McDavid scores in OT, Oilers down Flames to win Battle of Alberta and advance to WCF
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CALGARY – Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl dominated the first playoff Battle of Alberta in 31 years.
It was fitting Edmonton’s dynamic duo combined to end it.
McDavid scored off a slick Draisaitl setup at 5:03 of overtime Thursday as the Oilers defeated the Calgary Flames 5-4 to win their second-round series 4-1.
“Hard to put into words what that one meant to me,” McDavid said. “The guys did a great job of hanging in there all night. Definitely wasn’t our best effort, but we stuck in there. Got great performances from a bunch of different guys.
“Just happy to contribute on a night where I maybe didn’t have my best.”
Edmonton’s captain fired his seventh goal of the post-season past Jacob Markstrom and off the post to spark a wild celebration as the Oilers moved onto the Western Conference final for the first time since 2006.
McDavid grabbed hold of Edmonton’s first-round series against the Los Angeles Kings with the Oilers down 3-2, and raised the bar even higher against Calgary.
“He’s everything to us,” Draisaitl said. “He’s our leader, he’s our go-to guy, he’s the guy that everyone looks up to when you need him. He’s done it all season, he’s done it all his career. He’s been amazing for us. Eventually you run out of words.”
“I just tried to get my legs going,” McDavid said of the winner. “They weren’t moving all that well all night — just trying to focus on skating and got in on the forecheck and got the puck to Leo.
“Usually when the puck goes to Leo something good’s gonna happen.”
That was certainly the case in a series where Draisaitl finished with 17 points (two goals, 15 assists) in five games while dealing with what’s believed to be a lower-body injury suffered late in the opening round.
“He was amazing,” McDavid said of his linemate. “Dominated from start to finish.”
McDavid, who had two goals and 10 assists against Calgary, and Draisaitl both have 26 points through 12 post-season games this spring — the sixth and seventh times in NHL history a player has reached that level.
“With what Connor’s done, Leon’s performance has gone under the radar a little bit,” said Oilers interim head coach Jay Woodcroft, who replaced the fired Dave Tippett on Feb. 10 and now has Edmonton eight wins from the Stanley Cup. “He’s the best passer in the National Hockey League — the best passer in the world. And the amount of plays that he makes for our team is unbelievable. To do that with what he’s going through, he’s an absolute warrior.
“When I walked into that room (in) February, I was bullish on our players because I saw a sincere desire to win. Not just the desire to win, but I saw people willing to pay the price to win.”
Zach Hyman, with a goal and two assists, Darnell Nurse, Jesse Puljujarvi and Evan Bouchard also scored for the Oilers. Mike Smith made 32 saves.
Draisaitl added four assists — his fifth straight contest registering three-plus points to build on the NHL playoff record he set in Game 4.
The Oilers will face either the Colorado Avalanche or St. Louis Blues in the third round. Colorado leads that series 3-2, with Game 6 set for Friday in St. Louis.
Mikael Backlund, with a goal and an assist, Johnny Gaudreau, Calle Jarnkrok and Andrew Mangiapane replied for Calgary. Blake Coleman chipped in with two assists, while Markstrom made 30 saves.
The Flames won a wild Game 1 by a 9-6 scoreline, but were unable to ever really find another level after topping the Pacific Division in the regular season.
“The series was about Games 2, Games 4 and Games 5 … they were all tied in the third period halfway through,” Calgary head coach Darryl Sutter said.
“Edmonton scored the big goal.”
Coleman, who won the Cup the last two seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning, appeared to snap a 4-4 tie with just under six minutes left in regulation when Backlund took the puck hard to Edmonton’s net. But the goal was waved off following a video review after it was ruled the winger kicked the puck over Smith’s goal line as he battled with Oilers defenceman Cody Ceci.
“I don’t think I understand the rule,” Coleman said. “My understanding is you can direct the puck, but you just can’t kick it. I didn’t feel that I kicked it.
“Unfortunate that was such a big part of the game and happened to influence the way it all went down.”
With his team trailing 1-0 after a tentative first period, Woodcroft replaced Evander Kane with Hyman on the top line alongside Draisaitl and McDavid early in the second, and it nearly paid off on a couple of good opportunities.
But the Flames, who bested the Oilers by seven points in the regular-season standings, went up 2-0 at 5:41 when Backlund scored his fifth on a deflection.
The Oilers got on the board at 7:40 after Draisaitl found Nurse in the slot for him to fire his second past a screened Markstrom.
Edmonton tied it up just 2:26 later on a 3-on-1 rush when the Calgary goaltender, who was shaky most of the series, could only get a piece of Hyman’s shot before Puljujarvi swept home his second as the Oilers erased another multi-goal deficit on the road.
The offensive floodgates then really opened over a wild stretch that would see four pucks find the back of the net in 71 seconds.
Hyman scored his sixth goal of the series, and eighth of the post-season, on a power play at 14:57 before Gaudreau tied things again at 15:12 with his third.
Jarnkrok then scored his first as a member of the Flames since coming over in a trade with the Seattle Kraken at 15:28 to make it 4-3.
But the Oilers responded again at 16:08 when Bouchard’s blast beat Markstrom for his second as the teams set an NHL record for the fastest four goals in playoff history — 22 seconds short of the previous mark set by the Philadelphia Flyers and Toronto Maple Leafs in 1976.
“It was crazy,” said Draisaitl. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Following a tepid start for both teams inside a nervous Scotiabank Saddledome, the Flames nudged in front at 10:13 of the first when Mangiapane took a terrific pass from Coleman to bury his third.
The winger’s first point of the series gave his team its first lead since late in the second period of Game 2 — a stretch of exactly 155 minutes — that started a run of three straight losses to push Calgary to the brink of elimination.
And after a wild second period and McDavid’s heroics, the Oilers now are moving onto the third round for the first time in a generation.
“To do this against your arch rival and close them out in their building in the fashion that we did, we will enjoy it,” Woodcroft said. “We’re going to rest up and recuperate.
“Whoever comes out of that other series is going to be a really good opponent.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2022.
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