Edmonton Oilers send Dallas Stars a loud and clear message in Game 1

Article content

First blood in the Western Conference Final is green.

The Edmonton Oilers opened the third round of the playoffs by making it perfectly clear that this isn’t going to be the kind of Dallas romp that most experts predicted, taking down the Central Division champions 3-2 in double overtime.

Article content

The Oilers said from the start they’re good enough to win this thing, now they’ve proven it after Connor McDavid’s game winner 32 seconds into the second extra period.

Advertisement 2

Article content

“You have to win tight games,” said McDavid. “We’re down to the final four teams and you don’t get to the final four without being a great team. Dallas is a great team and it’s going to be tight hockey. We’re comfortable in these games and this environment.

“I thought we played really well all game.”

After leaving his team short-handed for four minutes at the start of the first overtime and then missing a golden chance to win it late, McDavid put his stamp on the night with the clincher.

“He had a good look in the first overtime to get it done and it’s been my experience here that he doesn’t get denied twice,” said Oilers defenceman Mattias Ekholm. “It didn’t really matter who go it tonight, the important thing was somebody got it. It was Connor and I’m not shocked that it was him.”

Game 1 was classic Edmonton-Dallas and came down one shot in a series opener with virtually nothing separating the two best teams in the conference.

The Oilers were a profile in resilience, surviving a slow first period, a late Dallas comeback and a potentially catastrophic double-minor penalty in overtime to take a 1-0 series lead on a night when the Stars had five power plays to Edmonton’s one

Article content

Advertisement 3

Article content

“We’ve talked throughout the season about how mature and responsible they are, how they handle adversity, no matter what happens,” said head coach Kris Knoblauch. “We just move on and get ready for the next shift. (Late tying goals) those can be hard on a team, hard to regroup from.

“But I didn’t see any deflation from our guys, they just stuck with it.”

PK HEROICS

McDavid’s stick is usually the reason the Oilers win games, but it almost cost them on Thursday.

The Oilers captain took a double-minor 17 seconds into overtime for high-sticking Matt Duchene on the faceoff, putting Edmonton on the defensive for four agonizing minutes.

“Long. Really long. Really, really long,” McDavid said of his stint in the Dallas sin bin. “Miserable. I hated every second of it.”

But the Oilers penalty killers turned in a heroic performance to save the game.

“The penalty kill has just been amazing,” said McDavid. “To step in there for four minutes against a good power play, you can’t give those guys enough credit.”

Edmonton’s penalty killing remains a highlight of their playoff run. Two kills in the first period, another in the second and then four minutes in OT gives them 19-straight kills over the last five games.

Advertisement 4

Article content

“Our guys knew what had to be done,” said Knoblauch. “It’s almost like our (penalty killers) were excited to get out there, like ‘We have a job to do and we’re going to go do it.’”

GOOD SIGNS

The concerns about the Oilers heading into this series — depth and goaltending — both held up in nicely in Game 1. Edmonton’s third and fourth lines generated momentum, Stuart Skinner held up his end of the bargain against Dallas goalie Jake Oettinger and from there Edmonton’s top players showed they could once again be counted on in the playoffs.

But after Leon Draisaitl and Zach Hyman made it 2-0 Edmonton in the second period, the Stars showed some mettle of their own coming back to tie it on a pair of goals from Tyler Seguin, the second one coming with 3:23 left in the third period, to force overtime.

Draisaitl’s goal extended his playoff points streak to 13 games, tying Mark Messier and Bobby Orr for the third-longest post-season run in NHL history.

REVENGE SERVED COLD

It took 27 years, but the Stars finally got a little payback for Curtis Joseph’s epic overtime save on Joe Nieuwendyk in the 1997 playoffs. McDavid was in pretty much the same spot Nieuwendyk was, with time and space and the game on his stick. But Oettinger, with some help from defenceman Chris Tanev, got a paddle on it. In the end, Edmonton still won, but it was a heck of a stop.

“I just have to put it in the net, it’s as simple as that,” said McDavid. “It should have been in the net. I’m glad we were able to get the win or I would have had a tough time sleeping.”

E-mail: [email protected]

Article content