CALGARY – The Edmonton Oilers wouldn’t be turned down.
Not by another bad start. Not by a cascade of hard (stick) breaks or disallowed goals.
In Game 2 of the Oilers’ second-round Stanley Cup playoff series against Calgary on Friday, Edmonton earned the 5-3 win it needed to tie the Alberta battle before moving on to home rink. And they did it by playing like coach Jay Woodcroft has been preaching for weeks.
“We had things that didn’t go to plan today. But I think it’s a testament to the resilience and determination of our group [that we came through]”Woodcroft said. “It’s something we’ve been working on for three months, the ability to stick with it.
“I think if you walked into our room you would find a group of men totally sure of our message, totally sure of our game plan, totally sure of what it takes to win at the critical moment. And we believe We didn’t feel like we played to that level in Game 1. We did better tonight.
It was not easy for Edmonton to get there.
The Oilers had a terrible start to Game 1, allowing three goals in just over six minutes en route to a 9-6 loss. Friday’s tilt started in an eerily similar fashion for the Oilers, trailing 2-0 just 6:02 into the first period. And after that, Edmonton was twice robbed of goals they felt they deserved.
On the first, Zach Hyman thought he had tied it 2-2 under Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom before referee Chris Lee blew the play up.
The call on the ice was not a goal. Despite Hyman’s confidence – he even went to the bench for some punches – the officials took another look and confirmed: no score.
Word from the NHL Situation Room after the fact was that “the umpire ruled the play dead when he lost sight of the puck under Jacob Markstrom.”
The Oilers were still trailing 2-1. And a broken stick for Darnell Nurse when shorthanded in Edmonton helped Tyler Toffoli make it 3-1 against the Flames early in the second.
Edmonton kept coming. Right after that play, Connor McDavid – who had a dominant night from start to finish – orchestrated a stunning setup for Leon Draisaitl to seemingly cut the Flames’ lead to one. But Edmonton also saw that goal disallowed, this time after a successful challenge from Calgary for goaltender interference.
Undeterred, McDavid needed less than a minute from there to break through the Calgary defense and score himself. 3-2 Flames.
By the time Evan Bouchard tied the game 3-3 with a power play goal late in the second, it looked like Edmonton was in complete control.
“We had two goals out and the rebounds didn’t necessarily go our way,” Hyman said. “But we stuck with it and fought hard. I think that’s a testament to our team. We’ve had a roller coaster season where we were back against the wall and our ability to push back has been second to none.”
And the next time Hyman scored, it would count. Edmonton was killing a penalty late in the third when Hyman lit the shorthanded light in what would be the game-winning marker for Edmonton.
Draisaitl added an insurance count to seal the win. He and McDavid combined for five points on the night, while Mike Smith rebounded from a terrible Game 1 performance with a 37-save performance.
It’s now a best-of-five series for the Oilers – and they have the home advantage.
“I thought we deserved to win tonight’s game based on our efforts alone,” Woodcroft said. “I thought we paid the price to win a game in the second round. Our level of competition was excellent, our level of execution coming out of our side was very good. We found a way to score. Some of the goals that We gave up were kinda a victim of circumstance for [things like] broken sticks. In the end, I thought of a man, everyone was more competitive.”