EDMONTON — So you got some bad luck. A kick or two in the teeth that maybe you don’t think you deserved.
Welcome to playoff hockey, son. And if you’re looking for sympathy, the lineup starts over there. At the airport.
The Edmonton Oilers had Game 3 well in hand, leading 3-2 with six minutes to play, before two deflections turned a 2-1 series lead into a must-win game Friday night for Edmonton.
It was disappointing, though no more so than the postgame highlights. Look at the four goals that Chicago scored:
• Olli Maata’s point shot is sailing wide, but on its way through Kris Russell’s legs it hits the inside of Russell’s knee and deflects past Mikko Koskinen and into the goal.
• Jonathan Toews is battling with Leon Draisaitl during a five-on-three. He is still inside the right circle when the puck bounces off his skate and travels about 10-feet into the Edmonton goal. Toews wasn’t even looking down at the puck when he made contact with it. If it’s a five-on-four, a defenceman likely clears the puck.
• Then the killer with 1:16 to play, as Connor Murphy wrists a prayer at the goal, where Ethan Bear and Toews are battling. The puck hits the blade of Bear’s stick, perhaps knicks Toews’ knee, and finds twine.
Two own goals, a fluky kicked-in goal, and a nice deflection. It all added to a loss for Edmonton, and some genuine bewilderment about how one prevents the same kinds of goals from going in again on Friday.
Maybe some kind of exorcism?
“Three of them are deflections, and the other one Toews doesn’t even know it’s going in (after) it hits him in the leg,” said head coach Dave Tippett. “There (were) some things you’d like to (do) different. There were parts of the (third) period we managed well. But ultimately, you don’t win, you didn’t manage it well enough.”
“Stuff like that happens throughout games,” added winger Alex Chiasson. “Bounces like that, they go one way, they go the other. We got a few the other night, they got a few last night.”
This is how hockey people react to a situation like this.
They’ll never overtly complain about bad luck. Rather, they’ll look hard into their own game to find some shortcomings that may have left them vulnerable for that bad luck to hurt more than it should.
And the Oilers, after taking three minor penalties in the first period and four more in the second, didn’t have far to look.
The goal off of Toews’ foot? It came with Chicago on a five-on-three, caused by one of Kailer Yamamoto’s two offensive zone penalties, and a call on Russell that hurt more because it caused a two-, not just a one-man advantage.
“There are things that you can do differently on those goals, and there are things that you can do differently in the game so that when those situations arise,” they’re not as damaging, Tippett said. “You can draw up all the defensive schemes you want, but stuff like that happens. There’s not much you can do. But to make sure those things don’t affect the outcome, there are other things in the game that you can do better.”
There is no pity out there for Edmonton, a team that wouldn’t have even been in this qualifying round if it had won its last game against Winnipeg on March 11. You think the Jets feel sorry for them? Have you seen who is out of Winnipeg’s lineup these days?
Now, the injuries have arrived for Edmonton as Tyler Ennis, who was playing left wing with Connor McDavid, is out indefinitely with what looked like a knee injury. And top pairing defenceman Adam Larsson missed Game 3 with an undisclosed injury.
So, as hockey people like to say, it is time for the Oilers to “suck it up.” They’ll have all summer to feel sorry for themselves if they can’t put together a win on Friday, and then pull off Game 5 on Saturday.
“If we start worrying about the (fifth) game, back to back or whatever, it’s not going to happen,” said defenceman Oscar Klefbom. He’s right: They can not win two games on Friday.
“We can all sit here and say, they had a few lucky bounces,” added Chiasson. “But our game wasn’t as good as it needed to be. We need to address that.
“I’ve been on a winning team, and we have a lot of the winning ingredients that we had two years ago when I was in Washington.
“It’s on us now as players.”
Get the job done. Or go home.
There’s no room in that equation for sympathy.