SAN JOSE — On the night that Jerry Rice was brought in to let the Sharks loose, San Jose beat the Edmonton Oilers by a converted touchdown.
The San Francisco 49ers Hall of Fame receiver was shown on the scoreboard opening the San Jose dressing-room door before the game. He let the Sharks out, and in turn they beat up on the Oilers the way Rice and Joe Montana used to pile up points on the Cincinnati Bengals.
“My math still says it’s 2-2,” a defiant Connor McDavid said after the game, the worst margin of defeat in Oilers playoff history. “You don’t get two games for winning 7-0, so the series is still 2-2 and we’re still in a good spot. We got a split here and that’s what we came to do.”
Edmonton scored one goal in two games here in Silicon Valley, and earned a win. But it was the Sharks who took what was the lowest-scoring Round 1 series, and injected some offence, BALCO style.
Joe Pavelski scored on a high-skill deflection just 15 seconds into the game, and the Sharks never gave Edmonton a sniff the rest of the way. It was 2-0 after 20 minutes, 6-0 after 40, and there wasn’t a stat on the final game sheet that wasn’t sloped towards the San Jose side.
“They were able to score a goal on their first shift and never looked back,” said Milan Lucic. “We talked about how lethal their power play is, and we gave them an opportunity to get it going.
“It’s them being more hungry to get themselves back in the series, and us not responding the right way.”
We’ve seen these things before in the playoffs, and frankly, there is very seldom any lasting effect either way. Edmonton has two of the final three games at home, and they’ll bounce back.
The one thing that will carry over to Game 5 however, is the Sharks’ discovery of their power play in Game 4. After entering the game at 1-for-14, they went 4-for-8 on the night, and as such, all of their big boys got in on the feast.
Leon Draisaitl, meanwhile, decided he’d pile up penalty minutes instead. The young German’s maiden playoff voyage has been Hindenberg-esque, with zero points and one shot on goal through four games.
He showed his frustration in the second period when he pitch-forked Chris Tierney in the groin. It was a dangerous and dirty play that earned Draisaitl a spearing major, a game misconduct, and very likely some consideration by the department of player safety.
“That’s an ugly play,” said Sharks coach Peter DeBoer. “There has already been an incident like that in the playoffs and the league takes care of that stuff. When teams make those types of plays, the answer has to be to make them pay on the power play.”
This was a young team that has never dealt with the desperation and experience a defending Stanley Cup finalist can bring when it finds itself staring a 3-1 series deficit in the face. The Sharks came at Edmonton in waves from the very first puck drop, and the inexperienced Oilers were simply overwhelmed.
“In the playoffs, there are little lessons you learn along the way. Tonight was a big one,” said Oilers head coach Todd McLellan, who has found he can give his players the heads up, but there are certain things they must experience for themselves.
“It just proves to our group that teams can take it to another level,” he said. “That momentum right off the bat is real important. That undisciplined play eventually catches up with you … which was quite predictable knowing the level of player they can put out on the ice on their power play.
“We wrapped it all up into one night. Hopefully we learned some lessons.”
McLellan wanted his team to stew in this defeat for the evening. But by the time they step on to that charter plane Wednesday morning, it will be about Thursday night’s Game 5 at home.
And a best-of-seven that is now a best-of-three — with two games at Rogers Place.
“No time to panic. No time to start second-guessing ourselves. No time to for doubt to start creeping in,” said Lucic, this club’s moral compass. “This time of year, it doesn’t matter whether you win by one goal or seven goals.
“You’ve just got to turn the page and bounce back.”