Edmonton Oilers put boots to Vancouver Canucks to force Game 7

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You didn’t think the Edmonton Oilers were going to go away that easily, did you?

With their backs to the abyss and their playoff lives flashing before their eyes, the Oilers delivered a resounding show of force Saturday, reminding the Vancouver Canucks, and anyone else who doubted them, that they are a long way from dead.

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After struggling for offence the last three games, Edmonton broke out hard in Game 6, with Connor McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Evan Bouchard counting for three points each in a season-saving 5-1 triumph.

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“I thought the boys were ready from the start,” said winger Dylan Holloway, who opened the scoring on one of the nicest goals of the series. “We obviously knew what was at stake tonight. There were probably a bit of nerves, but once we kind of got settled in we played our game and rolled all four lines and never looked back.

“We felt we were the better team for most of the series, we just couldn’t capitalize on our chances.”

This time they did. After five one-goal games, this one was a rout.

“I thought we did a good job of getting in on the forecheck and holding on to pucks and playing in their zone, making them defend and making it hard for them to work up the ice,” said McDavid.

“I thought we played faster, we played cleaner, we were better with the puck, better coming through the neutral zone. We did a great job of getting on top of them on the forecheck and keeping pucks alive.”

So a series the Canucks had in their grasp after a dominating performance in Game 5 put them up 3-2 with a chance to close things out in Edmonton will now come down a 60-minute war of wills against an opponent that just showed what it’s capable of when it comes face-to-face with the executioner.

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Game 7 goes Monday in Vancouver.

“It’s nothing to be satisfied or excited about,” McDavid said of the Game 6 effort. “We just bought ourselves another day. I would expect the same level of urgency and desperation from our group and I would expect Vancouver to play a better game as well.

“I expect a highly competitive, great Game 7.”

Saturday night at Rogers Place was the Oilers at their best. They stayed tight defensively, were hard on the puck, outshot the Canucks 21-10 by the time the contest was out of reach and finally got to Vancouver goalie Arturs Silovs, striking a big psychological blow heading into Game 7.

“We capitalized, that’s the key,” said Hyman, who scored his playoff-leading 10th goal. “We’ve had looks all series but we beared down on our chances and made good on them. Y

ou have to get guys to the dirty areas and the blue paint and make it uncomfortable.“And t

he more looks you get, just by nature you’re going to score more and I think we did a good job of producing more looks tonight and then capitalizing.”

The first-period storm of desperation one might have expected from an Oilers team facing elimination never really came — Holloway scored on a great individual rush at 8:18 and the Canucks tied it when Nils Hoglander replied at 10:03. A 1-1 tie after 20 wasn’t a very good sign for a team fighting for its life on home ice.

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But the storm did come.

Edmonton came to life in the second period, outshooting Vancouver 14-5 and opening up a 3-1 lead on goals from Hyman and Bouchard.

“We’ve got off to some good stretches and then let them back into it in the series,” said Holloway. “Tonight we played a full 60. We got off to a hot start and got some goals and even when they came back to make it 1-1, we didn’t waver at all. We kept to our game.”

An early marker from Nugent-Hopkins and one from Evander Kane closed the deal and forced a deciding Game 7.

After Saturday night, the Oilers like their chances.

“I thought we responded pretty well tonight,” said defenceman Vincent Desharnais. “This group has been through lots of adversity throughout the season. Even though we have a lot of skill but we have hard workers and if we can match their compete level in Game 7 it will be a good one for us.”

NET RESULTS

With Edmonton’s life on the line in Game 6, head coach Kris Knobauch made the bold, if not curious, pre-game decision to start Stuart Skinner in goal ahead of Calvin Pickard.

So starting somebody who they hope had found his game over somebody who’s been excellent is a call that could have easily backfired, but Skinner is the guy they’ve invested their future in and he has shown an ability to rebound after a bad stretch, so they decided to live or die with their No.1 goalie.

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And he didn’t let them down. Skinner didn’t face a lot of shots but made all the saves he needed to.

Every save he made he made it look pretty easy,”  said Desharnais. “He didn’t have that many shots, but there were some Grade A’s and some screened shots. I’m not surprised the way he played tonight. He proved tonight that we can trust him.”

SPECIAL TIMES

The Oilers got some clutch penalty killing in the first period after Draisaitl and McDavid took minors and also closed out an extended five-on-three power play late in the second and early in the third to preserve a two-goal lead.

“I thought our penalty kill was outstanding again, keeping momentum on our side,” said Hyman. “If they score a goal there, things are a little different obviously. It’s 3-1 and we get a huge 5-on-3 kill to start the third and we go out and score the next one and that’s the dagger obviously.”

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