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Four key Oilers’ moments that impacted Games 1 and 2 against the Stars

Edmonton Oilers Connor McDavid
Photo credit:Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Sean Panganiban
21 days ago
The Edmonton Oilers return to Rogers Place with the series tied 1-1 against the Dallas Stars, a decent outcome considering many viewed them as the underdogs heading into the Western Conference Final matchup.
The Oilers clinched Game 1, yet benefited from some luck with a couple of Stars’ shots hitting the post. A deflection in front of the net propelled Dallas to victory in Game 2, but Mattias Ekholm’s shot with three minutes remaining just grazed Jake Oettinger’s stick, nearly tying the game. That said, both games could have gone either way, showing how evenly both teams stack up, and to win moving forward, there’s little room for mistakes.
With that in mind, we’ve outlined four impactful moments that shaped the outcomes in Games 1 and 2 below.

Oilers’ Four-Minute Penalty Kill in Game 1 in OT Was Crucial

Connor McDavid has unworldly stickhandling skills, but his stick has also been quite busy around his opponent’s faces in these playoffs. In Game 2 against the Vancouver Canucks, he hit Quinn Hughes high, causing the Canuck’s captain’s face to bleed. There was no penalty on the play, unlike the situation in the first overtime of Game 1 against the Stars.
McDavid’s stick hit Matt Duchene’s face right off the draw in the first OT. There was no initial penalty, but he was given one 15 seconds later. Tyler Yaremchuk spoke for many when he posted, “You can just go back and decide you missed a call?” as the centerman was given a four-minute double minor penalty.
The Oilers’ captain nervously went to the penalty box, but Edmonton’s PK unit killed off likely their biggest one of the playoffs. Your best penalty killer has to be your goalie, and Stuart Skinner lived up to that, making three key saves and smothering the rebounds. He also likely thanked his posts a couple of times as well, because two shots from Jason Robertson rang off the iron.
Nevertheless, the Oilers’ four-man unit worked seamlessly on the PK, with active sticks in passing lanes, crucial clears and halted the Stars’ entries by standing firm at the blue line and making interceptions in the neutral zone. Ekholm and Vincent Desharnais also had key blocks, including a big one by the towering D-man from a point shot from Esa Lindell at the end of the penalty.
That entire sequence was critical in Game 1 because if the Stars had scored on their power play in OT, the Oilers could potentially be heading home down two games to none. However, Edmonton’s penalty kill stood strong once again, as it has throughout the entire playoffs, killing off 39 of 42 penalties so far.

Connor McDavid’s Double Overtime Goal in Game 1

At the 5:22 mark of the first overtime, McDavid found himself alone in front of the Stars’ net. Fans in Oil Country were buzzing, some ready to celebrate and others hoping for an earlier bedtime. When the best player in the world has that kind of time and space, it almost always leads to a goal. However, that was not the case on this occasion.
McDavid and Oettinger went toe-to-toe in the crease and in a blink of an eye, the Stars’ netminder came out victorious, outwaiting the former Rocket Richard trophy winner and making an incredible paddle save. Had the Oilers lost the game, that pivotal moment would’ve likely haunted the captain overnight and into the next day.
Yet, the three-time Hart Trophy winner was not going to be denied a second time and he scored the game-winning goal only 30 seconds into the second OT session.
The entire sequence leading to the game-winning goal played out like a masterpiece. First, Ekholm halted the Stars’ attack with a nice defensive play. McDavid then passed the puck to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who dumped it into the Stars’ zone and outworked Chris Tanev—ironically, a player the Oilers had an interest in before the trade deadline.
 
The puck then moved up the boards, where Evan Bouchard made two great plays—a well-timed pinch and a precise pass to McDavid, who found himself alone in the slot once again. The captain capitalized on the opportunity, redirecting the puck past Oettinger and redeeming himself from an earlier fumble with the puck in the first OT, giving his team a 1-0 series lead.
With McDavid’s goal 32 seconds into the second overtime, it marked the third fastest goal to start a playoff overtime in franchise history and he became only the fifth Oiler to score a double overtime goal.

Oilers Failed to Clear the Puck Out of Their Zone on Game-Winner in Game 2

At 16:19 of the third period, Stars forward Mason Marchment, son of the late Bryan Marchment, a former Oiler, redirected the puck to break the 1-1 tie.
The third line consisting of Ryan McLeod, Derek Ryan, and Warren Foegele, was on the ice for the goal against. Ryan, typically reliable defensively, failed to clear the puck out of the zone twice. Additionally, earlier in the play, McLeod attempted to swipe at the puck while maintaining his speed in a flyby instead of stopping to engage in a puck battle.
This sequence highlights how tight the margins for errors are in this series. A couple of failed clears and lost board battles cost them the game. That said, the third line has been outplayed by the Oilers’ fourth in this series, and it will be interesting to see what personnel changes will be made if Adam Henrique is 100% ready for Game 3.

Knoblauch’s Mistimed Goalie Pull in Game 2

After the Oilers won the series against the Vancouver Canucks, I wrote about the five best coaching moves that Kris Knoblauch made, contributing to the series win. Overall, he has made some great decisions in the playoffs. However, he made an ill-timed decision against the Stars with just over two minutes remaining in the third period, while the Oilers were down 2-1.
The Oilers’ big three of McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Zach Hyman had just finished a shift with only 2:53 minutes left, and Evander Kane, Dylan Holloway, and Warren Foegele were sent out in the offensive zone.
When the puck ended up in the Oilers’ end, Kane received a pass and skated toward the Stars’ zone. That’s when Skinner had been pulled, which in hindsight was not the right time.
Kane, Foegele, and Holloway did not have enough speed to chase the puck if it was dumped. Instead, Kane was checked into the boards by Miro Heiskanen, with the Oilers’ netminder already pulled at that point. Dallas quickly gained possession, made a couple of passes, and the puck ended up in the back of the Oilers’ net.
It was critical because the empty netter likely made the game out of reach. That said, Knoblauch acknowledged the mishap, saying postgame:
“We probably would’ve liked to wait just a little bit longer. I see we’ve got possession of the puck on the entry, and right away, they changed it. I think we probably would’ve liked to have waited just a little bit longer.”
As Knoblauch mentioned the Oilers had possession, but an awareness of recognizing a player’s strengths was crucial in that moment as well. It was unlikely that Kane was going to stick handle through three players and his likely play was to dump the puck and retrieve it. If he maintained possession thereafter, that would’ve been the time to pull Skinner and the Oilers could have sent their top players out and they still would’ve had a minute and a half to try and tie the game.
Nevertheless, the Oilers can take satisfaction in splitting the series as they return home to their hometown fans, whose atmosphere is sure to be phenomenally loud.
Also, as Zach Laing noted, the Stars pulled a playful troll job by playing the Oilers’ victory song, ‘La Bamba’ after their Game 2 win. That song is dear to the hearts of many in Oil Country, and the hope is that the Oilers can secure two wins at home, to hear that song played twice in the arena where it truly belongs.
With that in mind, what moments stood out to you the most in Games 1 & 2?

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