Ducks must face their demons in another Game 7
EDMONTON – The Edmonton Oilers are forcing the Anaheim Ducks to face their Game 7 playoff demons.
Their Western Conference semifinal is going the distance after Edmonton’s decisive 7-1 victory Sunday.
The winner of Wednesday’s Game 7 in Anaheim meets the Nashville Predators in the conference final.
The Ducks have lost a Game 7 in their own building each of the last four years.
“The big test is coming up,” Oilers coach Todd McLellan said. “We’re going to have to park this one quickly and get ready for a big battle down there.”
Leon Draisaitl led the Oilers with a hat trick and Mark Letestu scored twice Sunday. Edmonton also got goals from Zack Kassian and Anton Slepychev in front a euphoric wall of orange at Rogers Place.
Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot turned away 34-of-35 shots for the win.
“Obviously the season was on the line and we all had to step it up a notch and the whole group did,” Draisaitl said.
Edmonton sprinted to a six-goal lead by the first minute of the second period before the Ducks countered with a lone goal from Rickard Rakell.
“For us to come out in the second period and get that sixth goal, that was big,” Letestu said.
“It showed we weren’t going to get back on our heels and possibly let them get back into the hockey game.”
The Oilers scoring three goals on their first six shots prompted Anaheim to replace John Gibson with Jonathan Bernier, who stopped 24of-29 shots in relief.
Anaheim is under pressure to reverse a playoff trend.
The Ducks were eliminated in the first rounds of 2016 (Nashville) and 2013 (Detroit), the second round of 2014 (Los Angeles) and the third round of 2015 (Chicago) in seventh games at the Honda Center.
What’s more, the Ducks led each of those series 3-2 before back-toback losses ended their seasons.
“Half of the guys in here haven’t been here for that stuff,” Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf said.
“We’re going back with the preparation to be ready for a big game. It doesn’t really matter what the situation is. It is still win or go home.”
The Oilers won twice in Anaheim to open this series and narrowly lost Game 5 there in double overtime.
Edmonton’s last Game 7 was the 2006 Stanley Cup final, which they lost 3-1 to the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh, N.C.
Rogers Place was sensitive to officiating Sunday given the perceived injustice of allowing Friday’s tying goal to withstand a goaltender interference challenge.
The Oilers were up 3-0 and on the cusp of taking a 3-2 series lead home when the Ducks became just the second team in NHL playoff history to erase a three-goal deficit in the last four minutes of regulation.
Ducks centre Ryan Kesler had his glove on Talbot’s pad when Rakell put a backhand between his pads to tie it with 15 seconds remaining.
Corey Perry then scored the double-overtime winner.
Edmonton was also up 2-0 after the first period of Game 4 at home, only to lose 4-3 in overtime.
So, the Oilers were a team on a mission in Game 6.
“What we experienced in Game 4 and 5 with two comebacks by them, we knew we had to keep our foot on the gas pedal and the hockey gods gave us a chance in Game 7,” Oilers forward Milan Lucic said.
Draisaitl has a team-leading four goals and nine assists in the series.
Ball caps rained onto the ice when he completed his hat trick on a give-and-go with Lucic in the second period.
“I don’t score that much so it’s cool to see for sure,” Draisaitl said.
Both captains —Getzlaf and Edmonton’s Connor McDavid — were held off the scoresheet.
The Oilers won more faceoffs for the first time in the series 39-32.
The Edmonton Oilers celebrate a goal against the Anaheim Ducks during the first period of Game 6 Sunday.