EDM Game 3 column 52724

EDMONTON -- Connor McDavid called it one of the worst stretches of hockey for the Edmonton Oilers in the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Up two goals in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final against the Dallas Stars at Rogers Place on Monday, Edmonton conceded three goals in a span of 3:33 in the second period on its way to a 5-3 loss and a 2-1 deficit in the best-of-7 series. Game 4 is here Wednesday (8:30 p.m. ET; CBC, TVAS, SN, TNT, truTV, MAX).

“We had a real good start obviously, but I’m not sure where those 10-15 minutes come from, that’s as bad as it’s been throughout the playoffs,” McDavid said. “We obviously give them a chance to get back in the game and we came back and tie it after two and we just don’t find a way.”

Two goals from Jason Robertson and a third by Wyatt Johnston flipped the script in Game 3 after Edmonton had dominated the first period. McDavid set up Zach Hyman for the opening goal, then doubled Edmonton’s lead just 7:37 into the first. The Oilers outshot Dallas 10-3 in the opening period and had a couple of glorious chances to extend the lead.

The tide turned in the second period when Robertson cut the lead to 2-1 at 5:35, then tied it at 8:05. Johnston gave Dallas a 3-2 lead at 9:08 to wrestle away all the momentum from Edmonton. The Stars outshot the Oilers 16-7 in the period.

“The playoffs, throughout games, are about momentum swings and if you don’t have it, you have to wrestle it back and we obviously didn’t do that for the better part of that second period,” McDavid said. “I thought they went up a couple of levels and we went down a few levels and obviously, you see the difference."

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For Dallas, it was the most dominant period of the series so far. The Stars have withstood a lot of pressure throughout the first three games and have not let the Oilers get too far out in front.

“I thought it was work,” McDavid said when asked the reason for the momentum shift. “They like to play a long game, kind of a stretch game and when they stretch it out, it’s tough for us to be connected and you see us out-numbered in different situations. They’re obviously a great team and they’re well coached and when they get into that stretch game and they get going up and down the rink, it makes us look pretty not connected.”

Robertson’s first goal was a one-timer to the top corner on Oilers goalie Stuart Skinner off a feed from Roope Hintz, who returned after missing the previous four games with an upper-body injury.

Robertson’s second was a backhand to the roof of the net off a scramble in front, and Johnston had the puck bounce to him at the side of the net and was able to convert past Skinner.

“It was a little bit frustrating,” Skinner said. “You knew they were going to push back; these guys want to make it to the (Stanley Cup) Final and we do as well. I think we just let off the gas a little bit and then when they started rolling, they just kept rolling. Then, once they got momentum, I think as a whole unit we were just watching them do their thing and once we started playing again, we got right back into it. But we allowed them to kind of do what they wanted for the majority of the second period.”

Things could have been worse had Skinner not stopped Mason Marchment on a breakaway at 11:10 of the second period to keep the Oilers alive. Adam Henrique then tied it 3-3 with 53 seconds remaining in the second in his first game back after missing the past seven with a lower-body injury.

“They pushed (in second) and we didn’t, that’s it,” Henrique said. “Teams are going to push like that, it’s a good team over there and we just have to find a way to calm it down and get it back to our game.”

Once it started to unravel, Edmonton had difficulty generating anything at the other end of the ice. The Oilers didn’t get their first shot on net in the second until the 12:47 mark.

“Those shifts after goals against are always big and it is important to simplify (our game) and go back at them and establish our game again,” Henrique said. “The first period was a great period, we played fast, played our game, we forechecked, we’re making plays and in the first 10 minutes of the second we got away from that and they had their foot on the gas.”

According to Edmonton coach Kris Knoblauch, the Oilers got away from doing the things that made them successful in the first period. Instead of forcing the play, they sat back and were hurt by their inability to make safe plays with the puck.

“It was a complete reversal of the first period,” Knoblauch said. “I think they were ready to come out hard and have a good push. We were just kind of hoping things would continue sailing the way it had in the first period, and it caught us by surprise. After one of the TV timeouts, we were able to settle things down and get our game back to where it should have been. We had the start that we needed but took our foot off the pedal.”

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