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GAME RECAP: Oilers 2, Avalanche 4

Oilers lose a critical G3 at home and are now one loss away from a summer at the golf course.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Colorado Avalanche at Edmonton Oilers Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

The Edmonton Oilers (0-2) were back home to welcome the Colorado Avalanche (2-0) after an unsuccessful trip to Denver that saw them drop the first two games of the Western Conference Finals.

First Period

The Oilers enjoyed a dream start in this one, as Zach Hyman’s battle for possession along the far wall in the Colorado zone saw the puck squirt loose for an in-flight Connor McDavid, whose sneaky five-hole finish beat Pavel Francouz on the game’s first shift. 1-1. LFG.

Seconds later, Evander Kane got a five-minute major for boarding Nazem Kadri into the end wall. Some pundits were surprised he didn’t also get a game misconduct on the play, and expect it to be reviewed tomorrow. Kadri, meanwhile, never returned, and ultimately left Rogers Place with a cast on his right arm.

Fortunately for Kane, Edmonton killed off the extended Avalanche PP. Unfortunately for the Oilers, Darnell Nurse flipped a puck into the stands a couple of minutes later and they were forced to kill another penalty. Again, the PK — and credit to Mike Smith here, he was really good early — stood tall.

Edmonton appeared to gain some momentum after killing 7 minutes of penalties in the game’s first 11:36. But, they couldn’t escape the first period with the lead. With less than 4 minutes remaining, Nurse tipped Valeri Nichushkin’s speculative cross-ice pass on net and beyond Smith at the near post. 1-1.

The broadcast suggested that Smith couldn’t have secured his post given where the pass was headed (the slot). I argue that, had Smith taken a look, he’d have realized that there were only Oilers in the slot. Maybe you could say the same to Nurse, too.

Shortly after the game-tying goal, Edmonton earned their first power play. Unfortunately, the Oilers PP was pretty ineffective, and the Avalanche were able to kill it with some ease, and Edmonton went into the first intermission level at 1-1.

Second Period

The Oilers came out of the blocks well enough to start period two, but again the Avalanche — and again Nichushkin — scored anyway. A DZ faceoff win led to a shot from distance that deflected right to him in the slot, and he beat Smith with an off-speed shot (or a bit of a flub). 1-2.

Colorado enjoyed maybe their best spell of the game (at 5v5) following their second goal, and carried that momentum into another PP via Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Once again, though, Edmonton’s PK proved just resolute enough to keep the Avalanche lead at one goal.

Edmonton found a bit of life after yet another successful PK, but they couldn’t find the equalizer before the second period ended. 1-2 after two.

Third Period

Again Edmonton got the better of the first couple of shifts to start the third, but again their early momentum was undone pretty quickly. In the first, it was Kane’s penalty. In the second, the go-ahead goal. And in the third? Another penalty, this time to Leon Draisaitl for high-sticking Kale Makar.

But Colorado’s power play seemed content just to kill a few more minutes without having to worry about an equalizer, and while they generated a couple of chances, didn’t seem all that concerned with not being able to finish on them. Another successful kill for the Oilers.

This time, it proved vital, as Ryan McLeod dragged the Oilers back level with a wonderful individual, blue-to-blue rush and snipe from the very top of the slot. 2-2. LFG.

A few shifts later, Edmonton headed back to the man-advantage via a J.T. Compher trip on Draisaitl. Edmonton’s PP was perhaps marginally better than they were in P1, but only because their first foray was atrocious. They did go close a couple of times toward the end, with Evan Bouchard ringing one off the bar at the very death. Unfortunately, it was bar-out, not bar-in or bar-down.

And, wow, did it ever cost them. As the penalty expired, Bouchard was caught in a foot race to the puck with a just-exited Compher as it was cleared into the Oilers’ side of center and drifted toward their zone. Compher outmuscled Bouchard and was in alone on Mike Smith, and his shot from about the far faceoff dot snuck through Smith’s five-hole and crawled, agonizingly, into the net. 2-3.

And that was that.

Edmonton gave it the ol’ college try for the last five minutes, but it wasn’t to be. They couldn’t solve Francouz. It’s starting to look like they won’t be able to solve the Avalanche.

Final Thoughts

I love Jay Woodcroft but I don’t understand why Derek Ryan is playing for Jesse Puljujarvi down the stretch. JP had a 78.07 xGF% tonight. Only Tyson Barrie and Zach Hyman had better. Ryan had a 38.61 xGF% tonight. Only Brad Malone — inexplicably in instead of Dylan Holloway — had worse.

Mike Smith was good enough to win this game. But the goals that did get by him were either flukey, or bad, and when the Oilers desperately needed a save to stay tied in the third, he couldn’t make it. I can’t believe thinking that tying Connor McDavid’s prime to Mike Smith is a good idea. I can’t believe thinking the guy who thought that — for two years running — still has a job.

Evander Kane’s probably going to be suspended for his hit on Kadri in P1, and he probably deserves it. Here’s hoping they somehow suspend Kassian instead. Speaking of suspensions, I’d love to see Nathan MacKinnon face some kind of discipline for slew-footing Leon Draisaitl early in the game. Draisaitl was never the same after that, and was laboring all game.

The Colorado Avalanche seem to deserve more penalties than they take. They’re good, but it feels a bit suspect to me. So far they’ve drawn 16 PPs to the Oilers 7 through 3 games. That’s, a lot.

I’m a big Jay Woodcroft guy but some of his decisions in the playoffs have truly baffled me. Sticking with an obviously terrible fourth line. Dressing Josh Archibald at all. Some of his in-game usage and adjustments (see above). It’s just been weird. In a bad way.

The season’s probably over. Maybe not on Monday, but the odds of Edmonton winning 4/5 with Draisaitl back to full one-leg status and Nurse looking like a husk of his usual self are very long indeed.

Game Flow

Heat Map


4/190 = 2.1%

That’s how many NHL teams have erased 3-0 leads in playoff series.

Up Next

Game 4 on Monday in Edmonton. See you then. LFG or whatever.