It's like everything has been amplified exponentially, like you had only been living at half-speed, with a fraction of the colour that life could be experienced at.
This is the Stanley Cup playoffs, and everything was turned up a notch tonight. The hits were harder, crowd was louder, emotions more raw, every pass and shove carrying with it more weight than before.
So that's maybe why the Oilers' 3-2 overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks, under circumstances not experienced in the city for so long, hurt more acutely. Maybe that's why the Oilers looked overwhelmed in the second and third period after taking a 2-0 lead in the first period, caving at the pressure and reality of having an early lead against the Stanley Cup Finalists.
For as hot a start as the Oilers carried into the early frames of this game, the jitters started to show early in the second as the Sharks charged back with their experience and poise, chipping away at the Oilers with goal after goal, drawing penalty after penalty, until the lead was erased in regulation and Melker Karlsson completed with comeback in overtime with the game-winner.
For the first period, the Oilers showed they could not only keep up with, but at many points dominate an older and more experienced team. But for the rest of the game, they also showed their vulnerability to exploitation under pressure, traits, certainly, of youth and inexperience, but also problems they will have to iron out rather quickly as this series continues on Friday in Edmonton. Outshot 44-19 tonight, as they gradually get used to the bright lights, loud crowds, and heavier weight of each play, one can only hope the Oilers' play acclimatizes to their new reality and learns from the lessons of tonight.
"We did a lot of good things in the first period and kind of just got away from it a little bit," said Cam Talbot, who made 41 saves in a heroic effort. "We weren't coming out as a group, guys were leaving the zone a bit early and they were keeping pucks in and making us play extra zone time when we didn't need to. We just need to work on coming out as a group and making sure the puck gets out of our blue and gets deep into their blue."
"Whether their game or our game fell off, it's tough to say," said Connor McDavid, who picked up an assist and was being challenged by Sharks captain Joe Pavelski the entire night. "I think we got a bit too comfortable, and that can't happen, we have to play the full 60."
It was a defenceman who scored the first Oilers playoff goal in 11 years, an indication of just how much a reversal this year has been- Klefbom, who finished the season on a tear with seven points in four games, opened the scoring at 6:44 in the first, joining the rush off the wing and sneaking it past Martin Jones. Jordan Eberle and Milan Lucic, who caught fire with a hat trick each in the final few games of the regular season, each earned assists on the opening goal.
Milan Lucic made it a 2-0 game 17:07 into the first, taking the rebound off a Mark Letestu shot to beat Jones cleanly from the circle. The collective happiness of 11 year spilled over as Rogers Place exploded into an eruption of cheers.
The Sharks came into the second with a vengeance, however, clearly having received a talk-to from Peter DeBoer. Joel Ward jammed in the puck in front of the net, swept there by a wraparound move from Joonas Donskoi, to cut the lead to 2-1 at 1:43 in the second on the power play.
Cam Talbot made an unbelievable stop on Brent Burns in the period, who had him at point bank range, staying with each one of Burns' moves and never getting beat to help his team maintain the lead. Overall, the Oilers were hesitant in the second and lost the swagger and physical play that took them to the 2-0 lead, taking a flurry of penalties that sapped any chance of sustained momentum.
The third period was noticeably more physical, with famed instigator Iiro Pakarinen knocking Tierney down in front of the Sharks bench, and even McDavid and Joe Pavelski engaging in a series of gentle cross-checks.
The Sharks' relentless play payed off 5:22 into the third, however, as Paul Martin tapped in the rebound of the formerly likable Tomas Hertle to make it a tied game.
The dial on speed and physicality were turned up a few more notches after that, with dizzying end-to-end action and hard hits at each end. Milan Lucic took a penalty with nine minutes remaining, sending panic down the throats of fans, and the Sharks got a number of great scoring chances, including a tipped shot that went off the post, but no more goals would come in the game until Karlsson's overtime winner.
Tonight’s Good, Bad, and Ugly featuring the song titles of a Canadian band whose songs well capture my emotions at the moment, Simple Plan.
- Me Against the World- The top line of Maroon-McDavid-Draisaitl were at least okay tonight, compared to others— these three topped the Oilers in CF% tonight, with Draisaitl (51.72%) and McDavid (50%) the only Oilers with a CF% now under 50%...however, they only combined for two shots, both from McDavid. The Sharks are doing a good job to contain scoring chances from the top line and that needs to change.
- Thank You- Without Cam Talbot and his 41 saves, this game simply doesn’t go to overtime. The team left him out to dry like a pale kid falling asleep under the sun in Havana (this doesn’t usually end well).
- Jump- If nothing else, the Oilers sure threw their bodies around with 49 hits on the night (to the Sharks’ 34). Draisaitl and Caggiula each had five, Kassian and Letestu hadfour each, while Adam Larsson and Eric Gryba with absolutely ham with eight each. Those six players combined had as many hits as the Sharks had the entire night.
P.S. Kris Russell’s playoff beard has really improved from ten years ago. It’s really remarkable.
- Don’t Wanna Think About You- What is up with the third line recently? They haven’t had a good game in a while, and it’s clear the coach has no faith in them— David Desharnais only played 6:07, was 25% in the faceoff circle, and this is what you traded my boy Brandon Davidson for? Are you kidding me? The trio of Pakarinen-Desharnais-Kassian occupied the bottom three in CF% on the entire team, totally outworked in limited ice time...I think it might be time to give Jujhar Khaira a look.
- Untitled (How Could This Happen To Me)- Okay, they’re jittery, but taking a season-high in penalties with seven is just unacceptable. It cuts off any momentum, tires out the team, and kept letting the Sharks back into the game. Stop doing that!
- Grow Up- Man, the Oilers lost in so many departments tonight it’s sad. Outshot 44-19, beat in the faceoff circle 57%-43%, had 23 giveaways to the Sharks’ 16...SAD!
Game in a Haiku
I was happy when
Lucic scored. Then I was not
for the rest of it.
Question For Y’All
Based on tonight, what do the Oilers need to improve on if they are to have any chance in this series?