Player grades: Edmonton Oilers win brain game to beat Dallas Stars 3-1, out-thinking and out-playing

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The Edmonton Oilers out-battled, out-played and out-thought the Dallas Stars, winning the brain game on top of everything else in a 3-1 Game 5 win.

Edmonton is now up three games to two in the Western Conference final.

The Oilers play was marked by smart line and d-man combos, smart checking, smart penalty kill tactics, smart and confident goaltending and one moment of brilliance on a power play break-out leading to Edmonton’s second goal.

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In total the Grade A shots were eight for Edmonton, eight for Dallas, with the subset of more dangerous 5-alarm shots one for the Oilers, seven for the Stars.

Cult of Hockey game grades player grades

Connor McDavid, 7. Huge effort on defence in this one, making all the right plays in his own end. He charged in for a Grade A shot early in the second, with RNH almost cashing in on the rebound. He won 10 out of 12 face-offs.  Contributions to Grade A Shots (GAS): Even Strength +2/-0; Special Teams +2/-0

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 9. Edmonton’s best player in this one. He played with incredible hustle and sharp execution. He won all kinds of key battles. He went to the net to slam in Bouchard’s rebound off Chris Tanev for the game’s first goal. He executed a perfect shot from the upper slot on Edmonton’s second power play goal, putting it over Jake Oettinger’s pad, off the post and in. GAS: ES +1/-0; ST +2/-1

Zach Hyman, 7. Another good game. Threw a solid hit early on, knocking down Sam Steele. Charged in for a Grade A power play shot half-way through the second. GAS: ES +1/-0; ST +2/-0

Leon Draisaitl, 6. Relatively quiet in this one. Great backhand pass to set up RNH’s second goal. He made a solid defensive stop in the slot early in the third. He and Nurse combined to permit a wicked slot shot from Logan Stankhoven early in the third. GAS: ES +1/-3; ST +1/-0

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Ryan McLeod, 5. Solid backcheck early on to thwart Duchene. But he and McLeod were slow to the danger man Tyler Seguin on the first 5-alarm opportunity for Dallas, which Kulak blocked in the crease. Perry set him up a moment later for a brilliant chance, but McLeod missed the net. GAS: ES +0/-0; ST +0/-0

Corey Perry, 5. Not much to report. He took a wicked hit from Pavelski in the first and left the ice hurting. He came back early in the second. He passed up on a 2-on-1 shot to pass to nobody in the third. GAS: ES +0/-0; ST +0/-0

Adam Henrique, 5. Solid positional game. He tapped the puck back to Broberg on Edmonton’s third goal. GAS: ES +1/-0; ST +0/-1

Dylan Holloway, 4. A number of critical defensive mistakes and/or lost battles. He threw a hard hit early in the second. But he turned over the puck, then forgot his check on Duchene early in the third, leading to a 5-alarm break-in, the rare hideous mental error by the Oilers in this game. Next he allowed the outside shot on Johnston’s goal. But he did make a late, great shot block. GAS: ES +0/-3; ST +0/-0

Evander Kane, 7. He helped out big time in unexpected ways. His fierce forecheck led to Edmonton’s first Grade A shot, then smashed big Benn with a hit.  His excellent backcheck in the crease on Benn prevented a 5-alarm shot in the first. He won the face-off leading up to Edmonton’s third goal. GAS: ES +2/-0; ST +0/-0

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Sam Carrick, 5. Did just fine in 6:17 of ice. He threw a hard hit early in the third. GAS: ES +0/-0; ST +0/-0

Connor Brown, 6. Solid game up and down his wing. GAS: ES +0/-0; ST +0/-1

Mattias Janmark, 6. Same as Brown, solid all game. GAS: ES +0/-0; ST +0/-0

Evan Bouchard, 9. Two assists, both crucial ones. Another brilliant mistake, though one big mistake. Moving the puck like he’s intent on making the next Team Canada, if not win the Conn Smythe. He hammered his slapper on net on Edmonton’s first period power play and RNH slotted in the rebound. He nailed a long bomb pass to set up Edmonton’s second goal. Was the zone-entry on that goal a planned play? Wiht Dallas forechecking up-ice so aggressively on the PK, did the Oilers decide to throw the long bomb and get a 3-on-2? If so, brilliant coaching and execution. His weak clearance led to a 5-alarm shot by Steel half-way through the third. GAS: ES +1/-1; ST +2/-0

Mattias Ekholm, 7.  Yet another solid game. He made a great sliding block on the Dallas PP late in the second. He kept a clean sheet, not one major mistake on a Grade A shot against at even strength. GAS: ES +0/-0; ST +0/-1

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Darnell Nurse, 6. He’s looked like a new and much better player since coach Kris Knoblauch paired him with a puckmover (Kulak) as opposed to a defensive specialist (Desharnais or Ceci). Active all game, much of it good, some bad. He got deked out by Pavelski in the slot early oh but the Stars forward missed the net. Missed the net on a slot shot a moment later, Edmonton’s second missed golden opportunity of the game. He blasted Dellandrea with a nasty hit late in the second. Beat behind the net early in the third on Stankhoven’s wicked shot. GAS: ES +1/-4; ST +0/-1

Brett Kulak 7. Such a fine playoff performer. He moved in to drill Edmonton’s first Grade A shot on net six minutes in. He blocked a scary slot opportunity by Seguin early on. he and his partner Nurse each blocked five shots to lead the team. GAS: ES +1/-1; ST +0/-0

Cody Ceci, 7. Numerous solid defensive plays. He shut down a threat by smothering Joe Pavelski in the crease early on. He did a great job cutting out a slot pass on Dallas’ first period penalty kill. GAS: ES +0/-1; ST +0/-0

Philip Broberg, 7. I figured to beat a hard forechecking Dallas team that Edmonton would have to go to Broberg, as mobility and passing skill would be needed, and I said so on several podcasts. No surprise to see him doing well, given his great play in Bakersfield. He pounded a slot slapper wide, Edmonton’s third such missed slot opportunity. But he ripped in an outside shot through a Dallas screen for Edmonton’s third goal. He followed up with some good defensive plays, including cutting out a slot pass to Johnston. Best of all he kept a clean sheet. GAS: ES +1/-0; ST +0/-0

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Stuart Skinner, 9. He out-duelled Oettinger in this one. He came up huge when he was needed most in the second half of the game. He was sharp early early on but got a lot of help in the crease from his d-men. Had little action in the first two periods (just four Grade A shots), but massive stop on Seguin’s late second period slot tip on the PP, then a second on Wyatt Johnston’s slot snipe, key moments in Edmonton’s 25th consecutive successful penalty kill. Stupendous stop on Stankhoven in tight early in the third. Did it again a moment later thwarting Duchene’s break-in and yet again on Steel’s slot one-timer. He got beat — finally — on an insanely brilliant tip by Johnston.

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