The Edmonton Oilers looked to stave off elimination and a sweep to the Colorado Avalanche in the Western Conference Final on Monday, hoping to start a momentum shift and become the fifth team to ever come back after being down 3-0.
The odds were against them however, as they aimed to win without two top-6 forwards (Evander Kane - suspension, Kailer Yamamoto - injury) and major ailments to two stars (Darnell Nurse - core, Leon Draisaitl - ankle & more).
Reinforcements came in the form of 2020 first round pick Dylan Holloway, playing his first ever NHL game, as well as penalty killer Brad Malone and shot blocker Kris Russell.
Prior to puck drop, the lineup looked like this (11F/7D):
Draisaitl - McDavid - Puljujarvi
Holloway - RNH - Hyman
Foegele - McLeod - Ryan
Malone - Kassian
Nurse - Ceci
Keith - Bouchard
Kulak - Barrie
Early on, Zack Kassian took a needless penalty slashing Jack Johnson in the hands and the Avalanche struck quickly, with Cale Makar finding a wristshot through the traffic to make it 1-0 Colorado.
cale makar opens the scoring on with a powerplay goal moments after zack kassian took a wildly unnecessary slashing call. pic.twitter.com/km5nJy09yC— zach laing (@zjlaing) June 7, 2022
Note: You will see a missed tripping call against the Avalanche in this sequence.
In a little redemption for Kassian, he drew a call across Darren Helm of the Avalanche to send the Oilers to the powerplay for the first time. Double Zach alert, as Hyman drew another penalty shortly after. While not scoring, the Oilers generated four shots and some momentum on the first powerplay, but poor passing ruined the second attempt and Edmonton fell to 1/8 on the man advantage in the series after the consecutive PPs.
A supreme lack of urgency, outside of McDavid, was apparent for the Oilers in the first period of Game 4.
amid his first nhl game, dylan holloway gets interviewed in the first intermission. pic.twitter.com/RzUFHvhcd1— zach laing (@zjlaing) June 7, 2022
To open the second, the Oilers responded with an 0-8 shot differential and had Jesse Puljuljarvi leave due to injury. The Oilers first shot of the second period resulted in a goal for the Oilers, with Draisaitl finding Hyman open in front to snap one home. 1-1.
Soon after, Landeskog boards Kassian headfirst into the boards. However, is called for holding minor on the play and avoids a major, while also avoiding any damage on the scoreboard.
gabriel landeskog takes zack kassian hard into the boards. the only call is landeskog for holding. full speed + replays. pic.twitter.com/pPoeGNH3sW— zach laing (@zjlaing) June 7, 2022
With bodies dropping for the Oilers, including Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins takes advantage of a Devon Toews miscue to give Edmonton their first lead of the game.
And then capitalizing on their momentum, the Oilers took advantage of a puck over glass penalty with McDavid bouncing a puck off the post and in. 3-1 Edmonton after two.
Thirty-one seconds into the third, Devon Toews’ shot bounces off Cody Ceci’s leg and finds its way past Mike Smith. Edmonton quickly responds though, as a Colorado turnover in their own zone results in a Zach Hyman goal the other way to allow Edmonton to regain their two goal lead.
After a scramble in front and Mike Smith wanders away from the net briefly, Colorado finds the loose puck is able to jam it in past the Oiler netminder and make it a one goal game again. Good ol’ Mike Smith making sure the Oilers don’t get too comfortable.
Mike Smith was NOT happy after the Avs cut Edmonton's lead again pic.twitter.com/mgzFLj3Ljy— B/R Open Ice (@BR_OpenIce) June 7, 2022
Another Oiler player goes down, as Nathan MacKinnon goes knee on knee with Zach Hyman and gets two for tripping. They are unable to score, and Draisaitl misses an open net off the post.
nathan mackinnon goes knee-on-knee with zach hyman in the neutral zone. the latter went to the bench, had a chat with the oilers training staff, and stays in the game. pic.twitter.com/OdWPUrerpa— zach laing (@zjlaing) June 7, 2022
It came to bite the Oilers, after Nathan MacKinnon found the puck in the neutral zone and fired one by Mike Smith to tie the game at 4. Things went from bad to worse for Edmonton, as Derek Ryan was called for holding with six minutes remaining. And Mikko Rantanen sneaks a soft goal by Mike Smith to give the Avs a 5-4 lead.
With three minutes remaining, Kassian finds a loose puck in the crease to tie the game at 5.
For the first time in this series, a game went to overtime. Early on, Artturi Lekhonen tips one high and beats Mike Smith on the rebound to end the series. The Mike Smith meltdown in the third period of this game, allowing four goals, costed the Edmonton Oilers this game in regulation. Wasted all-time performances from Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid and Zach Hyman in this one.
The Oilers will be disappointed with this one, but they fought hard and just need to view it as a stepping stone to building out the roster for next year. Look where the gaps were (ahem, goaltending & defence) and continue to improve. Who would have thought they’d make it to the Western Conference Final after that miserable stretch in the middle of the season? Something to be proud of, but there is clearly work to be done.
I do especially appreciate how the fans were brought along for the ride in this series – from Ben Stelter to the Moss pit – it felt like we were all a part of something special. I hope we can all ride that into next season. See you then.