SEATTLE — Evander Kane stressed the importance of what it means to be a volume shooter with the great irony being that he only needed just three shots for a hat trick.
The consistently prolific winger’s hat trick led the Edmonton Oilers to a 6-4 victory Saturday against the Seattle Kraken. For Kane, this was his sixth career hat trick and his second this season.
“It’s nice to help contribute to an important win, obviously,” said Kane, who scored three times Nov. 1 in a 7-4 win against the Nashville Predators, as well. “It’s big points with the division so tight. I’ve been in and out of the lineup with injuries all year, so just trying to get into some rhythm heading into the playoffs and tonight definitely did that.”
What makes seeing Kane’s latest exploits potentially promising for the Oilers is the context it provides. Kane indeed has endured an injury-riddled season that began with missing more than nine weeks after his wrist was deeply cut by a skate blade in November only to return in January before sustaining another injury in February that kept him sidelined until March 9.
Kane’s first goal was a wrist shot from the top of the left faceoff circle that beat Kraken goaltender Philipp Grubauer, who left the game in the second period with a non-COVID illness, on the Oilers’ first shot of the game.
His second goal was a byproduct of a loose puck recovered by Oilers captain Connor McDavid, who fed a centering, cross-ice pass that Kane converted on a one-timer for a 3-1 lead with 19:17 left in the second period.
The Kraken rallied to cut the lead to 4-3 until the third period when Kane flew down the left side of the ice and fired another wrist shot that sailed over the glove of Kraken goalie Martin Jones for a 5-3 lead with 9:40 remaining in the game.
“It’s just about getting opportunities and putting myself in position to get pucks — shooting the puck more, “Kane said. “I only had three shots tonight. I’m a volume shooter and getting more shots gives you a better opportunity to get more pucks in the net.”
Part of what makes the Oilers one of the challengers to win the Western Conference is the fact they lead the NHL with 3.91 goals per game. It’s an attack that’s led by McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, who are first and second in scoring. Yet one of the details that can possibly make the Oilers even more formidable is when they can tap into their players such as Kane, an eight-time 20-goal scorer who came into this season with four straight campaigns of more than 20 goals.
Injuries are why Kane has been held to just 13 goals and 24 points in 29 games. But the idea the Oilers have another top-six forward who is averaging 0.83 points per contest in addition to what they have received from others such as Zach Hyman and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins adds to the belief they could be one of the more dangerous teams to face once the postseason starts.
“Happy for him. He’s a warrior. He plays through injuries,” Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft said. “He’s just getting up and running again because of his injuries and it’s been a start-stop season for him. But he’s been all around the puck in any game that he’s played and for three of them to go in tonight, I was happy.”
Then there’s what this latest win means for the Oilers in terms of playoff seeding in what has been a rather chaotic Western Conference landscape. Any team that is either occupying a playoff spot or is trying to chase one down knows how quickly the dynamic can change.
A team that can lead their division or the conference one week could be in a wild-card spot barely seven days later because the margins are that tight.
Entering Saturday, the Kraken and Oilers were separated by a single point with the Oilers holding onto the third Pacific Division playoff spot while the Kraken had one of the West’s two wild-card openings.
Kane’s efforts mean the Oilers have won seven of their last 10 games to build what is now a three-point edge ahead of the Kraken while being four points behind the Vegas Golden Knights for the division lead and the best record in the conference.
In terms of the Kraken, the NHL’s newest team is still in a wild-card spot. But they are two points ahead of the Winnipeg Jets, who are in the second wild-card spot and five points clear of the Calgary Flames and Nashville Predators.
“What we do in Edmonton is we try to focus on our daily process,” Woodcroft said. “We don’t standings watch; we don’t tie ourselves in knots with who won last night and who didn’t win and what that means for us. We just want to be the best we can be that day and take care of that day’s business. I think by having that type of mindset, you don’t spend a lot of energy worrying about things beyond your control.
“You worry about what is in control and tonight, our job or task was to get two points in a tough building, and we were able to do that.”