The Edmonton Oilers are on the brink of elimination after a 4-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche Saturday night at Rogers Place.
The Avs lead the Western Conference Final 3-0.
“I thought it was a competitive hockey game,” Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft said post-game. “We’re going to process the game and get back at it tomorrow. Our goal is the same as it was today, which is needing to win one hockey game.”
The Oilers burst into the lead 38 seconds into the game. Connor McDavid took a pass from Zach Hyman and slid his ninth of the playoffs past Pavel Francouz. Only 28 seconds later, Evander Kane shoved Nazem Kadri from behind, sending the Avs forward clattering dangerously into the boards. Kane was assessed a five-minute major for boarding.
”I was coming in on the backcheck and the puck went wide and dribbled into the corner,” Kane recalled.
“I know he likes to reverse hit and I was just trying to get a bump on him, and that’s really all I did. Unfortunately, he went into the boards awkwardly and hurt his hand.”
Kadri has been ruled out of the rest of the series at least with a hand injury, according to Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar.
The Avalanche had nine shots on the their power play but couldn’t solve Mike Smith.
“The five-minute kill was a momentum booster for us,” Woodcroft said. “Obviously, you don’t want to be defending for five minutes but I thought we handled it great. Our penalty kill was great tonight.”
Late in the first, Darnell Nurse tried to slice Valeri Nichushkin’s pass behind the net, but he wound up chipping it behind Smith.
Nichushkin struck again in the second when a blocked shot bounced to him in front. Smith robbed Nichushkin later in the second, He appeared to be down-and-out, but shot up his glove for a miraculous denial.
”He gave us a chance to win the game tonight, for sure,” Woodcroft said of Smith.
”It’s playoff hockey. Every play counts,” Smith said.
“It’s not over until you lose four, so we’ve got to come back in Game 4 and try to win one game and move on from there, but the desperation level needs to be at an all-time high to win at this time of year.”
Ryan McLeod crossed the blue line and fired in a wrist shot to make it 2-2 with 12:26 left in the third. With the Oilers on a power play, Francouz made a desperate glove save on McDavid. Evan Bouchard hit the post late in the power play, then J.T. Compher came out of the box, fended off Bouchard, and beat Smith five-hole. Mikko Rantanen sealed it with an empty netter in the final minute.
”It’s a game of inches and, obviously, it showed there,” McDavid said post-game. “If that’s an inch on the other side for Bouch, it’s in and we’re up 3-2 and having a different conversation here.”
Kadri didn’t return to the game. Avs head coach Jared Bednar says Kadri will miss the rest of the series and possibly more.
Smith finished with 39 saves. Francouz stopped 27.
Game 4 is Monday at Rogers Place (630 CHED, Face-off Show at 4 p.m., game at 6 p.m.)
— With files from Brenden Escott, 630 CHED