Oilers’ big guns, power play uncharacteristically quiet in Game 5 loss

J.T. Miller was the hero of the night as the Vancouver Canucks forward came in clutch, scoring the game-winner with 33 seconds left in regulation to secure the 3-2 win and secure a 3-2 series over the Edmonton Oilers.

VANCOUVER — This series turned here in Game 5, a smash and grab by a Vancouver Canucks team that got their hands around this game and simply just took off with it.

The Edmonton Oilers, a team that’s been chasing this series since blowing a 4-1 lead to lose Game 1, just didn’t have any more chase in them Thursday, losing 3-2 on a J.T. Miler goal in the game’s final 30 seconds.

It was another blown lead by Edmonton, but this one was different. When the teams came out of the dressing rooms for Period 2, Vancouver had more, played faster, executed better.

In the end it was a one-goal game in name only, a 5-2 drubbing dressed up like a 3-2 thriller.

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The Canucks were not just the better team for the vast majority of the final 40 minutes, the players on both teams weren’t the only ones who noticed. So did the Hockey Gods, as a puck that hit the Oilers post with 29 seconds left in the game was guided perfectly to the stick of the deserved, Canucks bulldog Miller.

“They get a bounce. They probably deserved a bounce tonight. I thought they were the better team,” admitted Connor McDavid, who went without a point in 23:25 of ice time and five power plays. “They get a bounce at the end of the game and that’s the way it was.”

It seemed like a moment where the Oilers would flex, scoring first and then leading 2-1 in this pivotal Game 5, with a chance to host an elimination game at home on a Saturday night at Rogers Place.

Instead, they got flexed.

“They played faster than we did,” said Zach Hyman. “We play our best when we’re skating, getting the puck behind them and taking control of the pace. Obviously that wasn’t the case in the second (period).”

Edmonton wasted a superior performance by goalie Calvin Pickard (32 saves), and the best work of the series by their bottom-six forwards. There is some irony in the fact that, on a night where the fourth line scored a goal and Evander Kane notched his first goal of the series, it was the power play and the big boys who came up dry, a rare playoff night where Leon Draisaitl and McDavid had just one assist between them.

The power play went 0-for-5, the first game this playoffs where that unit did not provide a goal.

“Today was definitely a night would where we would like to have had one to help the team win,” Hyman said. “Especially with the chances we had.

“We did some good things out there. We weren’t good enough.”

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Edmonton had their chances to win this one early. They didn’t know it at the time, but those early power plays and first period domination was as good as it was going to get.

A look down Sportlogiq’s game report isn’t pretty, from an Oilers perspective:

• Slot Shots on Net: 17-10 Vancouver.

• High Danger Chances: 16-9 Vancouver.

• Scoring Chances off the Cycle: 17-8 Vancouver.

“They were just out-changing, out-hustling us,” head coach Kris Knoblauch said. “(We were) just flipping the puck out. Yes, you get it out to the neutral zone and out of harm’s way, but we can’t get it 200 feet so we can be in the offensive zone. So we get fresh bodies out there. We didn’t have the flow.”

And his special teams?

“Early on and our power play was really good, and as the game went on I think we just got a little less sharp. Similar to our five-on-five play.”

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The narrative today, after a rare non-productive night for both Draisaitl and McDavid, will be that Knoblauch played them too much in Games 2 and 3 of this series, and now they’re tired. Knoblauch said the sports science department is checking in on that, and would beg to differ.

But that’s how good these two are.

Elias Pettersson gets an assist and three shots on net, and he’s “coming around.” McDavid goes pointless and it’s time to investigate why?

“We’re fine,” Hyman said. “We just have to go home, win a game, and go from there.”

Edmonton was in this identical position after a Game 5 loss at Vegas in Round 2 a year ago. They came home and lost Game 6 by a 5-2 score.

In Round 1 two springs ago, they went to Los Angles trailing 3-2, and McDavid played perhaps the finest game of his career. Edmonton brought it home and won that series in a seventh game.

Game 5 was undoubtedly the Canucks’ best of the series. Now it’s Edmonton’s turn to deliver theirs.

It will start with controlling the game.

“When you don’t have the puck, it looks like you’re chasing the game,” Knoblauch said. “We want to have the puck a lot more, making more plays, a little bit more competitive. We’ve just got to be making plays, making plays.

“When we possess the puck, that’s when we’re the strongest.”

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