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The Day After +17.0: Power play pops at the right time for the Oilers

Edmonton Oilers Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scores goal vs. Dallas Stars
Photo credit:Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
20 days ago
It was only a matter of time before the Edmonton Oilers’ power play made their mark in the Western Conference Finals.
After going 0-for-6 through the first four games of the series, the man advantage showed up at a time they needed it most Friday night as two Ryan Nugent-Hopkins goals got the Oilers on the board and cruising. It ended up being the difference maker in a 3-1 win that put Edmonton one win away from advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 2006.
“We give ourselves a chance here. That’s all you can ask,” said Nugent-Hopkins after the game. “I thought we played a great game, a pretty full sixty, and now we get a chance to close it out on home ice. It’s going to take everything, and an effort like we had tonight.”
Nugent-Hopkins has quietly had a strong playoffs for the Oilers, but Friday night’s performance may have been career-defining for him. With six minutes left in the first period and Stars defenceman Ryan Suter in the box for roughing, he batted a loose puck into an open cage to open the scoring.
Then, a minute into the second period, an Evan Bouchard stretch pass found Leon Draisaitl, who set up Nugent-Hopkins in the high slot giving him a chance to unleash his patented wrist shot right over the pad of Jake Oettinger. 2-0.
He gets asked to do so much on this team, whether it’s on the kill, big draws on the kill, he’s got a big responsibility on the power play, he’s asked to do everything and just always delivers,” said Oilers captain Connor McDavid, who finished the night with an assist. “Tonight was big, he was awesome.”
Philip Broberg scored his first NHL playoff goal four minutes later, and all of a sudden, the Oilers had a stranglehold on this game.
It wasn’t just on the scoresheet where the Oilers made the Dallas Stars look like a lifeless bunch. Through two periods, Dallas mustered up just 10 shots on goal, five of which were from their forward group.
“I’m sure any goalie would say the same thing. Sometimes it’s harder playing in games like that, just trying to do your very best to stay mentally engaged, physically engaged,” said Oilers netminder Stuart Skinner after the game. “That’s about all you can really do. It’s never easy.
“In my favour, I’ve been able to have a lot of games like that the way that we play. We play so well, especially when we play full games like that you saw tonight. I’ve had a lot of practice to be good in situations like this.”
For as quiet as things may have been for him in the first 40 minutes of the game, the same can’t be said for the final 20, when Dallas doubled their shot total, pushing with everything they had. But Skinner was standing tall, allowing just one goal to get by him when with six minutes left, Wyatt Johnston flipped his stick upside down, tipping home a Thomas Harley point shot.
“I thought he was great all night, but particularly on that late kill in the second,” said McDavid. “That was really big. And obviously coming down the stretch in the third, he made some really big saves. We played pretty well in front of him. I thought there were some breakdowns here and there, but whenever there was, he delivered.”
Sunday night. Game 6. Home ice.
That’s what lies ahead for the Oilers after they sent an entire city from playoff fervor to a straight-up frenzy.
It won’t be easy, as the Oilers experienced in Game 3 when the Stars strolled into Rogers Place and walked out with a 5-3 win. But playing to the Oilers’ hand is that they’ve had all the momentum for nearly six periods. In a time of year where it doesn’t translate much from game-to-game, Edmonton has found a way to bring it and elevate their own game to match that level.
One win away.

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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