Canucks push lacklustre Edmonton Oilers to brink of elimination

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There goes the last of the breathing room.

One more misstep, one more extended lull like they served up in a crucial Game 5 loss, and the Edmonton Oilers are done.

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In a cruel reversal of what happened in Game 4, when Evan Bouchard scored the game winner with 38.1 seconds left in regulation, Vancouver’s J.T Miller turned the tables Thursday in Game 5, shaking off Connor McDavid in front of the Edmonton net and scoring the back-breaker with 32.6 to play.

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“They get a bounce (off the post) and they probably deserved a bounce, I thought they were the better team,” said McDavid. “We got off to a great start, generating chances and power plays but we didn’t capitalize well enough in the first period.

“Then, after the first period, I thought they were the better team over the last 40 minutes. We couldn’t find a way to generate much, even on the power play.”

And now the Oilers, who were on their heels for most of this 3-2 defeat, are trailing 3-2 in the best-of-seven and in serious trouble. In a series where neither side has been able to win two games in a row, the Oilers will have to do it now.

Or never.

“We just have to go home, win a game and go from there,” said Oilers winger Zach Hyman. “We can be better.”

They HAVE to be a lot better.

For the first time since Game 1, Vancouver was the better team, and by a considerable margin, for most of the night. They outshot Edmonton 35-23 (including 17-4 in the second period) and made it clear from the midway mark of this one that they were not going to be denied.

“I thought we deserved to win the game today,” said Miller. “Once we got our legs under us in the first we really played well. The second period was our best period at home in a while. I thought we carried that into the third and it was just a matter of time.”

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With Rogers Arena echoing with sympathy chants of ‘Let’s Go Petey,’ as Canucks fans pleaded with an underachieving Elias Pettersson to do something, he finally did.

His assist on the game-winning goal brought down the house, and might have just brought down the Oilers.

This one could have gone a different way considering how Edmonton started, but in a all-too-familiar theme the Oilers didn’t bear down around the net and let too many chances slip through their fingers. They had a 2-1 lead in the first period and three power plays with which to extend their lead, but couldn’t pull away.

“We had a lot of opportunities in the first period to put the game away, whether it was on the power play or chances five-on-five and we just couldn’t get an additional goal to put them away,” said head coach Kris Knoblauch. “We let them hang around and hang around.”

Calvin Pickard had a brilliant night in goal, keeping the Oilers in a game they had no business being in and giving them a chance to steal a 3-2 series lead.

But they never took it.

It was another quiet night from McDavid, who was held without a point for the second time in the series. He has one assist in the last three games.

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PAN ADVANTAGE

Edmonton went five-for-10 on the power play in the first four games of the series but wasn’t ready for Vancouver’s pressure kill in Game 5. The Oilers went zero-for-five on the man advantage in the first two periods.

Five-on-four production has been Edmonton’s life blood for years but it let them down when they needed it most.

“We did some good things out there but we weren’t good enough, obviously,” said Hyman. “We didn’t generate as much as we usually do.”

On the special teams bright side, Edmonton’s penalty killing was four-for-four.

FOURTH AND GOAL

The depth scoring Edmonton has been looking for reared up late in the first period when the fourth line — Connor Brown setting up Mattias Janmark on a two-on-one — to kill the buzz in Rogers Arena just 23 seconds after Vancouver tied it 1-1.

GIVING THEM LIFE

Evan Bouchard giveth and Evan Bouchard taketh away.

The clutch and gifted defenceman scored the winning goals in Games 2 and 4 but turned the momentum Vancouver’s way in the second period when his behind-the-net turnover gave the Canucks an easy one to tie it 2-2.

Vancouver used that goal like a shot of adrenalin and went on a rampage, outshooting Edmonton 17-4 in the middle frame, even though the Canucks spent four minutes short-handed.

The Oilers were lucky to make it to the second intermission with a 2-2 tie, thanks to another excellent period from Pickard.

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