EDMONTON -- When Calvin Pickard finished his post-game press conference in the Edmonton Oilers Hall of Fame Room Tuesday, the veteran goalie was greeted by a deafening ovation from screaming fans watching through the window from the street outside.

All hail the conquering new hero.

Yes, he’d just shared the podium with defenseman Evan Bouchard, who’d scored the winning goal with only 39 seconds remaining to give Edmonton the dramatic 3-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks in Game 4 of their Western Conference Second Round. Bouchard now has scored the deciding goal in both of the Oilers’ wins in the best-of-7 series, which now stands 2-2; the other coming in overtime of Game 2.

Normally, that would put you squarely in the spotlight.

But there is nothing normal about Pickard’s story. Indeed, for that reason, it was the 32-year-old Pickard, not Bouchard, who was the focus of attention after Edmonton’s nail-biting victory.

A decade after making his NHL debut, the Moncton, New Brunswick native made his first Stanley Cup Playoff start Tuesday. Lose, and his team would be down 3-1 in the series and facing the dire proposition of having to win three consecutive games against a very good Vancouver team.

But there were no butterflies on this night. If there were any nerves present, they were made of steel.

“It looked like a guy who’d played 100 playoff games,” Oilers coach Kris Knoblauch said.

Opting to start a goalie with virtually no playoff experience with the team’s postseason fortunes potentially hanging in the balance was one of the gutsiest decisions made by Knoblauch since he replaced Jay Woodcroft as Oilers coach on Nov. 12, 2023.

At the same time, it was evident that he was getting irked with the inconsistency of starter Stuart Skinner, who allowed 12 goals on 58 shots in the series before being replaced by Pickard for the third period of Game 3, a 4-3 Canucks victory. Knoblauch said he’d been impressed with Pickard during the regular season when the veteran went 12-7-1 with a 2.45 goals-against average and .909 save percentage.

NHL Tonight on Calvin Pickard's performance in Game 4

In going with Pickard, Knoblauch turned to a guy whose career is the definitive road map of a hockey journeyman, full of bus trips, call-ups and subsequent demotions. Since playing his first NHL game with the Colorado Avalanche in 2014, he went on to play with five other NHL squads (Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Philadelphia Flyers, Arizona Coyotes, Detroit Red Wings) and four American Hockey League teams (Lake Erie-Cleveland, Tucson, Grand Rapids, Bakersfield).

All the while, he wondered if he’d ever get the chance to start an NHL playoff game. Then Tuesday came. And all that changed.

“I don't know if it’s quite sunk in,” he said after his 19-save performance against the Canucks. “And it’s a big win for us.

“Obviously making my (NHL) debut 10 years ago and really not getting playoff action really much at either level, it’s an exciting opportunity for me.

“The guys have been great in front of me and now, it’s the best of three.”

Knoblauch would not commit to who will start Game 5 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver on Thursday (10 p.m. ET; CBC, TVAS, SN, TNT, truTV, MAX), saying that decision will be discussed Wednesday. The coach did add that Pickard did give the coaching staff “confidence” should he get the nod.

Just like he gave his team on Tuesday.

Yes, the Canucks did beat him twice in the third period with goals by Conor Garland and Dakota Joshua, the latter coming with 1:41 left in the game. In his defense, Pickard had no chance on either and gave his team a chance by not allowing any soft goals, something Skinner was guilty of earlier in the series.

Enter Bouchard. With the game suddenly knotted at 2-2, his last-minute goal sent the 18,347 on hand into a frenzy and gave Pickard his first playoff win in his first playoff start.

Afterward, Bouchard showered his goalie with praise.

“He’s a great locker room guy,” Bouchard said. “Everyone wants to be around him. And when you go in there and play like that, it’s kind of hard not to acknowledge how great he means to the team.”

Those words earned Bouchard an appreciative fist bump from Pickard.

“You never know if you’ll get to (start) a playoff game,” Pickard said. “You always believe that you will. You’re hoping.

“And then, now that it’s here, it’s exciting.”

Given his performance in Game 4 on Tuesday, there could very well be more such excitement in his near future.

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