Ethan Bear learning fast in NHL as Oilers surrender lead against prowling Predators – Edmonton

Ethan Bear got a rough welcome to the big leagues Thursday night.

The score sheet will show that the newest member of the Edmonton Oilers, playing in his first NHL game, was on the ice for three goals against as the Nashville Predators came from behind to win 4-2 at Rogers Place.

If the 20 year old exhibited a bit of indecision on the ice, there was no such thing in the locker room later, where he showed the eagerness one would expect and a level of maturity one might not.

With the Oilers up 2-0 late in the second period, Bear coughed up the puck behind his net to a Nashville forechecker, and one pass later the lead was cut in half.

‘It’s a learning step’

Three minutes later, he got caught pinching in the offensive zone, and the resulting two-on-one led to the second Nashville goal to tie the game. Just that fast, the Oilers lead evaporated like a drop of water in a hot frying pan.

“I kind of hesitated,” Bear said of the second play. “I tried to go for it at the last minute. If I don’t hesitate, I get that puck. And if I hesitate next time, I’ve just got to back out. Watching the video on that already, it’s a learning step. I’ve just got to keep positive and keep learning and get better.”

Nice to hear a kid who understands his mistakes, takes ownership for them and is immediately focused on learning from them.

Bear grew up on the Ochapowace First Nation in southeastern Saskatchewan. Drafted in the 5th round in 2015, he was called up this week from the Bakersfield Condors.

Oilers coach Todd McLellan said he saw a lot of good things in the kid’s game.

“The game sheet is not going to give you a true story when it comes to his game,” McLellan said. “You’re going to see dash three [-3]. He was a victim of circumstances. Even on the second goal at the end of the period, there was a little hesitation. A lot of players are going to hesitate [on that play]. Do I go for the puck or not? I felt better and better about putting him on the ice as the game went along.”

Hey, how about that scoring race?

Oilers fans who want to accentuate the positive from now until April may want to set this whole playoffs business aside and focus instead on the NHL scoring race.

It’s a lot of fun and, for the time being, much more rewarding.

HKN PREDATORS OILERS 20180301

Nashville Predators’ Pekka Rinne makes the save on Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid during second period action at Rogers Place on Thursday. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

Heading into Thursday’s game against the Nashville Predators, Oilers captain Connor McDavid was sitting third in the race to win the Art Ross trophy, seven points behind.

Leader Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning has been sidelined this week with an injury, so there was opportunity to close some ground.

McDavid had two points Thursday, a goal and an assist to give him 77 on the season.

Since Feb.1, McDavid has recorded 23 points in 15 games.

He is now one point behind Evgeni Malkin of Pittsburgh and five behind Kucherov.

McDavid led the league in scoring last season with 100 points. From here on it should be an interesting race to see who comes out on top.

Captain Connor rides again

On Thursday, the Oilers captain, as he so often does, provided the spark his team needed.

Halfway through the first period, he and Predators defenceman Mattias Ekholm chased a loose puck down the boards into the Nashville zone. McDavid smacked the D-man’s stick out of his hands. Ekholm pleaded with the referee for a penalty, but no dice.

Seconds later, the puck went twirling high above the slot with half a dozen guys watching. When it landed, McDavid pounced. Predators goalie Pekka Rinne was down on his hands and knees. The Oilers captain used his incredible stick skills to manipulate the puck around and past the goalie. The goal put the Oilers up 1-0 and lit a fire under the home team.

Near the end of the period, the Oilers lousy-lately power play went to work. It gave Milan Lucic the chance flex his muscles with a board-rattling hit in the Nashville zone. Lucic hasn’t scored since before Christmas but he hasn’t forgotten how to throw his weight around.

The hit didn’t create a scoring chance, but it certainly excited the crowd.

Next time down the ice, Leon Draisaitl fired a wrist shot that beat Rinne to make it 2-0.

The Oilers held the lead deep into the second period, until the Predators scored two quick ones late to even things up.

From then on it was case of a good team overwhelming a not-so-good team. The final result seemed almost inevitable.

The Predators have now won 12 straight against the Oilers.

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