5 THINGS: Edmonton Oilers get a leg up 1-0 in Western Conference final

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Sometimes, you’ve got to play a full 80 minutes. And then some.

Another best-of-7 elimination round and the Edmonton Oilers find themselves in the driver’s seat against the Western Conference-champion Dallas Stars, thanks to a 3-2 double-overtime result as their third-round series got underway Thursday.

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It’s the first game the Oilers have won in a Western Conference final since 2006, after having been swept 0-4 in their only other visit this deep into the playoffs, at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche in 2021-22.

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But that was then and this is now.

And while no one in Edmonton expects this to be anything but another gruelling back-and-forth playoff round for the Oilers, who have been running hot and cold down their playoff path, so far, their fans back home will certainly take an early series lead that shifts home-ice advantage to the lower seed’s favour.

Then again, the Stars have proven to be anything but pushovers in these playoffs, and one game does not a series make. But in the meantime, here are five factors to consider out of the gates in Round 3:

1. ABSOLUTELY KILLING IT

The Oilers tenacity has best been expressed on special teams, which have combined for 129.1 per cent effectiveness.

And it’s been driven by a penalty kill that’s clipping along at a whopping 92.5 per cent to lead the league in the playoffs.

On Thursday, the Oilers continued their smothering pace in face of the man-advantage to sit at a streak of 19 straight, after going 5-for-5 against the Stars, including a double-minor to start the first overtime session against Connor McDavid. It was the sixth consecutive double-minor the Oilers have killed going back to the regular season

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2. CORRECTING A BIG McSTAKE

Speaking of the Oilers captain, he put the game away 32 seconds into the second overtime.

By rights, that should have read with 5:21 left in the first overtime, when he found himself all alone in front of the net with nothing but time and space after taking a pass from Zach Hyman, only to get robbed when Jake Oettinger tossed out his stick and a prayer to avoid sudden death.

McDavid was looking to make amends for forcing his teammates to play a man short while spending an extended time in the box for drawing blood on a high stick. And he would get it about six minutes and a flood of the ice later, this time successfully redirecting a pass in front from defenceman Evan Bouchard.

3. BIG GUNS

While it was a rare goal for McDavid in these playoffs, marking just his third of the 23 points he’s scored in 13 games played, Edmonton’s other big guns were also firing Thursday.

The Oilers continue to occupy the top-four spots on the points-leader board in the playoffs, as Leon Draisaitl added to his leading 25 points as he drew first blood in the series with the game’s opening goal. McDavid added an assist to his game-winning goal to sit just two points back in second place, while Bouchard continues to hold onto third place at 21 points with the assist on the game winner. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins also earned an assist on McDavid’s goal to remain in fourth place with 17 points coming as Friday morning.

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Hyman is also on a three-game streak with a goal, after not having registered one in four straight. He leads the NHL with 12 in these playoffs.

The Stars, meanwhile, got both their goals from Tyler Seguin, who almost made it a hat trick in overtime. They still don’t have a single player among the top dozen playoff points leaders.

4. THE ‘STACHE IS CASH

Stuart Skinner may have faltered through the second round, getting pulled out of one game and benched for two others as the Oilers eventually rallied past the Vancouver Canucks.

But he was nothing short of razor sharp in Thursday’s opener against the Stars, only allowing goals on an egregious giveaway at the net by defenceman Brett Kulak, before a bad bounce off of the skate of Darnell Nurse found its way into the back of the net.

In the first three games against the Canucks, Skinner allowed 12 goals on 58 shots for a .793 save percentage. Since returning to the starting role, he has made 60 saves on 65 shots, more than half of which came in a 31-save performance Thursday, for a .923 save percentage over his past three starts.

5. HOT FOR SHOTS

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The Oilers started turning their fortunes around in the previous round once they began a concerted effort of blocking shots in their own end and sending pucks toward the net down at the other. And it was no different Thursday, even if it didn’t quite begin that way.

Edmonton had a grand total of four players who registered all of eight shots by just over the halfway mark.

And while they held a 2-1 lead at that point, Oettinger was just getting warmed up.

In the end, it took the Oilers outshooting the Stars 38-33 after a final runtime of 80:32.

E-mail: [email protected]

On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge

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