Veteran goaltender Mike Smith impressive in first start of the season for the Oilers

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OTTAWA — Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl helped keep the Edmonton offence ticking over, each extending their points streak to 10 straight games.

But the Oilers profited from a team effort Monday in a hard-fought 3-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators.

Veteran goaltender Mike Smith, in his first start of the season, was rock-solid in stopping 27 shots. Former Senator Tyler Ennis scored the go-ahead goal early in the third period and Josh Archibald added an empty-setter with 1:10 to play.

The teams meet again Tuesday at the Canadian Tire Centre.

Edmonton coach Dave Tippett liked his team's defensive effort and the fact the Oilers got better as the night wore on.

"Pretty solid right throughout the lineup tonight … It felt like a good team win," he said.

Draisaitl also scored for Edmonton (7-7-0). Evgenii Dadonov scored for Ottawa (2-10-1).

The 38-year-old Smith, who had been on long-term injury reserve since Jan. 15, saw his first action since March 11, 2020. Mikko Koskinen had started 12 of the Oilers' 13 previous games with Stuart Skinner starting the other.

It was career regular-season game No. 611 for Smith.

"He was really strong, really dialed in," said Tippett. "The only one they got was one that was shot in the net ourselves."

Ottawa went ahead at 5:33 of the second period after Brady Tkachuk chipped the puck out of the Sens zone, leaving defenceman Adam Larsson to chase Dadonov as he raced towards the net.

Larsson got a stick to it, inadvertently flipping it past Smith, with the goal credited to the Russian. Smith stopped Connor Brown in alone later in the period.

Matt Murray was also strong in the Ottawa goal, facing 35 shots. But the Sens offence managed just one goal for the second game in a row and sixth time this season.

"We didn't get to the goalie near enough and when the goalie sees the puck in this league, they make saves," said Ottawa coach D.J. Smith.

Draisaitl beat Murray through the five-hole at 15:11 to tie it at 1-1 with his eighth of the season after the Sens failed to clear their zone and turned the puck over.

Ennis, after a nifty toe-drag to wait out a sliding defenceman, beat Murray with a low shot on a 2-on-1 for his first of the season after Ottawa was caught on a line change at 6:09 of the third.

"We make a mistake and it's in the net," said Ottawa's Smith.

Archibald scored into the empty net with 1:10 remaining after McDavid won the puck in his own end.

The Senators came into the game last in the league, three points behind Detroit, while posting a league-worst minus-24 in goal differential. But they came out fighting in an entertaining first period, with two bouts in the first two minutes.

Since Draisaitl entered the league in 2014-15, only David Pastrnak (five times) and Nikita Kucherov (five times) have recorded at least five point streaks of 10-plus games.

Edmonton was 0-for-4 on the power play.

"Our penalty kill was good but the problem is we took too many penalties and took too many guys out of the game with stick penalties, soft penalties," lamented Smith. "We can't do that."

Ottawa had lost 10 of its last 11 — with nine of those losses in regulation time — although the losing streak was actually at one given a split in a series with Montreal that saw the Sens win 3-2 last Thursday and lose 2-1 on Saturday.

Prior to that, Ottawa's only other win came Jan. 15 in the season-opening 5-3 victory over Toronto.

"They're a young team that's finding their way," said Ennis. "You can tell they're getting better every day."

Edmonton had a three-game winning streak snapped in a 6-4 loss Saturday at Calgary, the start of a four-game road trip. The Flames game came in the middle of two-game sets against the Sens, with Edmonton winning 8-5 and 4-2 at home last week.

The familiarity bred some contempt with two fights breaking out in the first two minutes. After Ottawa's Austin Watson and Edmonton's Jujhar Khaira dropped the gloves, there was a more intense tilt between Edmonton's Zack Kassian and Ottawa's Erik Gudbranson.

Kassian, who had been urged by Tippett to be more engaged, did not return after the fight. Tippett was unable to provide a health update after the game.

The Oilers hit the post three times in the second period, outshooting the Senators 17-9.

McDavid and Draisaitl each had a goal and six assists in the two previous wins over Ottawa. Draisaitl had six assists in the 8-5 victory over against Ottawa on Jan. 31, the most in an NHL game since Eric Lindros' six for the Philadelphia Flyers on Feb. 26, 1997.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 8, 2021

The Canadian Press