Game 2, as so aptly put by Head Coach Dave Tippett, was a must win for the Edmonton Oilers. Exercising the demons of Game 1 required a full-scale revamp of overall team effort, defensive awareness and the will to win. While mass changes may have been expected by some, the Oilers made few changes to their lineup for Game 2.
RNH - McDavid - Archibald
Ennis - Draisaitl - Yamamoto
Athanasiou - Sheahan - Kassian
Neal - Khaira - Chiasson
Klefbom - Larsson
Nurse - Bear
Russell - Benning
To begin this game, I was skeptical of Tippett’s lines. I still don’t know why he’s choosing to drift from the RNH/Drai/Yamamoto combo that was so incredible from January 1st until the end of the regular season. Much like his continued faith in the wildly unsettling Mike Smith, he seems to be stubborn about his RNH/McDavid pairing.
Fortunately for my heart rhythms, Koskinen was awarded the start after steadying the ship (albeit far too late) in Game 1. Let’s get into it.
... And 19 seconds in MCDAVID SCORES. Nurse keeps it in, takes a bouncing puck coming in from the point and bounces it off the back bar. Oilers up 1-0, not messing around. The Blackhawks come back strong though, and as Toews broke Larsson’s ankles with a nasty dangle, Koskinen was there to save the day.
And he does it again!!! The best in the world for a reason, McDavid takes a loose puck from centre ice and blows by Olli Maatta, tucking it upstairs from the backhand. Love the start, 2-0 Oilers.
And then Duncan Keith is off to the box after abusing Yamamoto in front of the Chicago net. A couple good chances on net, but no PPGs this time around. I must say, it’s always great to see the Oilers leading in SOG.
At the midway point in the period, Patrick Kane finds a seam to the net and DeBrincat finds him streaking. Koskinen gets a piece but not enough. 2-1 Oilers. After this goal, the Oilers began to find their bad habits again - can’t make a pass, exit their own zone or take their man. However, even with Toews in tight, a Kane breakaway, the Boqvist one timer... Koskinen stands tall against all.
The Oilers come back strong though, as the fourth line, especially Chiasson and Neal apply a ton of pressure. Neal playing nasty, hitting/crosschecking everything in his sights, is my kind of Neal. And then RNH absolutely rips one off the crossbar.
McDavid and RNH start where they left off, getting a few quality chances. After that, Tyler Ennis jumps on a loose puck created by Yamamoto and scores his first playoff goal as an Oiler! 3-1 Edmonton. However, Draisaitl was shaken up after taking a vicious crosscheck from Murphy.
Not much later, the Oilers fail to clear the zone again. Yamamoto is stripped by Dach and the puck goes to Koekkoek in the high slot. 3-2 Oilers.
Ennis draws a penalty on Maatta, and the Oilers go back to the PP. Unfortunately, other than one power move by Athanasiou, the good guys don’t muster much. After that, the Oilers take a pair of (very soft) penalties and use those two man-against situations to pad their shot blocking stats. No goals against after back to back penalty kills.
A third consecutive penalty on Benning. Throws a crosscheck to the mug of Highmore, who was trying to rough up #83. A question - does Bear have a wrist injury? All of his clearing attempts seem to lightly flutter, never leaving the zone... Oilers batten down the hatches though. Only one shot against.
All tied up. Maatta’s shot bounces off Russell’s shin pad, Koskinen’s arm/pad, and goes in. 3-3.
The Oilers go back to the PP, and McDavid has the hat trick!!! Connor’s pass to Drai hits Keith’s skate and sneaks in Crawford’s five hole. 4-3 Oilers.
On the faceoff following the PPG, Kassian is cut badly at centre ice. The penalty on Dylan Strome, because Strome was holding Sheahan’s stick and hit Kassian with it, is revoked. Beyond frustrating. Should it not be holding then? Whatever. Pretty classic NHL officiating continues this evening, where they only seem to notice select calls.
The Draisaitl and McDavid lines get a few chances early, but can’t any insurance markers. Oilers are leading in hits and shots now. Have enjoyed seeing Athanasiou and Kassian fly around the ice. Both have looked much better in Game 2.
The Real Deal Neal steals the puck from Crawford, who was pressured by Khaira, and tucks it home in the empty net! 5-3 Oilers. But wait, there’s more! That same line keeps grinding, and Chiasson finds a loose puck and tucks it home 40 seconds later. 6-3 Oilers. Fourth line providing a welcome cushion for Edmonton.
The Oilers ride that momentum and shut down the Blackhawks for the rest of the period. Final is 6-3, and the series is tied 1-1.
The team still needs some sharpening, but the bounce back effort was it exactly what it needed to be. Timely goals, shot blocks, clean hits. See you Wednesday at 8:30 MT.