The Day After: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins proved the Oilers aren’t just a one-man team
Photo credit:© Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
By Cam Lewis1 year ago
Through three games, the Oilers’ series with the Flames had been much like their first-round series with the Kings.
The Oilers played far from their best and lost Game 1 against both Calgary and L.A. but then bounced back with outstanding performances in Games 2 and 3 against the Flames and Kings to go up 2-1 in those respective series.
In the first round, the Oilers laid an egg when faced with the opportunity to put the Kings down 3-1. That didn’t happen with the Flames on Tuesday night.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored 21 seconds into the game to give the Oilers a 1-0 lead and then Zach Hyman and Evander Kane scored to put the Oilers up by three goals before the end of the first frame. The Flames battled back with a pair of goals within a minute of each other in the second period and then they tied the game in the third period on a flukey goal from their own zone.
This looked like it could have turned into a complete implosion, but the Oilers kept calm and composed. With just over three minutes left in the game, Nugent-Hopkins scored on the power-play to restore Edmonton’s lead. Kane would add an empty-netter to seal the deal a few minutes later.
While we all would have loved to see a top-to-bottom spanking like the one the Oilers handed out in Game 3, it was impressive to see the team be resilient and edge out a difficult win as the Flames put forward a much better effort. Calgary is a good team and it’s pretty difficult to flatten a good team in back-to-back games in the playoffs, but the Oilers proved they can find difficult ways to win.
They also proved they can learn from their mistakes. They took the Kings lightly in the first round, both in Game 1 and in Game 4. This time around, they kept their foot on the gas and now have a commanding 3-1 lead in the Battle of Alberta.
What they said…
“It’s inspiring. There’s room for greatness from everybody on our team. Tonight was Ryan’s moment.Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was a first overall draft pick for a reason. He’s a heck of a player. He does a lot of really subtle things really well and makes us a deeper team.” – Jay Woodcroft on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.“I think we all stepped up tonight. Every game is a team game, we know that. You can’t win with one or two guys. It is a tough league. Especially come playoffs, you need everybody pulling on the same rope.” – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, on Edmonton’s depth.“The main thing was that we had to keep pushing. Stuff like that happens, it’s hockey. Bounces happen. There was no quit.” – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, on Calgary’s game-tying goal.“There has definitely been growth on this team, for sure. There is a confidence this team is playing with that (and) we believe we can do some damage. Every game you win, you gain confidence from and you want to keep that ball rolling and doing the good things that make our team successful. I think the structure we are playing with, it makes us a really good hockey team.” – Mike Smith.
- The Flames commented that the Oilers were a one-man team after Connor McDavid put together a world-beating performance in Edmonton’s 4-1 victory in Game 3. It seems some other members of the Oilers might have taken that to heart. Nugent-Hopkins had his biggest game as an Oiler in Game 4, scoring the opening goal and then the game-winner with minutes left on the clock. The first-overall pick from the 2011 draft has been through hell and back with this organization and he often gets overshadowed by Edmonton’s two Hart Trophy winners, so it’s great to see him come through and have this kind of performance in such an important game. Edmonton will always remember Game 4 as the Ryan Nugent-Hopkins game, a well-deserved moment in the sun for a player who quietly does so many things so well for this team.
- I mentioned earlier that the Oilers winning Game 4 against Calgary to go up 3-1 in the series represented an improvement from their first-round series against the Kings, but this situation also dates back to their playoff run in 2017. Up 2-1 in the first round to the Sharks, the Oilers got pounded by a score of 7-0 in Game 4. In the second round against Anaheim, they again had a 2-1 series lead and a chance to put the Ducks down 3-1, but blew a 2-0 first period lead and wound up losing in overtime. Through experience, the Oilers are learning how to get the job done in the playoffs.
- This is a very Captain Obvious stat but I’ll put it out there regardless… Teams that win Game 4 to go up 3-1 in a seven-game series wind up winning that series 89.2 percent of the time. Meanwhile, teams that win on the road in Game 4 to tie a seven-game series at 2-2 wind up winning that series 57.3 percent of the time. It can’t be overstated just how important it was for the Oilers to win this game.
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