The Day After +13.0: Oilers show they belong with thunderous Game 1 win

Edmonton Oilers celebrate Game 1 win in Dallas
Photo credit:Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
25 days ago
Call it a defining win in the Connor McDavid era.
Game 1. Western Conference Finals. Two years after making it there, getting swept in the process.
This time around? It’s different. The Oilers won Game 1 on Thursday night, downing the Dallas Stars 3-2 in double overtime.
This game had it all. From Stuart Skinner having to make his first save of the night on a breakaway, to the Oilers getting no penalty luck, to the penalty kill being perfect, to Leon Draisaitl taking a lighter to his stick on the bench, scoring minutes later, all the way to captain Connor McDavid taking a four-minute penalty off the opening faceoff in overtime, down to him scoring the game-winner.
And whichever angle you want to delve into first, one reins above all: the Oilers played a damn good hockey game.
They controlled the pace of play all night long, dictating as much as they could as they limited what the Stars could do. While all the talk of the Stars’ depth being something that would be difficult for the Oilers to handle, each of Edmonton’s four lines, at the very least, split scoring chances with the Stars 50/50. All of this on the road, mind you.
Dallas’ depth, however, was no match for the Oilers’ top-end talent Thursday night. After a low-event first period that ended with the Oilers carrying a penalty kill into the second, the first shift after saw Kris Knoblauch load up the Nuclear Line. McDavid, Draisaitl, Hyman. It took them all of 19 seconds to score, as Draisaitl got left alone at the back door.
Edmonton rolled that momentum into a 2-0 lead. Despite a McDavid pass for Hyman stalling in the slot, the latter battled for it, sliding the puck through Dallas goaltender Jake Oettinger’s five-hole. 2-0.
Even though Tyler Seguin would score his first of two minutes later, there was no change in the Oilers’ play. Calm. Cool. Collected. They looked like they’d been here before.
The back and forth continued through the second and third before Seguin would get his second. An Evgenii Dadonov shot would deflect off the skate in front of the net, right to Seguin, who had a yawning cage to score.
“They’re obviously a really good team. They’ve shown it throughout the whole regular season and the playoffs,” said Oilers defenceman Mattias Ekholm. “They’ve knocked out two really quality opponents, but so have we, and I thought we matched up good.
“I thought we played really well. I thought at times, they had the upper hand, sometimes we had the upper hand. That’s the way it’s supposed to be in the playoffs. We know they’re a good team, we know it’s going to be a grind against them. We had our looks. Three minutes to go, we’re up, so I really enjoyed the way we played this game one, but again, it’s one win. It doesn’t really matter in the long run. We got to be ready to go in game two.”
With the score tied heading into overtime, McDavid was called for a four-minute minor for high-sticking Matt Duchene. While no penalty was called right away, the linesmen informed the referees of what they saw, leading to the Oilers captain putting his team in an awkward spot.
“Long, really long. Really, really long. Miserable. I hated every second of it, but the guys did an amazing job, truthfully,” said McDavid of his time in the box. “The penalty kill has just been amazing and to step in there, four minutes against a good power play, I can’t give those guys enough credit.
“My thing was I don’t know what I’m supposed to do there. I’m going forward, trying to play the puck. It feels like he’s holding my stick. I didn’t even really feel the high stick at all. I think maybe his face came down on my stick. I’m not sure what I was supposed to do. Maybe just unlucky, I guess, but certainly glad the boys killed it off.”
The overtime truly could’ve been over before it started, but Edmonton’s penalty kill sucking the life out of five Dallas power play’s is nothing to scoff at. It kept the Oilers in it all night long and did so in the extra frame, too.
McDavid had a chance to ice the game, getting alone in front of Oettinger, but a shot that seemed destined for twine was somehow saved by the sprawling netminder.
And while he may have relinquished one chance to end the game, he didn’t a second time.
Just 32 seconds into the second overtime, Oilers defenceman Evan Bouchard corralled a puck on the wall, throwing a puck to the middle of the ice where McDavid was able to tip the puck home.
“He works so hard and he had a good look in the first overtime too to get it done, but by my experience being here, he doesn’t get denied twice,” said Ekholm. “So again, it was the case tonight.
“It didn’t really matter who got it tonight, but obviously, the important one was somebody got it, and it was Connor, and I’m not shocked it was him.”
The Oilers have put themselves in an excellent spot after Game 1, but after all, that’s all it is. One game. Three more need to be won if they have any hopes of making it to the Stanley Cup Finals, and it’s something the team is more than aware of.
Doubly so considering the fact that the Stars have now dropped seven straight Game 1’s to kick off a series, still managing to win four of their last five.
“You know what the great thing about playoffs is? We’re coming to Game 2 no matter what happened tonight,” said Oilers forward Derek Ryan. “You have to have a short memory, you have to turn the page and learn and grow and adapt and make the changes you need to be successful.
“We won tonight. It’s going to be a long series, and it’s going to be hard-fought. We’re going to come back for Game 2 and we’ll address that.”

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 zach@thenationnetwork.com.


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