Oilers notebook: Holloway channels McDavid to put Canucks on their heels

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Playoff hockey is about the small, dirty moments. As Vancouver Canucks coach Rick Tocchet so graphically put it after Game 6 Saturday: “If you have to eat the puck to get the puck out along the boards, you do it.”

But the games are also for big, highlight reel stuff, like what Dylan Holloway offered up in the eighth minute. A bolt up ice like No. 97 has done so often, and a dazzling finish. Kind of McDavid-esque.

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“I don’t know if I’d compare myself to Connor,” laughed the Edmonton Oiler winger, who maybe didn’t go coast-to-coast like McDavid often does, but still delivered a province-to-province wow statement in which he eluded Vancouver’s best defenceman Quinn Hughes, then tucked the puck through the legs of goalie Arturs Silovs.

It wasn’t like Connor going one-on-five with a thousand shimmy-shakes and scoring that incredible goal against the New York Rangers a few years back. But Holloway’s effort got the

Oilers ahead in the elimination game

, and calmed some early nerves. He had two goals against Los Angeles in a Game 2 loss in the first series — a coming-out moment — but this was a big-bang goal.

He did his best to stay humble as he replayed it, trying not to smile.

“I think they were kind of cheating, thinking Leo (Draisaitl) was going to pick up the puck and he did (at first),” said Holloway. “I was able to gain some speed and Leo made a nice play to me. I kind of caught their D flat-footed. I was happy for that one to go in, it felt pretty good.”

More than pretty good.

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“What an unbelievable individual effort from a guy who came up, really for the playoffs,” said Zach Hyman. “He’s had big moments here, but that was a huge goal to get us up, to settle the team down.”

At the trade deadline when Holloway was sent down to Bakersfield as the Oilers added Adam Henrique and Sam Carrick, it was Evander Kane trying to settle down the hugely disappointed young player after the demotion.

“If you had told me when I got sent down that I would be where I am at right now … I wouldn’t have believed you,” said Holloway. “Kaner told me to keep my head up high and learn as much as I could (in Bakersfield) and that he would see me soon. In a sense, I guess he was right. It is pretty cool playing on his line, with Leo.”

“I’ve been on Dylan for two or three days, saying he’s going to score, that it’s right there, keep shooting, he’s so talented. But I’m not going to lie, I didn’t think it would be that nice a goal,” said Oiler defenceman Vincent Desharnais.

Reaching the century mark

Draisaitl, who has a point in all 11 Oiler playoff games, had two assists in Game 6. That included a clean faceoff win over J.T. Miller right to Evander Kane in the third period, to give him exactly 100 points in his first 60 playoff games. Draisaitl, with 23 points in 11 games this post-season, is the third fastest to get to 100 behind Wayne Gretzky (46 games) and Mario Lemieux (50).

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“He’s always been good in the playoffs from day one. He’s always been one of the best players in the world and on many nights he is the best player,” said Connor McDavid, who has 96 career playoff points in 60 games.

Corey Perry
Corey Perry takes part in an Edmonton Oilers on Jan. 22, 2024. Photo by Shaughn Butts /Shaughn Butts

Bearer of bad news

Corey Perry has played 206 playoff games (two behind Wayne Gretzky and Jaromir Jagr) but he drew the short straw Saturday as coach Kris Knoblauch put Derek Ryan in Perry’s spot on the third line and Sam Carrick played fourth-line centre.

How tough was that on Knoblauch to tell a possible hall of famer he was out, even if Perry hadn’t recorded a point in the previous 10 playoff games?

“Very difficult, especially with what he provides to our team,” said Knoblauch. “Not just on the ice but helping the rest of the team, whether it’s with composure, motivating, the intangibles. All the things that don’t show up on the scoresheet. Corey brings a lot of that. But we needed to try and do something different, adding something that Sam was able to do.”

Perry’s effectiveness has been hamstrung to a degree because he has no real cycling-the-puck line partner, so he can’t do what he does best, plus he is getting no power play time.

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Carrick played 10:29, had six hits and won seven of 12 draws. He also got into it with Nikita Zadorov with the six-foot-six defenceman drawing a holding penalty, knocking Carrick’s helmet askew. Zadorov remains a character. He walked into Rogers Place before the game wearing shades as an accessory to his spiffy suit.

“I loved Sammy’s game,” said Knoblauch. “It’s been tough keeping him out as long as I had, but the fourth line had been playing so well with Janmark, DR (Derek Ryan) and (Connor) Brown. We trusted them in a lot of key (penalty killing) situations. But Sammy moved right in, with no problem, and the other thing he did was win faceoffs (58 per cent).”

Kris Knoblauch
Edmonton Oilers head coach Kris Knoblauch in a file photo from Nov. 13, 2023. Photo by Jason Franson /The Canadian Press, file

No thought of coach’s challenge?

Referee Garrett Rank, one of the world’s best amateur golfers — and once on Canada’s national team with PGA winners Corey Connors, MacKenzie Hughes and Taylor Pendrith — waved off a last-second goal by Evan Bouchard in the first period. The cancer survivor ruled that McDavid had interfered with Silovs even though Teddy Blueger also shoved the Oiler captain.

Knoblauch looked at the video replay with the game tied 1-1 and decided to let it go.

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“I saw last night’s goal that was called off (Dallas’ Matt Duchene was called for a highly-debatable interference on Colorado goalie Alexandar Georgiev) and I knew there was no chance they would overturn this one,” said Knoblauch.

This ‘n that

: While Stu Skinner only had 15 shots on the night, his fantastic blocker stop through heavy traffic on Quinn Hughes on the Canucks’ 5-on-3 late in the second was a life-saver with Oilers up 3-1. While Thatcher Demko (lower body injury) has been taking shots in practice, there will be no ride-in-on-a-white horse start in Game 7, according to Tocchet. It’s Silovs all the way. … Hughes continues to play huge minutes (26:12 in Game 6) but the 175-pound likely Norris trophy winner has been pounded physically throughout the playoffs. In this series, despite the CanucksNation howls from the West Coast, he’s being outplayed by Evan Bouchard, but for the Bouchard giveaway that Phil DiGiuseppe scored on in Game 5. Bouchard has outscored Hughes 4-0, is ahead 9-4 in points and is plus-7 while Hughes is plus-1 in the first six games.

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