Despite gallant efforts, Oilers continue to find ways to lose in playoffs

Kyle Connor scored in the third overtime to help the Winnipeg Jets win 4-3 and sweep the Edmonton Oilers from the playoffs.

EDMONTON -- It was fitting.

In the end, the Edmonton Oilers blinked first. A bad dump, an untimely change and a broken record for a team that was second in line every time a break or some good fortune was handed out in this playoff series.

After losing this clincher in triple overtime -- the third consecutive overtime game in this series -- you could ask why the puck kept finding a way into the net for a Paul Stastny, a Nikolaj Ehlers, or on Monday a Kyle Connor? And never for a guy wearing orange?

You could also be reminded that the Oilers blew third-period leads in Game 3 and 4, a serious tell on a team that simply does not know how to win in the playoffs. A team that, as gallantly as they played Monday night, still finds ways to lose.

“It’s the little mistakes,” said Connor McDavid, who couldn’t be asked for more than he gave in Game 4. “Just the little ones. Not earth-shattering stuff here. We’re not leaving here thinking we have to re-right the ship here. It’s a fine line.”

In the end it was McDavid’s small mistake, coupled with Ethan Bear’s timing miscue that sunk the good ship Oiler.

We’re not criticizing a captain who played 45 minutes on Monday. Not in this space. But it was his unfortunate flip into the zone that got picked off and sent the other way to Connor, who had a wide-open lane to the net because Bear had spotted a good time to make the long change.

Neither mistake was major. But combined, they opened the door just enough to lose.

Edmonton had at worst 50 per cent of the play in this series, but was swept. I can say, I’ve seen six-game series where one team dominated the other more than Winnipeg did Edmonton, but that’s not worth a busted Warrior stick right now.

“There are some hard lessons you learn along the way,” said head coach Dave Tippett, who is right in tune with who made which mistakes and why. “Some of these lessons are hard to learn, but next time you recognize situations better. There are things that happen in a game where the only way you can learn how to handle them is to go through them.”

Darnell Nurse set a new team record with 62:07 of ice time, as the pair of Bear and Slater Koekkoek never saw the ice after coughing up the game-tying goal at 6:01 of the third period. Not until the final, fatal Bear shift, that is.

“It wasn’t too bad,” Nurse said of the ice time. “You want to go out there and be a part of it the whole night, not sitting back and watching. As crazy as it sounds, it wasn’t too bad.”

Watching Nurse play so much is a testament to why Winnipeg was one goal better every night. They have superior depth, especially up front. And they shut down McDavid and Leon Draisaitl just enough to allow that depth to win the day -- even if all the analytics point to a series that should not be over yet.

“It’s a weird series, a weird sweep for sure,” said McDavid. “We got leads and we don’t find ways to close them out. That’s just the way it is.”

Through the first three games of the series, the Oilers had led for 50:48, while Winnipeg held the lead for 10:46. It was one of the many cruel statistics floating around this series -- shots, scoring chances, all kinds of analytics -- that had the Oilers wondering how on earth they were trailing 3-0 in the series?

But Edmonton can’t get caught looking at this as some kind of statistical anomaly. A sweep is a sweep.

They got their rear ends handed to them by a team they’d beaten six times in a row this season.

“The regular season means absolutely nothing right now,” admitted McDavid.

He’s right.

It’s another season of his great career without a playoff victory. That’s got to end soon.

“Tough to watch another year go by,” said Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, a pending free agent who may have just played his last game as an Oiler. “There’s not a whole to say. They finished it off. We couldn’t get it done.

“We just couldn’t find a way.”

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