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PLAYOFF SERIES: Western Conference semifinals; Oilers lead 3-2.
TIME: Wednesday, 8 p.m. EDT.
The Edmonton Oilers have embraced the underdog role throughout the playoffs. They eliminated the Presidents' Trophy winner in the first round. They fell behind 0-2 in the second round. They even had their national anthem booed on the road in Game 5.
Through it all, the Oilers continue to persevere. Now they look to wrap up their Western Conference semifinal series against the San Jose Sharks and advance to the conference finals for the first time since 1992.
Despite entering the playoffs as the eighth seed in the West, the Oilers players may be the only ones who are not surprised about being on the cusp of the third round.
"Everybody believes in that locker room," Oilers defenseman Chris Pronger said. "That's the first step for us. Everybody is buying into the system. Even when we were down 0-2, we just felt we could win two home games and be right here."
After a rough start, Edmonton has righted itself to take control of this series from San Jose. The Oilers have scored 12 goals in their last two games and exploited weak penalty killing by the Sharks Sunday to post a 6-3 road victory in the pivotal Game 5.
The Sharks seemed to have every advantage that game: they were playing at home, they outshot the Oilers 24-18 and outhit them 34-16, yet Edmondton still pulled out a 6-3 win in large part to San Jose's inability to shut down the Oilers' power play.
Fernando Pisani ended a wild four-minute sequence at the start of the third period by converting a 2-on-1 from Ryan Smyth and beating Sharks goaltender Vesa Toskala to snap a 3-3 tie. Jarret Stoll and Smyth added power-play goals later in the period for Edmonton, which went 3 for 7 with the man advantage and left Sharks coach Ron Wilson looking for answers to try and extend this series to a decisive seventh game.
"We've made it obviously pretty hard on ourselves," Wilson said. "You can't blame Tosk. We gave up 2-on-1's, a giveaway, a deflection ... very easily correctable mistakes, and we have to hold each other accountable to do things right. We've got to work a heck of a lot harder."
Toskala will start this game trying to find the form from his first seven games, when he allowed 12 total goals. But he has not been the same since allowing a game-winning goal to Shawn Horcoff that ended Game 3 in triple overtime.
"I don't think we have to make a goaltending change," Wilson said. "Vesa has been a rock back there. Last night, he didn't have a chance in any one of the goals. We didn't do a good job of supporting him and our focus now is to make sure we get back to doing what we do best which is playing sound defensive hockey."
While Edmonton's power play has thrived, San Jose's has been brutal. The Sharks are just 2-for-27 (6.9 percent) in this series, a far cry from their 18.2 percent (91-for-500) success rate in the regular season.
"They are pressuring us up the ice and we're coasting back for pucks," Wilson said. "We've got some guys who might be viewing themselves as they have a right to be on the power play instead of the view that it's a privilege."
Including the regular season, the Sharks have lost seven of their last 10 games in Edmonton, but the Oilers feel the urgency to close the series out and avoid a return trip to San Jose, where they lost the first two games of the series.
"The fourth win is always the hardest. We have to come prepared," Pronger said. "They are going to bring their best game. They battled back hard. There's no quit in that team. We've got to make sure we're focused and prepared. It's going to be a battle in Game 6."
If the Sharks win, they will host Game 7 Friday. If the Oilers win, they will meet the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in the conference finals.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Sharks - 5th seed; beat Nashville Predators 4-1, West quarterfinals. Oilers - 8th seed; beat Detroit Red Wings 4-2, West quarterfinals.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Sharks - Patrick Marleau, 9 goals and 14 points; Joe Thornton, 7 assists; Ville Nieminen, 24 PIM. Oilers - Pisani, 7 goals; Pronger, 10 assists, Horcoff, 13 points; Georges Laraque, 17 PIM.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Sharks - Power play: 20.8 percent (10 for 48). Penalty killing: 82.0 percent (32 for 39). Oilers - Power play: 20.4 percent (9 for 44). Penalty killing: 82.4 percent (42 for 51).
GOALTENDERS: Sharks - Toskala (6-4, 1 SO, 2.48 GAA); Evgeni Nabokov (0-0, 5.17). Oilers - Dwayne Roloson (7-4, 2.33); Jussi Markkanen (no appearances).