The Day After +16.0: Fifty minutes were just fine for the Oilers

Edmonton Oilers
Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
19 days ago
A few things ring true about hockey in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Time and space are always at a premium, and mistakes can be costly. These things can rear their ugly heads at any point in the season against any opponent, it’s always amplified in the post-season when only the best of the best remain. The deeper the playoffs go, the higher the stakes.
What else rings true in the playoffs is that you can’t play a full 60 minutes. It’s one of the most common tropes out there when it comes to hockey, and the truth is that it’s something difficult to accomplish in general. In a league that features the top hockey players in the world, even the worst of teams can beat the best of teams.
The Edmonton Oilers have struggled to get a good 30 minutes in against their Western Conference Finals foe, the Dallas Stars. But not on Wednesday night, as the team turned in one of their most complete efforts en route to a statement 5-2 win.
While the Oilers’ start of the game was far from ideal—watching Darnell Nurse with a target on his back be on the ice for two goals against in the first five minutes of the game — one where he defended a two-on-one well and another where a puck bounced off his rear end and in — the response was everything this team needed.
A lot being said about Darnell. Everyone and their dog coming at him this morning,” said winger Connor Brown, who set up Mattias Janmark for a game-winning shorthanded goal in the second period. “Two tough bounces to start the game and he settles in and plays probably his best game of the playoffs and leads us to a victory. That’s character right there.”
The character spread beyond Nurse’s 12 hits, three blocks and an assist.
After weathering those early goals, it was a play by Nurse that helped lead to a Corey Perry shot that rebounded to Ryan McLeod, who tucked it home for his first goal of the playoffs with seven minutes left in the first. Then, minutes later, the game was tied at three when Connor McDavid made a beautiful play passing the puck off Stars netminder Jake Oettinger’s pad right to Evan Bouchard. 2-2 game.
“I was thinking it was going to be a long night. It didn’t look very good,” said Oilers head coach Kris Knoblauch of Dallas’ early lead. “Things weren’t going our way, and they looked much sharper making plays. 
“I think we just got back to the way we were supposed to be playing. I think a lot of it had to do with the turnovers at the blue line, where we weren’t getting pucks in deeper and they were quick transitions, and we’re always in a bad position for the next shift.”
Edmonton’s push carried over into the second period, a time of the game that’s plagued them against the Stars. There, they continued to push, and when Derek Ryan took a holding penalty with seven minutes left in the period, Edmonton’s record-setting penalty kill got to work.
Nurse would block a shot that deflected to Brown, sending he and Janmark screaming into the offensive zone. A cross-ice feed, one Brown called a “shit burger,” would land in front of Janmark and after a quick adjustment, it would end up in the net.
I thought it was a pretty good pass,” said Janmark after the game. “I got it to my front foot so I had to adjust to it, but I would not call it a shit burger.”
As the goal announcement ended in Rogers Place, the Oilers head coach loaded up the top line for a shift, leading to a give-and-go between Zach Hyman and Leon Draisaitl, which the latter would tickle twine with.
Edmonton then did something they haven’t had the chance to against the Stars: project a lead. The Oilers continued to play well through the second period, and come the third, choked out Dallas, giving them just one high-danger look, according to Natural Stat Trick.
The key, as Perry said, was playing above the Stars.
“We were above them all period and we didn’t let them in behind us,” he said, adding, “To play against these guys you have to be above them. You can’t let them play off the rush, that’s where they kill ya.”
With the series tied up at 2, it now shifts back to Dallas for a pivotal Game 5 that could put either team on the ropes. For the Stars, however, they could be without defenceman Chris Tanev, who blocked an Evander Kane shot in the second period, missing the remainder of the game.
Time will tell, but Edmonton’s ability to fight back and tie this series up could be a pivotal moment in this series.

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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