5 THINGS: Edmonton Oilers on the cusp of Cup Final appearance

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Going five games deep into the conference-final round is as far as the Edmonton Oilers have waded into playoff water in 18 years.

Taking a 3-2 advantage in their series against the Dallas Stars with a 3-1 win on Friday sure beats their last trip to the penultimate stage, when they were swept 4-0 by the Colorado Avalanche in 2022.

Before that, you’d have to go all the way back to the Cinderella run in 2006, when the Oilers snuck into the playoffs and reached Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, outlasting all but one team.

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They now find themselves one win away from returning to the league’s biggest stage. And they have two chances to do it.

But it took snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, coming back from the brink of despair and any number of other cliches to describe what they felt when falling behind 2-0  in Game 4, and facing the very real possibility of falling behind 3-1 in the series.

Except that was then and this is now. And here are five factors to consider ahead of Game 6

1. BACK TO BACK

The Oilers took a 3-2 series lead by winning back-to-back games for just the second time this post-season.

The first time came with their backs against the wall in Games 6 and 7 of their second-round series against the Vancouver Canucks to reach the Western Conference final.

Dallas, meanwhile, lost two in a row for the first time since opening the playoffs with losses in Games 1 and 2 to the Vegas Golden Knights.

This time, it’s the Stars with their backs against the wall as they have to win back-to-back games to reach the Stanley Cup Final.

2. NEWFOUND POWER

The Oilers opened the scoring with the first power-play goal of the series by either side. And five games in, no less.

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Ryan Nugent-Hopkins opened the scoring on the man-advantage, and then promptly followed up with another power-play goal, after Edmonton had gone 0-for-6 over the first four games and is now 2-for-9, while Dallas is 0-for-11.

But it wasn’t the first time a team  scored on special teams in the Western Conference final.

That one belonged to Edmonton’s penalty kill a game earlier, when Mattias Janmark scored shorthanded with what turned out to be the game winner in a 5-2 win to even the series.

3. OFFENCE, WITH A CAPITAL D

Having Connor McDavid on your team is one thing. As the Oilers captain goes, so too go the Oilers.

In Edmonton’s 11 playoff wins, he has scored three goals and 24 points with a plus-12 rating. And in the six losses, he has one goal, four assists and a minus-6 rating.

But on nights when the greatest player in the world isn’t quite up to snuff, the Oilers have a secret weapon in their offensive arsenal. The defence.

The Oilers have had a league-leading 46 points by their defence in these playoffs.

4. FOUR SCORE

With two goals Friday, Nugent Hopkins hit 20 points (six goals, 14 assists) in the playoffs, moving him back up into fourth overall in post-season scoring and giving the Oilers each of the top four spots on that list.

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Connor McDavid leads the way, assisting on Nugent-Hopkins’ opening goal for his 29th point (four goals, 25 assists) in 17 games, while Leon Draisaitl is second overall with 27 points (10 goals, 17 assists).

Evan Bouchard is third with 25 points (six goals, 19 assists). Not bad, for a defenceman …

Edmonton also has the leading goal scorer of the playoffs, Zach Hyman, in ninth place with 17 points (13 goals, four assists), before the Stars have three players in a four-way tie for 10th spot with 16 points: Wyatt Johnston (10 goals, six assists), Miro Heiskanen (six goals, 10 assists) and Jason Robertson (six goals, 10 assists).

5. GOING THE DISTANCE?

Don’t be surprised to see the best-of-7 series get taken to the limit.

The Stars have an excellent opportunity to win Game 6 at Rogers Place on Sunday (6 p.m., Sportsnet) precisely because of the fact they’ll be on the road.

While he’s played every game for them in the playoffs, Jake Oettinger is 4-6 with a 2.70 goals-against average and a save percentage of .890. On the road, however, he’s 6-2 with a 1.71 goals-against average and a .937 save percentage.

It’s too bad they finished atop the Western Conference and earned home-ice advantage. Though at this point, the Stars would have to win one on the road and one at home in either order.

E-mail: [email protected]

On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge

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