Oilers’ elite offence needs to solve third-period scoring woes against Stars

David Amber and Elliotte Friedman discuss what the Oilers have to do for Game 4 against the Stars, including the possible lineup change, and how to beat Dallas' tactic in their own zone.

EDMONTON — Forget about the first 40 minutes of Game 3, just for a moment.

The elation of a 2-0 lead, the grizzly 3-2 deficit … flush it, as hockey people say.

Move on, o’ scapegoating Oilers fan, from Darnell Nurse, Cody Ceci and Stuart Skinner, and instead consider an elite Edmonton Oilers offence that has not scored a third period goal in this series.

Perhaps the NHL’s most explosive group of scorers, the Oilers have entered the third period tied on four occasions this spring — twice against Dallas — and lost each and every time.

They have produced just five power-play opportunities in three games of this series and zero power-play goals.

“Our power play needs to do a better job of creating momentum for the group,” admitted Leon Draisaitl. “We haven’t done a very good job of that in this series.”

If defence and goaltending are the reason why the Oilers are down 2-1 in this Western Conference Final, I’ll submit to you that Dallas has eight goals in this series that weren’t into empty nets. Less than three goals per game — that’s not poor defence for an Oilers team that has scored at a higher pace than that throughout each of the past three playoff seasons.

I know: if you’re not beating up on Nurse or Ceci today, it’s a bad look.

Well, what about this elite collection of scorers, who for two games in a row have gone into the third period of a tied game and failed to deliver even a single goal?

“The key to the playoffs, and having playoff experience, is understanding that not every game is going to go (according to) script, and being able to manage emotions through a game,” began the thoughtful Zach Hyman.

For example: His team loved the first period of Game 3, and despised minutes 20-30 in that game. Dallas, of course, was quite the opposite. Whatever — after 40 minutes, the game was tied.

“They had one period that was great. We had one period that was great. We flush it and say let’s go win a period,” Hyman said.

And what happened next?

“They got the goal … we hit the post.”

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In this series, top-sixers Draisaitl (one goal) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (one assist) have not been productive as of yet, while Draisaitl linemates Evander Kane and Dylan Holloway are pointless. You can’t win when 67 per cent of your top-six shares two points through almost half a series.

And the third line?

Until Adam Henrique and Connor Brown forged that late goal in the second period Monday night, it’s been a black hole for Edmonton through three rounds.

The difference between winning and losing at this time of year is a Mason Marchment deflection in Game 2, or Jason Robertson scoring from an impossible angle in Game 3. Nobody knows that better than Corey Perry, who has watched thus from the press boxes of American Airlines Arena and Rogers Place.

“That’s what the playoffs are, right?” said the career clutch goal scorer. “And as you get down to four teams, the margins gets smaller and smaller. Everything’s looked at, and dissected — and dissected again — because there’s nothing else to talk about.”

Perry sees a team that needed killer instinct in Game 3, either coming out that dressing room with a 2-0 lead, or skating out an hour later after Henrique’s goal, tied at 3-3 with 20 minutes to find a goal from someone.

Someone. Anyone.

“It’s about embracing the moment,” Perry said. “You can etch your name into history in the playoffs. That’s why you keep telling the guys: there are heroes every single night in the playoffs. We’ve just got to find him.”

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Somehow, this career hero isn’t even dressing for games, while a player like Ryan McLeod — who has a playoff career filled with zeroes (goal, assists, hits) — is perhaps coming back into Kris Knoblauch’s lineup for Game 4.

Perry skated as a placeholder on Tuesday, and Knoblauch admitted afterwards that “it’s a good possibility” he’ll re-join the Game 4 lineup. We’ll see.

“It’s a team game,” the patient Perry said, “and you’re going to need more guys than just the team on the ice. I’ll be ready when my name is called.”

Perry was acquired for moments like the second period of Game 3, when a calming voice on that bench may have staunched the bleeding at two goals, not three. For a greasy goal, in a series where the last two game-winners have been brought to you by Pennzoil.

This has been a tame series thus far. Where the referees have not been forced to make difficult decisions over who punched whom first, or which slash crosses the line to become a minor penalty.

Some mayhem wouldn’t hurt Edmonton, and Perry’s been peddling mayhem in this league for more than 1,300 games.

You know McLeod isn’t drawing any penalties from the perimeter, the way Perry might from inside the blue paint.

Either way, in the end, we can point fingers at the defenders, or you can look at all the things that got these Oilers to this point, and ask them to join this series on Wednesday night at Rogers Place.

It’s not complicated.

“It’s very simple,” Draisaitl said. “Just go out and win one game.”

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