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Energized Oilers use fast start to defeat Ducks in Game 6

Edmonton scores five goals in first period to help tie series

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

EDMONTON -- Paralyzed or energized. Those are often the two choices when it comes to reacting to adversity in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Edmonton Oilers, who are distancing themselves from their recent history of having missed the playoffs each year between 2007 and 2016, have chosen the energy route.

 

[RELATED: Complete Oilers vs. Ducks series coverage | Draisaitl dominates Ducks again in Game 6]

 

The Oilers moved quickly and confidently from the start Sunday, scoring five goals in the first period of a 7-1 win against the Anaheim Ducks in Game 6 of the Western Conference Second Round at Rogers Place.

It tied the best-of-7 series at 3-3, with Game 7 in Anaheim on Wednesday.

The soul could have easily been knocked right out of the Oilers, considering what happened to them in Game 5 on Friday. They blew a 3-0 lead in a historic collapse and lost to the Ducks 4-3 in double overtime. No team had ever come back from three goals down with less than 3:30 to play to get a game to overtime in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"We had to make a decision, if we wanted to get on the plane back to California [for Game 7]," Oilers left wing Milan Lucic said. "It showed that we really wanted it from the drop of the puck."

Video: ANA@EDM, Gm6: Oilers erupt for five goals in 1st

Mental toughness -- linking such a choice with the right actions -- had been a struggle for the Oilers. It became one of the highest priorities for coach Todd McLellan when he was hired prior to the start of the 2015-16 season.

Results were not evident in McLellan's first season as Oilers coach; they missed the playoffs again and finished 29th in the NHL standings.

But the new resolve began to show itself this season and the difference, which has evident numerous times in the first two rounds of the playoffs, has been dramatic.

"It's the attitudes the guys and coaches bring," said defenseman Adam Larsson, who was acquired by the Oilers in a trade with the New Jersey Devils on June 29. "Todd's a new guy in this room too. I can just tell from my personal experience with him that he's bringing a great attitude to this room. He keeps you accountable. That's the main key.

"Then it has to start with guys in the room, too. They brought in a couple of strong leaders, like Lucic and already had (Matt) Hendricks. Even if he's not playing, he's a big key on this team. Players like that, you can't put a price tag on. They're so valuable to a team. We just have great leaders and when Leon [Draisaitl], Connor [McDavid], elevate their game too, it helps."

Video: ANA@EDM, Gm6: Draisaitl completes the hat trick

The catastrophe that was Game 5 for the Oilers, and the pain that came from it, was not easy to "park," one of their favorite words all season about all manner of games.

"That night, guys probably didn't sleep that well but we woke up the next day, took a flight home and recharged," Larsson said. "Sometimes it can be good to be away from the rink a little after a night like that.

"We were down in the series before the game today, but we just kept playing. There was no panic in the room or anything. It was a good atmosphere in the morning and it was great tonight. And it paid off that we can keep that calmness."

On the days between Game 5 and 6, McLellan spoke about the pain of the defeat and the goalie-interference calls that didn't go their way in Games 4 and 5. But he also made a point to look forward, to talk about his team's resilience all season and the expected bounce-back in Game 6.

In that interview, McLellan also graded the Oilers' bounce-back ability as "good but not great." He was willing to upgrade it after the lopsided win Sunday.

"Today, it was [great], obviously with the results," he said. "I thought we had a good bounce-back in Game 5 in their building, but we didn't finish it. That's why it went from great to good.

"Tonight it was obviously much better, but the big test is coming up. And like we do when it's a poorly played game, we dwell on it for a little while and then we move on. We going to have to park this one quickly and get prepared for a big battle down there."

Larsson was also already thinking that way after Game 6.

"We have been on the other side of this big score," Larsson said. "We know how they're going to respond. We'll have to bring our best game next game too. They're probably [ticked] off over there right now and they'll come out even harder next game, and we'll have to match that."

Their new track record suggests it will be with energy.

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