The last couple days of my life have been pretty special! First, I was able to attend my first NHL playoff game on Wednesday as the Oilers hosted the Sharks in the first-ever playoff action at Rogers Place. The atmosphere was something I will never forget; it was a real bucket-list moment. However, Edmonton had stage fright in Game 1. The team came out strong but then fell apart at the hands of the experienced San Jose team and managed a season-low 19 shots in the 3-2 loss.
In Game 2, my Oilers used what they learned from Game 1 and completely turned the tide. The Oilers set the physical tone right out of the gate, out-hitting San Jose 22-4. Zack Kassian played the game of his pro career and will go down as the hero who helped the Edmonton Oilers win the team’s first playoff game in 11 years. Kassian scored shorthanded 42 seconds into the second frame.
“[Kassian’s] got enough talent to put the puck in the back of the net,” Oilers center Mark Letestu said. “He’s always a physical presence, and he’s added the penalty-killing to his game,” he added. “There’s a lot of different ways that he can have an impact, and I think in every one of those areas, if he wasn’t our best player, he was pretty [darn] close.”
Kassian finished the night with a shorthanded goal, five shots and six hits. He was all over the ice.
Specialty teams can be the difference between winning and losing a playoff series. Connor McDavid scored the Oilers’ second shorthanded goal of the night midway through the third period. It marked his first career playoff goal.
“I can’t say enough good things about the penalty kill tonight,” Oilers netminder Cam Talbot said. “They did a heck of a job, and that’s what won us the game tonight, especially with two shorthanded goals.”
At the risk of stating the obvious, the Oilers cannot continue to give the San Jose Sharks five or six power-play opportunities a night. The power-play has been a sore spot for the Sharks all season. However, if these young Oilers can make such dramatic adjustments to win a huge playoff game, so can the playoff-savvy San Jose Sharks.
“We will continue to play physical, but it’s the two penalties after the whistle, the careless high stick that got us away from our game,” Oilers coach Todd McLellan said. “If we take care of that, we’ll be OK. You’re not going to win killing 12 minutes a night, no matter how good your penalty kill is. Eventually, they’re going to strike and they’ll strike often.”
There are still areas the Oilers need to improve. Nevertheless, it was an incredible turnaround and a really special moment to be a part of as a lifelong Oilers fan. Now I can look forward instead of back. The team has some confidence going now, and I can’t wait to see what unfolds next.
The Oilers visit San Jose for Game 3 on Sunday at 10:00 pm EST.
Lets Go Oilers!
Featured Image Credti: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports