EDMONTON — There was a scene that played out at the Oilers bench, in the aftermath of Edmonton’s epic Game 5 collapse at the Honda Center.
Anaheim’s Corey Perry had scored the winner moments earlier, leaving Leon Draisaitl in his wake, and with most of the Oilers long gone down the runway to their dressing room, Draisaitl leaned on the boards at the bench, looking up at the scoreboard, surveying the Ducks celebration, and generally drinking in the sorrow the way a man downs a spoonful of Buckley’s Mixture.
Connor McDavid was the lone player left on Edmonton’s bench, sharing the same head space as his German chum. The two young pistons of this Oilers Maserati, together in defeat.
Then, suddenly, McDavid stood up, slapped Draisaitl’s shoulder, and motioned to the dressing room.
“He said, ‘Let’s go. We’ll be back on Wednesday,’” said Draisaitl, the hat trick hero of Game 6. “That shows the leadership that he has. We were all frustrated for sure, but that’s the type of team we are. We bounce back from stuff like that.”
After Game 5, McDavid said this to reporters: “We’ll be back here Wednesday.” It’s as close as an NHL player comes to guaranteeing a win anymore.
It’s what a captain is supposed to do, but not the kind of thing many 20-year-olds would say. And if you are struck by that dichotomy, how about this one?
The Edmonton Oilers absolutely buried the Anaheim Ducks by a score of 7-1 in Game 6 Sunday— and McDavid went without a point. That’s right. Seven goals, and not a point for the NHL’s only 100-point man this season.
Draisaitl, meanwhile, had a hat trick and a five-point night, and he has recorded an incredible 11 goals and 21 points against the Anaheim Ducks in 11 games this season.
As Draisaitl barges into second place in league playoff scoring with 6-10-16, one point behind Evgeni Malkin, the hockey world is being formally introduced to Edmonton’s second lethal weapon.
He is the Malkin to Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, the Perry to Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf. Or in this Northern Alberta city, perhaps the Mark Messier to Wayne Gretzky is a better fit.
“He’s been a horse,” marveled Zack Kassian, the mutton-chopped winger who also scored. “Sometimes he doesn’t get enough credit because he plays with 97. But we all know what he’s capable of.”
In Game 5, Oilers head coach Todd McLellan moved Draisaitl off of McDavid’s wing to centre a line with Milan Lucic and Anton Slepyshev. He put Drake Caggiula up with McDavid and Pat Maroon, and his Oilers have vastly been the better team ever since.
“He stepped up big,” Lucic said of Draisaitl. “We needed someone to step up and he’s stepped up — he came up huge for us when we needed it the most.”
Lucic is also rejuvenated on Draisiatl’s wing, a pair of big puck protectors with a serial shooter in Slepyshev, who has come from nowhere to notch his third playoff goal Sunday.
“(Lucic) was dominant tonight,” Draisaitl said. “When he’s physical and plays with a little bit of a mean streak… He was very, very good tonight.”
This was as unexpected a result as you’d ever imagine, considering the route we took to get here — a legendary Game 5 comeback by the Ducks, who trailed Game 5 by a 3-0 score with 3:30 to play and stormed back to win in OT, an NHL first.
That loss likely left a mark on the Oilers, but the problem was, they never slowed down enough in the first period for anyone to spot the damage. Edmonton scored five times in the first period, then made it 6-0 just 45 seconds into the second period. Mark Letestu also had a big night, finishing with two goals and two assists.
Ducks goalie John Gibson was awful, pulled by Randy Carlyle after three goals. The rest of the team wasn’t much better, as they allowed this game to be played at a pace only one of these two clubs will succeed at.
“Tonight they out-classed us and outplayed us. They out-wanted it,” said Ducks veteran Andrew Cogliano. “It’s good we have two days to regroup. I think there are a few guys who need to do some soul searching, including myself.”
Game 7 goes Wednesday night in Anaheim, which gives us two days to unearth the ghosts of Ducks Game 7s past. In summary: Anaheim’s last four seasons have ended in identical fashion, with a Game 6 loss on the road and a Game 7 loss at home.
The Oilers, who have lost injured defenceman Andrej Sekera for the rest of the series, say they’ll have Oscar Klefbom back after he missed Game 6.
They’ve won two games at The Pond this series, and frittered away the third. Now, Game 7.
This one has some theatre, folks. Keep your Wednesday night open.