Edmonton Oilers take control of Game 3, then fumble it all away

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On a night when the Oilers and Stars took turns kicking each other’s butts all over Rogers Place, it was Edmonton that wound up turning the other cheek.

Game 3 of the Western Conference Final was theirs to lose and the Oilers lost it, letting a 2-0 lead at the first intermission melt into a 5-3 defeat by the final buzzer.

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A game of dramatic momentum shifts that went from Oilers blowout to Oilers collapse to a third-period nail-biter slipped away for good on Jason Robertson’s hat-trick goal with eight minutes left in the third period.

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An empty-netter sealed the gut-punch victory and gives Dallas a 2-1 series lead.

“We had a really good start, obviously, and I’m not sure where those 10 or 15 minutes come from,” said Oilers captain Connor McDavid, who had a goal and an assist in a 2-0 first period. “But that’s as bad as we’ve been in the playoffs.

“We gave them a chance to get back in the game. And when we came back to tie it we just don’t find a way.”

Edmonton totally dominated the first period, Dallas scored three in a row in the second and with the game tied 3-3 in the third period Edmonton blinked first.

“Playoffs are about momentum swings and when you don’t have it you have to wrestle it back,” said McDavid. “We obviously didn’t do that for the better part of the second period.

“They went up a couple of levels and we went down a few levels and obviously you see the difference. You could definitely feel their urgency and desperation level go up and we just didn’t match it. We let one get away.”

For being such a good third-period team in the regular season, the Oilers are now 0-4 when the game is tied after two periods in the playoffs, including back-to-back losses in this series.

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“It was pretty similar to the third period of Game 2,” said McDavid. “Tight checking and they find a way to get one and we don’t. We were able to wrestle it back (to 3-3), but we just don’t find a way again.”

Winning a Game 3 might mean more than just a one-game lead in the series, too. When a best-of-seven is tied 1-1, the team that wins Game 3 goes on to win the series 66 per cent of the time. When that series is a conference final, the percentage jumps to 76.

Oilers Stars McDavid
The Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) scores on the Dallas Stars’ goalie Jake Oettinger (29) for the Oilers second goal during first period NHL playoff action at Rogers Place, in Edmonton Monday May 27, 2024. Photo by David Bloom Photo by David Bloom /David Bloom/Postmedia

Not a great winner

The winning Dallas goal wasn’t exactly a thing of beauty, with Robertson scoring from behind the net when he banked one home off of Oilers goalie Stuart Skinner.

“I thought he was going to shoot five-hole, so I went down, he got me to bite,” said Skinner. “He went around and banked it off me. I tried my best in the quickness of the situation but Robertson was able to make a ncie play. It’s something I have to save.”

Skinner also stopped a breakaway that would have made it 4-2 in the second period and made several other key saves on a night of mixed emotions all around.

“Obviously the fourth goal looks but overall I think I played a solid game,” he said. “But you just can’t be letting in four goals, especially against the Dallas Stars, with how good they are defensively. The main thing is I can’t be letting in that many goals.”

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Oilers Stars McDavid
The Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) celebrates a goal against the Dallas Stars during first period NHL playoff action at Rogers Place, in Edmonton Monday May 27, 2024. Photo by David Bloom Photo by David Bloom /David Bloom/Postmedia

Shooting stars

Edmonton had Dallas on the ropes after a first period in which they controlled them from start to finish (shot attempts were 29-9) but they let them off the ropes in the second. That’s the part that hurts the most.

Dallas destroyed Edmonton in the second period, outshooting them 15-0 by the midway mark and scoring three goals in 3:33 to take the lead. Two goals from Roberston against Edmonton’s first line and another from Wyatt Johnston turned the evening upside down.

“We let off the gas a little but and when they got rolling, they kept rolling,” said Skinner. “Once they got momentum we were just watching them kind of do their thing. We allowed them to do what they wanted for the majority of the second period.”

Oilers Stars Skinner
The Edmonton Oilers’ goalie Stuart Skinner (74) makes a save against the Dallas Stars during second period NHL playoff action at Rogers Place, in Edmonton Monday May 27, 2024. Photo by David Bloom Photo by David Bloom /David Bloom/Postmedia

All the right moves

With Henrique good to go after an injury in Game 2 against Vancouver, head coach Kris Knoblauch made the fairly obvious decision to swap him in for Ryan McLeod. 

Edmonton’s third line has become the InvisiLine, with zero goals to show for the entire playoffs and McLeod, in addition to generating just five assists in 26 playoff games over the last two years, hasn’t elevated the rest of his game to match the intensity of the postseason.

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Sure enough, in his first game back in the lineup Henrique went to the hard area and scored a massive goal 52 seconds before the second intermission to tie things up.

• The two points give McDavid 100 in 64 career playoff games, fourth on the NHL’s list behind Wayne Gretzky (46 games), Mario Lemieux (50) and Leon Draisaitl (60).

• Edmonton’s power play is in a rare and untimely slump. It failed to convert on a pair of minors to make it 0-for-5 in the series and 1-for-15 over the last six games.

• The Stars got Rope Hintz back after missing the first two games with an injury and he also made his presence felt, assisting on the two goals from Robertson.

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