Jack Baer

Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (97) skates with the puck against Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (7) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)

The Oilers don’t have an NHL record, but they still have plenty of reason for optimism. (AP Photo/David Becker)

The Edmonton Oilers were stopped one game short of NHL history on Tuesday.

Entering the game on a 16-game winning streak and needing one more win to tie the NHL record, the Oilers fell to the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday. The 1992-93 Pittsburgh Penguins, current owners of the record, can once again rest easy.

The game-winning goal arrived early in the third period, which began as a 1-1 tie after the teams exchanged goals in the first. A stumble in transition left the Oilers off-balance enough to allow Knights center Chandler Stephenson to score on a one-timer.

It is the Oilers’ first loss since Dec. 19. That span of time has seen them rise to third in the Pacific Division, though Tuesday’s game was a strong chance to catch the second-place Knights.

Connor McDavid supplied the Oilers’ only goal with a shorthanded score early in the first period. Nicolas Roy tied it for Vegas late in the same frame. William Karlsson, making his return from long-term injured reserve, but the game away with an empty-net goal in the final minute.

Oilers’ loss doesn’t take away from their wild turnaround

The wildest part about the Oilers’ win streak is that a month into the season, they were looking like one of the most disappointing teams in the NHL.

Edmonton began the season with a 2-9-1 record. It definitely wasn’t a good sign when they lost 8-1 to the Vancouver Canucks on opening night and the bad times just kept coming. They posted an encouraging win over the Seattle Kraken on Nov. 11, but still decided a change was needed.

Head coach Jay Woodcroft, who had led the team to the Western Conference semifinals last season and signed a contract extension the summer before, was fired one day later.

To replace him, the Oilers turned to Kris Knoblauch, the head coach of the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack. Knoblauch previously had zero NHL head coaching experience, though he did have a tie to McDavid as the player’s coach during his stint with Edmonton’s Erie Otters affiliate.

The results since speak for themselves. The Oilers entered Tuesday with a 26-6-0 record under Knoblauch, who switched the team to a 12-forward, six-defenseman lineup and made significant changes to its defensive scheme. The transition included a counter-intuitive shift of having McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on the ice less, but the changes have worked out.

That win streak might be over, but the Oilers are clearly still where they want to be.The question now isn’t who will beat the Oilers, it’s who can beat them four times in seven games, and it has been difficult to find an answer since Knoblauch took over.

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