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Grades, takeaways from the Oilers' Game 4 win — and the big question for Game 5


The Edmonton Oilers faced a 2-1 series deficit heading into Game 4, and after two Dallas Stars goals in the first 5:29 of the game, it looked like that could grow to 3-1.

Then the tide turned, significantly.

Ryan McLeod and Evan Bouchard scored in the first, followed by goals from Mattias Janmark and Leon Draisaitl in the second — and an empty-net capper from Mattias Ekholm for good measure. The series is now 2-2 and headed back to Dallas for Game 5 on Friday (8:30 p.m. ET, TNT).

What stood out the most from this game? What trends will continue? And who are the key players to monitor with the series now down to a best-of-3?

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Oilers grade: A-

Game 4 was the perfect encapsulation of the Oilers.They had a terrible start, going down 2-0 in the first 5:29 of a must-win game. They roared back to score five unanswered goals, controlled play by limiting Dallas to 22 shots, killed two power plays and scored a shorthanded goal. Goalie Stuart Skinner looked like he was about to fall apart but made key saves — including a great one on Tyler Seguin — to ensure Dallas didn’t score that third goal.

No team in the postseason can look as bad and as good as the Oilers, frequently in the same 20 minutes.

Coach Kris Knoblauch also deserves his flowers for shaking up his roster for Game 5. He swapped in forwards Corey Perry and Ryan McLeod, as well as defenseman Philip Broberg; and swapped out forwards Sam Carrick and Warren Foegele, as well as defenseman Vincent Desharnais. Once again, Knoblauch pushed the right buttons: McLeod scored Edmonton’s first goal to cut the Dallas lead to 2-1, on an assist from Perry; and their line with Leon Draisaitl outshot the Stars 6-1 while on the ice at 5-on-5.

The Oilers credit Knoblauch with saving their season. He’s continued those heroics in the playoffs.


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Stars grade: C-

Blowing a 2-0 first-period lead wasn’t the problem. Watching the Oilers score two goals in 51 seconds — a Mattias Janmark shorthanded goal and Leon Draisaitl’s 10th of the postseason — wasn’t the problem.

The problem was just how meekly the Stars lost Game 4 in Edmonton. Dallas had one high-danger shot attempt in the third period against Stuart Skinner.

No passion, no pushback. Now the Oilers have new life in the series.


What we learned in Game 4

Goalies can make stick saves even when they don’t have sticks in their hands.

Late in the first period, Stars goalie Jake Oettinger lost his stick while scrambling to make two saves on an Edmonton power play. Oilers winger Zach Hyman nudged the stick with his skate back off of Oettinger, and it eventually settled with the stick blade draped across the goal line.

Connor McDavid got the puck to Oettinger’s right, saw some daylight between the goalie and the net and fired the puck … directly off the abandoned stick and out of harm’s way for Dallas. McDavid had a look of stunned disbelief on the bench in a 2-2 game.

According to the NHL’s official scoresheet, it counted as a missed shot by McDavid rather than a save for Oettinger, which we believe is a serious underestimation of Otter’s precognitive powers.


Players to watch in Game 5

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Darnell Nurse. The Edmonton defenseman was a target of derision locally after Game 3, with some openly questioning his future with the team based on his ineffectiveness. He was on the ice for the Stars’ first two goals, including an Esa Lindell shot that deflected off Nurse and into the net to make it 2-0.

But he kept battling. He assisted on McLeod’s goal. He was a physical presence. He delivered 12 hits but didn’t take a minor penalty in 19:19 of ice time. It was a critical performance for an important player.

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Jason Robertson. Was the Roberts-issance one and done? The Stars winger went 10 playoff games without a goal before tallying a hat trick in Game 3, thanks in part to the return of Roope Hintz. But Robertson was a minus-2 with no points in Game 4, the sixth time in the postseason he was held without a point and the seventh in which he had a minus-rating.

With the Stars still looking for their first power-play goal of the series, they need the Robertson who showed up for Game 3, with the action shifting back to Dallas for Game 5.


Big question for Game 5: Is Chris Tanev OK?

The Stars defenseman blocked an Evander Kane shot with his right foot with 7:38 left in the second period, and did not return to the game with a lower-body injury. A key acquisition at the trade deadline, Tanev has been a critical part of the Stars’ top four on defense, averaging 23:26 of ice time per game.

He has 68 blocked shots to lead all players in the postseason. Dallas is hoping he’ll be available to block a few more in Game 5. If not, it’s a massive blow to the thinnest area of the Stars’ lineup, and could impact their penalty kill, which is the last thing you want against the Oilers.

After the game, coach Pete DeBoer said “fingers crossed” that Tanev is OK for Game 5.



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