EDMONTON — It didn’t take long for Jay Woodcroft to get his first NHL win as head coach of the Edmonton Oilers.
Connor McDavid had a pair of assists as the Oilers defeated the New York Islanders 3-1 on Friday, winning their first game since the firing of former head coach Dave Tippett on Thursday, with Woodcroft coming up from the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors to take his place.
“It’s a good team win,” Woodcroft said. “I enjoyed the way the game was played today. 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 and I thought we got better as the game went on.
“It’s been an emotional couple of days for this team, so I’m pleased for our players.”
Cody Ceci, Zach Hyman and Jesse Puljujarvi scored for the Oilers (24-18-3) who snapped a two-game losing skid to improve to 6-2-1 in their last nine outings.
Smith was dynamic in net, making 37 saves.
“He was phenomenal,” Hyman said. “He gave us a chance the whole way through tonight, made some huge saves and was steady the whole time.”
Anthony Beauvillier replied for the Islanders (17-18-6) who have lost four of their last six.
“We want to balance all the lines and have consistency in lines and I thought our game was good tonight, all four lines were going and we created a lot of stuff,” Beauvillier said. “It’s unfortunate we’re getting out of here empty-handed.”
Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said his team probably should have had a first period lead.
“I thought in the first period we had some really good looks,” he said. “I thought we could have been up a couple of pucks in the first period. We didn’t find the back of the net, that was a little bit of us and a little bit of Mike Smith.”
After Smith stood on his head in the Oilers net to start the game with 18 saves at that point, Edmonton scored a rare first goal of the game when Ceci beat Islanders starter Ilya Sorokin with a long point blast with 57 seconds to play in the opening period. It was just the sixth time in the last 36 games that Edmonton got the game’s first goal. The Oilers are now a perfect 13-0 this season when scoring the initial goal.
Edmonton made it 2-0 midway through the second period when Hyman elected to shoot on a two-on-one opportunity and recorded his 14th goal of the campaign and 100th of his career.
New York got back into the contest on the power play with five minutes to play in the middle frame as Beauvillier beat Smith glove-side.
The Oilers restored their lead on the power play midway through the third as Puljujarvi dove for a puck and swatted it through Sorokin’s legs. His 11th ended a 14-game goalless drought.
The Islanders are back at it on Saturday in Calgary while the Oilers are off until Monday, when they face the Sharks in San Jose.
Notes: Woodcroft and assistant coach Dave Manson, who joined him in coming up to Edmonton, were in their fourth season coaching the Oilers AHL affiliate in Bakersfield before being elevated. They recorded an overall record of 105-71-21 during their tenure before moving up to coach the NHL club… It was the first time the Islanders have faced the Oilers in Edmonton since Feb. 21, 2019. The Islanders won the previous meeting between the two teams on Jan. 1 this season in New York, prevailing 3-2 in overtime… Out of the lineup for the Oilers were Kris Russell (undisclosed), Zack Kassian (fractured jaw), Duncan Keith (upper body) and Mikko Koskinen (COVID)… Missing for the Islanders was Kyle Palmieri, after he and his wife welcomed a baby earlier this week.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 11, 2022.