CALGARY — The Edmonton Oilers would not be denied.
Not by another bad start. Not by a cascade of tough (stick) breaks or disallowed goals.
In Game 2 of the Oilers’ second-round Stanley Cup playoff series against Calgary on Friday, Edmonton got the 5-3 win it needed to even the Battle of Alberta before shifting to their home ice. And they did it by playing the way coach Jay Woodcroft has been preaching for weeks.
“We had some things not go our way today. But I think it speaks to the resilience and resolve of our group [that we came through],” said Woodcroft. “It’s something that we’ve been working on for the last three months, the ability to stick with it.
“I think if you walked in our room, you’d find a group of men that are wholly sure of our message, wholly sure of our game plan, wholly sure of what it takes to win come crunch time. And we have a belief . We didn’t feel that we played to that standard in Game 1. We had better tonight.”
It wasn’t easy for Edmonton to get there.
The Oilers endured a terrible start to Game 1, giving up three goals in just over six minutes en route to a 9-6 loss. Friday’s tilt started in an eerily similar fashion for the Oilers, trailing 2-0 only 6:02 into the first period. And after that, Edmonton was twice robbed of goals they felt were deserved.
On the first, Zach Hyman thought he stuffed a 2-2 equalizer under Flames’ netminder Jacob Markstrom before referee Chris Lee blew the play dead.
The call on the ice was no goal. Despite Hyman’s confidence — he even went to the bench for fist bumps — the officials took another look and confirmed: no goal.
Word from the NHL’s Situation Room after the fact was that “the Referee deemed the play dead when he lost sight of the puck under Jacob Markstrom.”
The Oilers were still down 2-1. And a broken stick for Darnell Nurse on an ensuing Edmonton penalty kill helped Tyler Toffoli make it 3-1 Flames early in the second.
Edmonton kept on coming. Right after that play, Connor McDavid — who had a dominating night from start to finish — orchestrated a stunning set-up for Leon Draisaitl to seemingly cut the Flames lead to one. But Edmonton saw that goal called back, too, this time after a successful challenge by Calgary for goaltender interference.
Undeterred, McDavid needed less than a minute from there to dangle through Calgary’s defense and score himself. 3-2 Flames.
By the time Evan Bouchard had tied the game 3-3 with a power play goal late in the second, it felt like Edmonton was in full control.
“We had two goals pulled back and the bounces didn’t necessarily go our way,” said Hyman. “But we stuck with it, and we battled. I think it’s a testament to our team. We’ve had a roller-coaster season where our backs were against the wall and our ability to push back has been second to none.”
And the next time Hyman scored, it would count. Edmonton was killing a penalty late in the third when Hyman reads the lamp shorthanded in what would stand as the game-winning marker for Edmonton.
Draisaitl added an insurance tally to seal the victory. He and McDavid combined for five points on the night, while Mike Smith rebounded from an awful Game 1 performance with a 37-save showing.
Now it’s a best-of-five series for the Oilers — and they have home ice advantage.
“I thought we deserved to win the game tonight based on hard effort alone,” said Woodcroft. “I thought we paid the price required to win a game in the second round. Our competition level was excellent, our execution level coming out of our own end was very good. We found a way to score. Some of the goals that we gave up were a little bit victim of circumstance to [things like] broken sticks. In the end I thought to a man, everyone was more competitive.”