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Edmonton Oilers Riley Sheahan (23) scores his first goal as an Oiler, celebrates with Joakim Nygard (10) and Adam Larsson (6) against the Buffalo Sabres during NHL action at Rogers Place in Edmonton, December 8, 2019. Ed Kaiser/Postmedia
Edmonton Oilers Riley Sheahan (23) scores his first goal as an Oiler on Buffalo Sabres goalie Linus Ullmark (35) during NHL action at Rogers Place in Edmonton, December 8, 2019.
Edmonton Oilers centre Riley Sheahan had been down this road before in Detroit where the games and the zeroes kept piling up like sign-posts on an interminable journey: 20 games, 40 games, 60 games, 80 games.
He scored in game 82, two goals actually in that final game of the 2016-2017 season.
So, breaking through in the Oilers 32nd game Sunday against Buffalo must have felt like a speed bump for the Oilers best penalty-killer. He tucked one through the legs of Linus Ullmark eight minutes into the second period racing in alone off a nice Joakim Nygard feed.
Nygard also scored on a deflection—more on that later—as the Oiler role players were all over the scoresheet in this 3-2 OT loss while the No. 1 lines on both sides were negated through 60 minutes.
“Huge relief for sure…it’s up and down and every guy deals with it,” said Sheahan, who had two terrific chances earlier on the penalty-kill and finished with four shots, just like Connor McDavid.
McDavid didn’t speak after the loss but Sheahan had a rare chance to talk about offence.
“I dealt with a few years back in Detroit and that was really tough and I was trying to bear down and make sure it wasn’t a repeat,” he said.
Sheahan was at fault on Kyle Okposo’s tip of Marc Scandella’s shot four minutes into the game when his clearing pass ending up on the Buffalo defenceman’s stick. But he ripped a shortie off Ullmark’s blocker and got stopped in close shortly after that. No mistake in alone though.
The Oilers have the NHL’s second-best PK but haven’t scored shorthanded yet. Sheahan came close as they let him sashay into the Buffalo end in the first for an uncontested shot. A rare offensive foray for Sheahan, really. “We’ve got so many guys who can put the puck in the net on our power play and on the penalty-kill we’re just trying to do our job (stopping chances),” he said.
He got stopped there but not on his breakaway.
“I kind of had positive thoughts there. I don’t get breakaways often but I knew the move I was going to do. Great pass from Ny (Nygard) and an earlier block by Darnell,” he said.
“It’s important, the whole depth thing…every team wants that,” said Sheahan. “I think we have scored a few the last while, and Connor and Leon get a lot of ice and if we can help them out, that’s huge.”
Two-point night for Nygard
Nygard only played 8:27, but they were quality minutes. Only Gaetan Haas (7:58), who set up the Nygard deflection on the last few seconds of a power play in the second, played less. Nygard’s goal and assist came in eight shifts over 5:11 in the first 40 minutes. His first multi-point game.
“I haven’t been satisfied with my performance for a few games since I came back from my injury (ribs),” said Nygard, who was a healthy scratch in three. “I feel much better now.”
He isn’t getting much ice-time (averaging 10:18) but that’s life for first-year NHLers.
“Of course it’s harder to produce but you have to earn it (minuets),” said Nygard.
“They (McDavid and Leon Draisaitl) produce every night and we have to produce a bit too.” But when the Oilers best two players don’t get a point in the same game, the Oilers have lost 24 consecutive games, a stat that stings.
Nygard’s Swedish teammate Oscar Klefbom knows how hard it is for NHL rookies.
“Back home he’s on the power play, he has a different role on his team…but the way he played tonight, I’m really happy. He brings a lot of speed. Even though he won’t get a lot of chances himself, he’ll create a lot for his teammates,’ said Klefbom.
“And if he continues to go to the net, he’ll score more goals.”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019