Jay Woodcroft won his debut as as an NHL head coach as the Edmonton Oilers downed the New York Islanders 3-1 Friday night at Rogers Place.
“It’s a good team win,” Woodcroft said after the game. “I thought our players really played hard for each other. Mike Smith turned in an ‘A’ performance and allowed us a chance to work our way into the game.
“I thought we got better as the game went on tonight, and what I really like to see is as the game went along in the third period, we valued hard plays.”
Mike Smith stood tall in the Oilers’ net in the first period, stopping all 19 Islanders shots. Edmonton defenceman Cody Ceci opened the scoring in the final minute of the period, firing a point shot past New York netminder Ilya Sorokin.
“The Chicago game, believe it or not, I felt pretty good. I wanted to carry that over into this game and I was able to do that and make some saves early in the game,” Smith said after the final buzzer.
“We were able to find a big goal at the end of the first and got our team kickstarted, and we built off that.”
Oilers forward Zach Hyman tallied his 14th of the season on a two-on-one halfway through the second.
“If you’re getting your chances, I think that’s what’s important,” Hyman said after the game. “Obviously on that one it was a two-on-one, and I was able to pick my corner and it went in.”
The goal was Hyman’s 100th in the NHL.
“It means you’ve played long enough in the league, and as a kid you dream about scoring just one goal, so to score 100 is pretty special and a big milestone,” Hyman said.
Anthony Beauvillier put the Islanders on the board with a power play goal five minutes later. Cody Cizikas had a breakaway late in the second, but Smith made a blocker save.
The Oilers went on their first power play of the night partway through the third when Connor McDavid was tripped by Scott Mayfield. On the ensuing faceoff, Oilers winger Jesse Puljujarvi swiped at a loose puck in front and beat Sorokin five-hole. It was Puljujarvi’s first goal since Dec. 16.
Smith made 37 saves for his third win of the season.
“For me, I think the message to the players was we wanted to increase our work rate,” Woodcroft said.
“We felt we could do that and that there was a clean slate for everybody, and I thought we got a lot of really good performances tonight.”
The Oilers (24-18-3) will play in San Jose on Monday.
–With files from Brenden Escott, 630 CHED