CALGARY – The Edmonton Oilers would not be denied.
Not by another bad start. Not through a cascade of hard (stick) breaks or disallowed goals.
In Game 2 of the Oilers’ second-round Stanley Cup playoff series against Calgary on Friday, Edmonton earned the 5-3 win it took to level the Battle of Alberta before switching to its home ice. And they did it by playing the way coach Jay Woodcroft has been preaching for weeks.
“We had some things today that didn’t go according to our wishes. But I think it speaks to the resilience and determination of our group [that we came through],” said Woodcroft. “It’s something we’ve been working on for the last three months, the ability to stick with it.
“I think if you walked into our room you would find a group of men who were totally sure of our message, totally sure of our game plan, totally sure of what it takes to win at the crucial time . And we believe in it . We didn’t feel like we played at that level in Game 1. We had it better tonight.”
It wasn’t easy for Edmonton to get there.
The Oilers got off to a terrible start in 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 way for the Oilers, trailing 2-0 by just 6:02 in the first half. And after that, Edmonton were twice robbed of the goals they thought deserved.
The first time, Zach Hyman thought he’d equalized 2-2 under Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom before referee Chris Lee could kill the game.
The call on the ice was not a goal. Despite Hyman’s confidence – he even went on the bench for punches – the officials took another look and confirmed: no goal.
The NHL’s Situation Room later said that “the referee thought the game was dead when he lost sight of the puck under Jacob Markstrom.”
The Oilers were still 2-1 down. And a broken bat for Darnell Nurse in a subsequent penalty shootout in Edmonton helped Tyler Toffoli level Flames 3-1 early in the second.
Edmonton kept getting better. Immediately after that game, Connor McDavid – who had a dominant evening from start to finish – orchestrated a stunning setup for Leon Draisaitl to seemingly reduce the Flames’ lead to one. But Edmonton also saw that goal recalled, this time after a successful challenge from Calgary due to goaltender interference.
Undeterred, it took McDavid less than a minute from there to swing through Calgary’s defense and score himself. 3-2 flames.
When Evan Bouchard leveled the game with a power play goal late in the second second at 3-3, it felt like Edmonton was in complete control.
“We had taken back two goals and the bounces weren’t exactly going our way,” Hyman said. “But we stuck with it and fought. I think it’s a testament to our team. We had a rollercoaster season where we had our backs to the wall and our ability to push back was unmatched.”
And the next time Hyman scored, it would count. Edmonton killed a penalty late in the third when Hyman lit the lamp outnumbered in what would count as a game-winning marker for Edmonton.
Draisaitl added an insurance record to seal the win. He and McDavid combined for five points that night while Mike Smith recovered from a terrible Game 1 performance with 37 saves.
Now it’s a best-of-five series for the Oilers — and they have home field advantage.
“I thought we deserved to win the game tonight just by our hard work,” said Woodcroft. “I thought we paid the price required to win a game in the second round. Our level of competition was excellent, our level of execution on our own was very good. We found a way to score. Some of the goals we’ve given above were a bit victims of circumstance [things like] broken sticks. In the end I thought to a man, everyone was more competitive.”