Oilers one win from Cup Final: Game 5 takeaways, early look at Game 6


The Edmonton Oilers and Dallas Stars entered Game 5 in Dallas tied 2-2 in their Western Conference finals series. The Oilers beat the Stars 3-1 and will head home up 3-2 with a chance to end the series Sunday.

Here’s what stood out from Edmonton’s win and what to look for in Game 6, including key players for each team.

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Oilers grade: A

Even the most optimistic supporters of the Edmonton Oilers in the Western Conference finals probably couldn’t have imagined they’d control play and out-defend the Dallas Stars like they did in Game 5. They limited the Stars to four shots on goal in the first period. Dallas went 9:43 without a shot on goal in the second period.

The Oilers were solid in all three zones, got their killer instinct back on the power play and got every save they needed out of Stuart Skinner, who had one of his best games of the postseason.

They squandered a chance to win Game 5 against Vancouver after building a lead. As they’ve done throughout the playoffs, they learned from their mistakes. “You can’t play decent, you can’t play good — you have to play great and you have to do it for a longer period of time than the opposing team were doing it,” defenseman Mattias Ekholm said.


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Stars grade: D+

Where was the intensity? The feeding off the crowd? The pushback after a Game 4 where the Oilers dominated, as Ekholm put it, for 52 minutes of a 60 minute game.

“The first two periods weren’t good enough. We have to generate more, obviously. And third period, we had some looks, but you’re down three by then,” said center Matt Duchene, who called the Stars’ offense “disjointed.”

Coach Pete DeBoer crudely pushed back when he believed a member of the media was questioning his team’s character after the loss. If only his players showed that much fire.


What we learned in Game 5

That one questionable call can change it all. With 6:09 left in the first period, Stars defenseman Ryan Suter gave Connor McDavid a shove from behind near the boards. McDavid hit the ice and the referee across the zone signaled for a penalty. It was a roughing call that might not rise to the level of a minor penalty in the playoffs.

The Oilers power play was 0-for-6 in the series heading into Game 5. All that meant was that they were due. It took 18 seconds for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to score for the 1-0 lead. The Nuge struck again just 1:06 into the second period after Miro Heiskanen took a delay of game penalty for a 2-0 lead that sucked the wind out of the Stars’ sails — and their home crowd.

“If you’re going to draw a road game, that’s pretty much what you want to do, right?” DeBoer said. “They want to come out, get two power-play goals early in the game, get the lead and then defend well all night. So it’s tough to crack through.”


Players to watch in Game 6

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Stuart Skinner. He got a lot of support from a terrific Edmonton defensive effort, but don’t sleep on how Skinner shut the door on the Stars in Game 5 with his 19-save effort.

He robbed Wyatt Johnston on the power play at the end of the second period and flashed his pad to stop a great Logan Stankoven chance later in the game.

He has quietly had a strong series, including 2.2 goals saved above expected in Game 1. He has given up two goals or fewer in four of the five games of the series. As the Stars face elimination, they have to find a way to solve Skinner. You read that correctly.

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Wyatt Johnston. The only player to beat Skinner in Game 5, Johnston now has 10 goals in the postseason for Dallas, four more than any teammate.

The second-year forward has a knack for postseason heroics and the Stars could certainly use some with their back against the wall. A power-play goal would be nice, as Dallas is 0-for-11 in the series with the man advantage.

How good has he been? Johnston became the fifth active player to score 10 goals in a playoff year at age 21 or younger, joining Sidney Crosby (15 in 2009), Nikita Kucherov (10 in 2015), Patrick Kane (10 in 2010) and Evgeni Malkin (10 in 2008).


Big question for Game 6: Can the Dallas offense find cohesion?

The Stars averaged 3.59 goals per game in the regular season. They’ve scored two goals or fewer in their three losses in the conference finals.

Duchene said the Stars aren’t playing as a five-man unit. “It looks like we were on our heels a little too much,” he said. “Sometimes when you want something so bad, you want to try and be too perfect.”

If the Stars can’t find that chemistry, they’ll have all summer to think about what happened to a very good offensive team.



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