Draisaitl arrives with best post-season game of young career

Leon Draisaitl set up David Desharnais in overtime and the Edmonton Oilers defeated the San Jose Sharks to take a 3-2 series lead.

EDMONTON — Leon Draisaitl speared a Shark in the groin in Game 4. In Game 5 — one Sharks fans thought he should be watching under suspension from the press box — he harpooned the whole school of them, right in the heart.

Draisaitl set up a crucial goal at 18:33 of the second period that made the score 3-2 for San Jose and gave his team some belief before the intermission. Then he finished in overtime, dealing a lovely pass to unheralded David Desharnais to complete an Oilers comeback at 18:15 of overtime.

Upon this thrilling 4-3 OT victory, Edmonton leads the series three games to two as it shifts to San Jose for Game 6. Draisaitl — the club’s second-most prolific scorer in the regular season — has suddenly dialled into this series with the first two post-season points of his young career.

He’d been a ghost through four games. What happened?

“It’s easy. It’s playoffs,” said the Cologne, Germany native, whose father Peter was an 18-year pro back in the old country. “This is what every kid dreams to play in.

“The team needs me,” he continued. “The team needs everyone to play at their best. I wasn’t good the first couple of games, now this is a step in the right direction.”

Draisaitl experienced his first ever phone hearing with the department of player safety on Wednesday, and was fined US $2,569.44. No one would argue he’d gottten his money’s worth on that vicious spear to Chris Tierney’s nether regions, but the NHL didn’t kick him out — which likely burns the Sharks this morning.

“That’s just not who I am,” the 21-year-old said. “I’m not a dirty player by any means. I try to play hard; I try to play physical. Emotions got the best of me. You’ll likely never see that again from me.”

The highlights Draisaitl made in Game 5 are what we’ve become more accustomed to from the NHL’s eighth-leading scorer this season.

In an overtime absolutely dominated by the Oilers (shots 14-2), Draisaitl corralled a puck to the right of the Sharks goal long enough for Desharnais to blast past an unaware Tomas Hertl, then met him with a deft saucer pass right on the tape for a one-timer over Martin Jones’ glove hand.

“Who had David Desharnais in the overtime pool!?!” asked Sportsnet play-by-play man Dave Randorf, and the call was perfect — because no one did.

Desharnais came to Edmonton from Montreal at the trade deadline in return for defenceman Brandon Davidson, a Smurf compared to the acquisitions that general manager Peter Chiarelli had previously stocked this beefy Edmonton roster with.

It was a hunch by Chiarelli, who had been enamored with Desharnais’ work as a Canadien in past series against Chiarelli’s Bruins. But to be honest, many in Edmonton were calling for Desharnais to have his own seat in the press box, having been ineffective and deemed too small to help against the big, grinding Sharks.

Desharnais might have justified the trade in a single game Thursday, putting a puck on a tee for Oscar Klefbom for his game-tying, one-time blast at 17:14 of the third period. Then he scored the winner, his first two playoff points this spring and his first post-season goal since May 17, 2015.

“Daniel Briere once told me that he’s always had success in the playoffs and he visualizes himself scoring goals,” said Desharnais, who is almost certainly heading for the unrestricted free agent market on July 1. “I did that tonight and I got the goal. Everybody can be a hero just on one shot. You need to think that.”

“That’s how you win in the playoffs,” Draisaitl said. “You need guys that maybe usually don’t put the puck in the net. Davey was unbelievable tonight. Assist to tie it, goal in overtime. Huge props to him.”

Jones had been heroic in the overtime session, robbing Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Connor McDavid, who came on the longer this game was played. In McDavid’s career, he has only gone two straight games without a point six times. That scoreless streak has never reached three, and he kept that stat alive with the second assist on a Mark Letestu power-play goal that made it 3-2.

Now, to San Jose, where the defending Western Conference champs will be a stout foe with their playoff lives on the line.

“Our group believes,” declared Oilers head coach Todd McLellan. “We know how bad we played in Game 4 (7-0 loss), but we were able to park it, and start again. Make amends. It didn’t look good for us, but we kept at it, and when we do that we’re a tough out.

“I’d like to think we learned our lesson now, that when you have a little bit of success you have to take it to another level on Saturday.”