying to focus on my game right now and just try to get our team wins here.”
Edmonton lost for the first time in five road games and absorbed a major blow to its slim wild-card hopes.
McDavid had two assists to extend his points streak to 12 games, and Draisaitl made up for an earlier breakaway miss with his 43rd goal 22 seconds into the second period to tie the score 2-2.
Marchessault put the Knights ahead less than two minutes later when he skated down the right wing and fired a shot that went off Koskinen’s glove for his 21st goal.
Marchessault put the Knights ahead 4-2 when he crossed the blue line with speed after an Edmonton turnover and scored 40 seconds into the third period.
“When you’re facing a team that is on a back-to-back, sometimes they get a little worn down,” Marchessault said. “Just trying to play the right way, get our forecheck going. That’s what we did.”
The Knights got off to a fast start and improved to 22-10-4 at T-Mobile Arena with their fifth consecutive home game victory.
Koskinen was forced into a handful of early saves, and the pressure eventually paid off at 5:40 of the first when Stone one-timed Karlsson’s backhand pass for his 31st goal and 69th point.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins tied the score 1-1 with a power-play goal at 13:14 for Edmonton, but the Knights went ahead 2-1 with 54.8 seconds remaining in the period after a crisp breakout.
Eakin found room down the left wing and took a pass in stride from Tomas Nosek before beating Koskinen high to the glove side for his 18th goal.
“I think that’s what makes a winning team to have all four lines contributing, not to forget the (defensemen) as well,” Karlsson said. “They did a terrific job. I just feel like the machine is going and I think we’re playing very confident. That showed on the ice.”
1. Get ahead. Right wing Mark Stone gave the Golden Knights an early lead, the seventh time in the past eight games they’ve scored the first goal. The Knights improved to 25-10-3 when they score first, and their 25 victories are tied with Pittsburgh for 16th in the league.
2. Great eight. Oilers star Connor McDavid picked up two assists and extended his streak of multi-point games to eight (three goals, 15 assists). He is the first player to record multiple points in eight or more consecutive team games since Tampa Bay’s Vincent Lecavalier from Nov. 3-19, 2007.
3. Ouch. Knights coach Gerard Gallant took an errant puck to the head during the third period. When he was asked about it after the game, Gallant rubbed the side of his head and said, “Tough as nails.”