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Photo Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

The Day After: Oilers on the rope after disastrous disintegration in game three

As soon as there was a palpable feeling that Edmonton had a series-changing game in hand firing the fourth dagger into the Jets net, a series-changing hit changed the club’s fate.

Josh Archibald went low on Logan Stanley. Thirty seconds later, with under 10 minutes to go in what was a 4-1 game, Mathieu Perrault scored.

Winnipeg didn’t let up and two minutes and a half minutes later, it was suddenly a tie game. Despite a strong push in overtime, Nik Ehlers scored his second of the night to bury the Oilers.

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“Well when you look at it, winning is hard. There’s painful lessons that you need to learn to win,” said head coach Dave Tippett. “We were pretty good all year, but tonight we learned some hard lessons on what not to do to win in the playoffs.

“Two powerplay goals were both critical mistakes by us. One penalty came after we didn’t get a puck in deep, and the Archibald penalty is just a poor penalty to take and it gave them some life. There’s parts of the game we like, and there’s parts of the game that are hard lessons to learn.”

Much like the prior three, it’s more likely than not that the Oilers would be in a much different position had a few bounces gone their way. Game one was solved by a few bounces in Winnipeg’s favour and game two Hellebuyck stood on his head as the Oilers struggled to get to him.

But Sunday night that all looked different. Draisaitl scored twice in the first 10 minutes and when Ehlers scored his first on the powerplay with three minutes left in the second, Zack Kassian responded with a goal of his own.

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The Oilers went into the third with a 3-1 lead and appeared to all but be in control of the game. Jujhar Khaira elegantly tipped in a shot nearly five minutes into the third and it looked like the rest was history.

Technically it was, as the Jets became the 10th team in playoffs history to come from a 3+ goal deficit with 10 minutes remaining. Edmonton was on the receiving end two of the last three times, and also another in game four of the Oilers’ 1982 series against the L.A. Kings.

On that same play where Khaira scored, Archibald took a stick right in the eye that went uncalled, and minutes later, his reckless run at Logan Stanley gave the Jets the powerplay and subsequent life they needed to get back in the game.

“There’s not a whole lot to say. We shot ourselves in the foot a little bit,” said Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who despite not breaking through with any points has the fourth most expected goals and the fourth most scoring chances of any Oilers player. “We didn’t respond well enough at the end of the day.”

Instead of pushing back hard after the powerplay goal, the Oilers seemed content with sitting back and letting the Jets come to them — a confusing strategy that didn’t pay off.

“We did a lot of things well, but there’s certain times in the playoffs where you can turn the tide,” said Tippett. “Momentum is a huge factor in a playoff game, and the Archibald penalty was a huge turning point of the game.”

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Edmonton’s now faced with arguably the toughest in any sport: a reverse sweep. In the NHL’s history, it’s only happened four times in and most recently was completed by the L.A. Kings in 2014, who fought back against the San Jose Sharks in a first-round matchup.

Game four goes tonight.

Backhanders…

  • The pain is incorporeal right now for many Oilers fans, but there’s lots to like from this series against Winnipeg. Edmonton has controlled 56.96 percent of the expected goals, and Connor Hellebuyck has stopped 4.26 goals above expected. You put an average goaltender in net and Edmonton’s likely up 3-0, or 2-1 at this point.
  • Zack Kassian has his best game in god knows how long and was rewarded for it with a nice goal. He looked good on a line alongside Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Ryan McLeod — a trio that pushed the pace all night long.

What they’re saying…

They were down and seemingly out.

Sent to the canvas after landing the first two big punches in this Smythe Division reunion.

But a funny thing happened on the road to this defeat, the Winnipeg Jets dusted themselves off and were able to rise up off the mat with a rally of epic proportions.

Instead of watching the Edmonton Oilers trim the series deficit to two games to one, it was the Jets who took a commanding 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series after Nikolaj Ehlers supplied the overtime winner at 9:13 of the fourth period on Sunday night.

“You always dream of scoring these kinds of goals,” said Ehlers, who missed the previous 11 games with a suspected shoulder injury he sustained on April 24. “I expect that of myself. I put enough pressure on myself to perform and that doesn’t mean just scoring goals, it means playing well. Even if you have a bad game, you go out and work hard and maybe play a little bit more simple. But I put a lot of pressure on myself to play well. Everyone in this league does it. That’s a part of it. You want to stay in this league and you’ve got to perform.

“That’s our team. I mean, we don’t give up. That’s what’s so fun playing on this team and after the OT winner you can see the joy. I mean, it’s a wonder no one got injured at the end there during the celebration.”

Earlier in the day, Jets head coach Paul Maurice was quick to temper expectations, saying he wasn’t looking for Ehlers to do anything but play the same way his teammates had been playing without him.

Maurice wasn’t asking Ehlers to ignite the offence, but his skill set was on display throughout.

There were the usual bursts of speed, the battles for the puck and the creativity to find linemates and open point men.

And then, there was that sneaky wrist shot that beat Mike Smith on two occasions, once on the power play and then after a clean faceoff win by Paul Stastny in overtime. – Ken Wiebe, Sportsnet


Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at [email protected]


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