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Kris Knoblauch’s lineup changes pay off again in Oilers 5-2 win in Game 4

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baggedmilk
19 days ago
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling down when the Oilers were trailing 2-0 after five and a half minutes of play. A lot of us were down. If you read the Nation’s mentions on social media, some of us thought it was the end of the world. The boys on the ice didn’t feel the same way, though.
Instead, the Edmonton Oilers found a way to not climb out of the hole they were in before the game had even really started but to score five unanswered goals on their way to a dominant 5-2 win to tie the series at two games apiece. I was lucky enough to be there, and I can tell you that it was an incredible night at Rogers Place.

DARNELL NURSE SIUTBSOHC

If you’ve been around this website long enough, you know exactly what that acronym means. Robin Brownlee used to use it when a player was taking all kinds of shit and came out with the kind of performance that shut the noise out. Even with the horrible luck he had in the first period when a shot bounced into the net off his ass, Nurse found a way to battle back. From my spot in the stands, I saw a guy that came prepared for war.
Rather than feeling sorry for himself, Darryl got to work. And in the 19:19 of TOI that he played, Darnell Nurse was all over the ice in the very best way. He was physical, picked great times to jump up into the rush, dominated the Stars down low, and was rewarded with an assist for his efforts. From my side of the computer screen, that was the exact kind of game both we and he needed to say.
It’s no secret that Nurse has been taking a lot of heat around these parts over the last few days, and I was so pumped for the dude that he put in the kind of night that shuts everyone up. We’ve all taken our shots — that’s part of being a fan — but when you, I think it’s just as important to recognize when the guy excels too, and that’s exactly what we should be doing after his performance in Game 4. It won’t be the last time Nurse takes heat from the fans or the media, but on Wednesday night, he didn’t have to say a word to defend himself because his performance on the ice did all the talking.

THE LINEUP CHANGES

How many of us are willing to admit that we were questioning the lineup changes Kris Knoblauch made ahead of Game 4? Corey Perry was coming back after missing five games, Ryan McLeod was back after a one-game reset, and Philip Broberg was making his playoff debut after not playing since the very last game of the regular season. I can only imagine how jacked up/nervous those guys must have been in the hours leading up to a game that meant so much.
Yet, in what was the biggest game of the season for the Oilers to this point, all three of McLeod, Perry, and Broberg made a positive impact on the win. McLeod picked up his first goal of the playoffs on a primary assist from Perry, getting the Oilers on the board and halving the Stars’ lead after that dreadfully unlucky start. As for Broberg, he looked very effective in the 14:21 he played and I especially appreciated the way he used his stick effectively to break up passes and get into shooting lanes.

STUART SKINNER BOUNCES BACK

Even though I defended Stuart Skinner’s Game 3 despite the .810 save% and loss on the board, there’s no doubt that we needed Stu to step up in a big way if the Oilers were going to tie up the series. And I won’t lie, things didn’t look great when Skinner allowed a goal on the first shot of the game even though it was an absolutely snipe by Wyatt Johnston. It was one of those goals where I was more frustrated by the mistake by Kulak than I was about Stu not being able to get a glove on it.
Same goes after the second goal bounced in off Darnell Nurse’s ass because that puck was going so wide that I couldn’t really look at it any other way than simply being back luck. But over the final 54 and a half minutes, Skinner shut the door and it wasn’t like he was only making routine saves in there either. Sure, most of those shots he faced over the final two+ periods were ones you’d expect your goaltender to make, but there were also some really tough ones in tight that he managed to keep out of the net too.
Skinner is another guy who has faced a lot of criticism throughout these playoffs — some of it justified, a lot of it was hyperbole — but in a game when the Oilers desperately needed a win, Stu was there to lay the foundation. While a lot of us were feeling pretty dark in those first handful of minutes after the Stars opened up a 2-0 lead, Skinner stuck with it and outduelled a very good goaltender at the other end.
Just has he’s done several times in these playoffs, Stuart Skinner bounced back at a moment we when we needed him the most. I wonder at what point we stop being surprised when it happened?

MATTIAS JANMARK WITH A SHORTHANDED DAGGER

I don’t know that I’ve heard Rogers Place as loud as it was after Mattias Janmark scored the shorthanded goal to make it 3-2 at the 14:31 mark of the second period. He and Connor Brown broke down the ice on an odd-man rush and executed the pass-and-shoot perfectly. Jake Oettinger didn’t have a chance. Having Janmark cash that pass in was a huge turning point in that game, and ended up being the game winner on what was the first special teams goal of the series.

RYAN McLEOD MAKES AN IMPACT

After getting bumped to the press box for Game 3, Ryan McLeod came back in the lineup and found a way to contribute almost immediately. The Stars were up by two goals after 5:29 of play, and it got incredibly quiet at Rogers Place as the crowd struggled to wrap our minds around what the hell is happening. And just when we may have thought things were falling apart, Ryan McLeod picked up a loose puck off of Oettinger’s pad and chipped it into the top of the net with a perfectly executed toe drag and chip. When that goal went in, the barn exploded and I couldn’t have been happier to see him finally get rewarded with his first goal in 30 games.

OTHER THINGS WORTH MENTIONING

 
-With his goal in the second period, Leon Draisaitl reached the 10-goal mark once again, making him the first Oiler since Esa Tikkanen to reach double-digit tallies in two straight playoff runs.
-How about another casual three-point night for Connor McDavid? The guy is an apple farm during the playoffs, and last night’s game was yet another acre added to the farm.
-The Oilers were only given a single power play opportunity again somehow, and even though they didn’t score, I’d still argue it was their best look with the man advantage they’ve had all series. I mean, they were Oettinger’s stick on the goal line away from picking up their first PP goal of the series, but the Gords clearly had other plans.
-On the flip side, the penalty faced and killed the two shorthanded situations they faced and ended up picking up a shorthanded goal that wound up as the game-winner. The PK has now killed off 23 straight penalties, and I couldn’t be having my mind blown any more about it than I am right now.
-Pete DeBoer said after the game that he had his “fingers crossed” that Chris Tanev will be able to play after he left the game in the second period only moments after blocking an Evander Kane shot off his foot. Obviously, that would be a big loss for the Stars if Tanev won’t be able to go.
-I know some people don’t care about hit totals, but I certainly do, and the Oilers outhit the Stars by a whopping 43-21 in Game 4. The boys were incredibly physical last night, and that big boy hockey gave Dallas fits all night.
-For the first time this series, the Oilers won 52.5% of the faceoffs they took and it was a refreshing changing of pace after watching them lose more than they won through the first three games.

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