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Photo Credit: Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports

GDB +8.0 Wrap Up: Cam Talbot propels the Oilers to a 2-0 series lead

Final score: Oilers of Edmonton 2, Ducks of Anaheim 1

This was a game played in bursts, at least on the Edmonton Oilers’ side. With the exception of goaltender Cam Talbot, who was great throughout, the lineup was consistently inconsistent.

They jumped out to an early 1-0 lead, then sat back and let the Ducks take the game to them for the rest of the first period. They reset at intermission, and came out strong in the second before again slumping after taking a 2-0 lead, finishing the period with a narrow 2-1 advantage.

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The malaise continued into the third period, as with a few exceptions Anaheim continued to push Edmonton hard, collecting two goal posts and forcing Cam Talbot to make a lot of good saves. Fortunately for the Oilers, Talbot was equal to the task.

The bottom line, though, is that the ugly moments in this one don’t matter to the result. The result is a 2-1 Oilers win, and more importantly a 2-0 lead in this second round series. Now the Ducks have to win four of five remaining games in which Edmonton holds home ice advantage.

The Oilers are only halfway through this series, but they’ve given themselves a massive advantage.

Since I don’t normally get a chance to do the postgame write-up, I’m going to take this opportunity to depart from our traditional approach, and instead steal a page from David Staples and the Cult of Hockey. The following are game grades for every player in this one.

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First Line

LW Patrick Maroon, B. Maroon played a better game tonight than he has in a while, but some of that was simply a byproduct of McDavid’s improved play. Not attributable to McDavid: the 2-0 goal that he redirected as part of Edmonton’s second power play unit.

C Connor McDavid, B+. This was probably the best game McDavid has played in the postseason yet. He played on different lines early and looked dangerous, creating several brilliant chances and drawing penalties (some of which the referees even called). The only thing missing was execution.

RW Leon Draisaitl, B. Draisaitl has been an impact player since midway through the first round, and while he took a backseat to McDavid in some ways he still had a strong night. He hit a crossbar, made a bunch of lovely passes, and played a nasty, gritty game along the boards in both zones.

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Second Line

LW Milan Lucic, C-. On a night where his linemates were going pretty well with the puck, Lucic seemed out of sorts, misfiring on several passes. A third period turnover to Cam Fowler, in particular, nearly cost Edmonton the game. Even when he isn’t clicking at 100 percent, though, he’s still 6’3” and 230-odd pounds, which comes in handy along the boards in games against Anaheim.

C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C. Nuge had some jump in an uneven night. He was good on special teams; he was a workhorse on the penalty kill and had one of the prettiest second assists you’ll even see on the Oilers’ 2-0 power play goal. Even-strength was a different matter; he got burned badly by Andrew Cogliano early and this whole line was taken to the woodshed by Getzlaf and Co.

RW Jordan Eberle, C. There was a time when Eberle was a pretty dynamic presence on the power play, and tonight was one of those games where he reminded Oilers fans of his skill level, playing a critical role in Edmonton’s 2-0 goal. He had some tough minutes at evens, and was part of some tough moments against.

Third Line

LW Drake Caggiula, B-. The best play from Caggiula in this game was also the play that ended his night. He showcased his speed, blowing past defenceman Shea Theodore and driving hard to the Ducks net, but then went even harder into the end boards. He was playing decent two-way hockey before exiting the game.

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C Mark Letestu, C-. Letestu negated a goal and took a penalty late in the first period, knocking defenceman Brandon Montour into his goaltender and sending both sprawling. He had a rare off night in the faceoff circle, too.

RW Zack Kassian, C+. Mr. Disallowed Goal had yet another one taken away from him late in the first period after Letestu bowled Montour into the goalie. He both drew a penalty and took a penalty, with the key distinction between the two being that Edmonton scored on their opportunity and the Ducks failed to do so on there’s.

Fourth Line

LW Benoit Pouliot, B-. It was a frustrating night for Pouliot early, as he just seemed a little bit off with the puck, but he picked it up as the game went on. He showed some jump on special teams, driving to the net on Edmonton’s 2-0 goal and working hard in the defensive zone on the penalty kill. He also drew two penalties for the Oilers.

C David Desharnais, C+. Desharnais didn’t show very well in the early going, and ended up playing extremely little over 40 minutes as the Oilers moved to three lines after Caggiula got hurt. He looked fresh and energetic when he got back into things in the third period.

RW Anton Slepyshev, C+. Slepyshev had a good look in the opening minutes of the game, putting the puck just wide during a rare shift with McDavid. Perhaps that should read as a rare shift, period; he suffered the same fate as Caggiula through the first two periods. As with Desharnais, he looked good when he got some opportunities.

First Pairing

LD Oscar Klefbom, B-. This pairing was mostly good, give or take a few of their shifts against Ryan Getzlaf. Klefbom generally excels when the pace is high and that was broadly true tonight, though at points he had trouble making the puck do the things he wanted it to do.

RD Adam Larsson, C+. Larsson isn’t quite as comfortable as Klefbom in high-speed situations, but again outside of the Getzlaf minutes there wasn’t much to complain about here. He had a couple of tough moments with the puck but generally did well with those nasty defensive zone battles.

Second Pairing

LD Andrej Sekera, C. Sekera scored Edmonton’s 1-0 goal, wiring the puck top corner from a miserable angle; John Gibson probably should have had it but Sekera deserves credit for making life hard for the goalie. He had some trouble moving the puck at later points in the game and was the Oiler most obviously at fault on Jakob Silfverberg’s goal.

RD Kris Russell, C. Russell looked especially bad in the first period, as he was the Oilers defenceman most obviously struggling with Anaheim’s speed. He was good on the penalty kill, but too often played 5-on-5 hockey like the Oilers were down a man, settling for clears over passes and backing in at the defensive blue line. He did make some key defensive plays in the third period.

Third Pairing

LD Darnell Nurse, C-. Nurse was in the penalty box after a needless high-sticking call when Anaheim scored its goal, a goal which injected some life into the team in the second period. He was pretty good with the puck, but decidedly erratic without it. Of note: He may have been playing injured in the back half of the game after an awkward hit by Ryan Getzlaf.

RD Matt Benning, C. Benning does a lot of things well, but matched against Anaheim’s size and speed in the defensive zone he at times looked wanting. He was a lot better in the other two zones.

Goaltender & Coach

G Cam Talbot, A. Talbot was tested on his very first shot of the game, a point blank chance for Andrew Cogliano, and turned it aside with apparent ease. The saves wouldn’t always look so easy, but with a sole exception Talbot was the equal of Anaheim’s chances. Goaltending made the difference in this one.

Todd McLellan, A-. I liked a lot of what McLellan did tonight. His early shuffling of McDavid to random lines put a wrench in Randy Carlyle’s matchup plans, and later in the game he mixed and matched his 11 healthy forwards to good effect, taking advantage of the strengths of Desharnais and Slepyshev. The Oilers sat back too much at points, but always found a way to right the ship.

The Bottom Line: Edmonton took an early lead, and spent too much of the game hanging on for dear life. But as much as it was a near-run thing at points, the Oilers did manage to hang on to that lead and are now in firm control of this series as it shifts back to Alberta.