Bring on the Stars: Edmonton Oilers KO Canucks in Game 7 triumph

Article content

It was a Game 7 that left both teams seeing stars.

The Vancouver Canucks because they got knocked out and the Edmonton Oilers because they’ll be taking on Dallas in the next round.

Article content

In a series-clinching showdown in Vancouver, the Oilers won the unofficial Canadian championship and punched their ticket to a second Western Conference Final in three years by taking out the upstart Canucks in an unnecessarily close 3-2 finale.

Advertisement 2

Article content

Hockey fans hoping for some white-knuckle drama in the deciding game didn’t get much of it until the waning moments when Ryan McLeod horrendous third-period gaffe gave the dead and buried Canucks life.

Up until that point the game wasn’t even close as Edmonton grabbed the contest by the throat from the opening faceoff and never let go.

They outshot Vancouver 13-2 in the first period, outscored them 3-0 in the second period and were eight and a half minutes from cruising to the win.

Then McLeod, who doesn’t have a point in the playoffs, almost turned the tide when turned the puck over on a soft play in front of his net to cut Edmonton’s lead to 3-1 and ignite the crowd in Vancouver.

Sure enough, Vancouver rode the momentum and made it 3-2 on Flip Hronek’s goal with 4:36 to play.

Suddenly the whitewash turned into a wild finish, but Edmonton’s poise won the day. Even with Vancouver’s biggest and most desperate push of the series, they only managed five shots in the third period.

“We know how to make it stressful,” said Oilers captain Connor McDavid. “We kind of gave one away there to make it interesting and it gets a little chaotic from there, you can expect that.

Article content

Advertisement 3

Article content

“We knew it was going to be a tight game. I don’t think anyone came in here thinking it was going to be a cake walk. It was tight and I thought we did a great job of responding. It was a great time out by Kris to settle everyone down and from there on out it was a really solid rest of the period.”

Credit the Canucks, they’re a scrappy little team that kept the series going for longer than most people expected, but the separation was evident for most of the series. They were outshot 106-58 in Games 2, 3 and 4, outscored 5-1 in Game 6 and were being outshot 23-4 midway through Game 7.

It was too close for comfort at times, but Edmonton wasn’t going to be denied.

“They’re a good team and if you give them any life they’re going to push,” said forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. “I thought we did a good job staying composed, not imploding and having each other’s backs.

“It’s never going to be easy in a Game 7 against good hockey team but we found a way.”

Oilers Canucks McDavid
Connor McDavid 97 of the Edmonton Oilers skates against Teddy Blueger 53 of the Vancouver Canucks during the second period in Game Seven of the Second Round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Arena on May 20, 2024, in Vancouver, British Columbia. Photo by Derek Cain /Getty Images

Dallas bound

For the Oilers, the road gets considerably tougher from here on in. They’ll have a short turnaround before opening the Western Conference Final against a powerhouse Dallas team that has already taken down the Vegas Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche in six games each.

Advertisement 4

Article content

Edmonton and Dallas met three times this season with each side posting a 4-3 decision and the Stars whipping the Oilers 5-0 in the last meeting on April 3.

“They’re a great team, it’s the conference finals, you’re going to play a great team,” said McDavid. “They’re as deep a team as you’re going to find in the NHL. Four lines, six D men and they have a great goaltender. It will be a great test but we’re looking forward to it.”

Surrender

In a continuation of their bizarre pre-game ritual celebrating the year they got swept in the Final and complained about the officiating, Vancouver had somebody skate out in a Canucks jersey and wave a white towel. They carried the surrender theme into a first period where they were outshot 13-2.

But the first period was a microcosm of the series. Edmonton controlled the play and had the vast majority of chances but couldn’t put a dent in Vancouver goalie Arturs Silovs.

Oilers Canucks Ceci
Cody Ceci of the Edmonton Oilers celebrates with teammates after his goal during the second period in Game Seven of the Second Round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Arena on May 20, 2024, in Vancouver, British Columbia. Photo by Derek Cain /Getty Images

Worm turns

Vancouver’s luck ran out in the second period, though. Cody Ceci drew first blood (with the shots 14-2) at 1:16 and Zach Hyman tipped Evan Bouchard’s point shot home at 5:50 to make it 2-0.

Advertisement 5

Article content

A power play marker from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins at 15:22 gave Edmonton its first goal on the man advantage since Game 3 and gave the Oilers a three-goal cushion at the second intermission.

Nugent-Hopkins caught fire offensively in this series, counting for 10 points in the seven games, including a goal and an assist in the clincher.

Killing it

Edmonton’s penalty killing has been sensational in the playoffs and was again in Game 7. It outshot Vancouver 1-0 with Ryan McLeod serving a double-minor for high sticking late in the first period, with the only scoring chance of the Canucks power play coming when Edmonton’s Connor Brown had a breakaway.

With the Canucks running out of time in the third period, Edmonton killed off another one on the third to make it 14-straight kills since Game 3.

“It’s something that we take so much pride in all season and this is why,” said Nugent-Hopkins. “It can be a difference maker and we’re proud that it was tonight.”

Ouch

With the Oilers up 3-0 in the third period, Vancouver fans added insult to injury by breaking into a chant of “Let’s Go Petey” in an effort to wake Elias Pettersson from his month-long playoff slumber. It’s all kinds of cringe-worthy when the future of the franchise, a guy who just signed an eight-year extension that will pay him $11.6 million a year, has to be urged on with sympathy cheers like the slowest kid in a Grade 3 gym class.

E-mail: 

[email protected]

Article content