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GAME CHANGER: Kassian's crushing check

Oilers forward Zack Kassian provided a game-changing moment in Game 2 against the San Jose Sharks with his big hit on defenceman Brenden Dillon

by Paul Gazzola /

Nobody was going to stop the freight train that was Zack Kassian. 

The Oilers energizer was wheeling around the offensive zone in a scoreless Game 2 of Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs when he caught San Jose Sharks defenceman Brenden Dillon in his trolley tracks.

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Kassian skated through Dillon, providing a devastating blow to the defender in the first period while raising all of Rogers Place to their feet. It was the beginning of the end for the Sharks this contest; a big hit in a big game, as the Oilers were down 1-0 in the series after losing Game 1 in overtime by a score of 3-2 and needing a victory to right the ship before heading to California for Games 3 and 4.

Kassian was a domineering presence all night, also colliding heavily with Sharks forward Logan Couture.

"It's big boy hockey," said San Jose defenceman Brent Burns about Edmonton's physicality following their 2-0 victory - a game which saw them score two shorthanded goals and kill six penalties.

Kassian's crushing checks can be seen as a game-changer but it was the overall play of the forward that gave the squad the spark they needed to reign dominance over their first-round opponent. The 26-year-old did it all that night, scoring a shorthanded goal 42 seconds into the second period - his first career National Hockey League playoff marker - as well as mustering four shots and six hits in 14:07 minutes played. 

The winger drew awe from the crowd, as they eventually belted "Kass-i-an" in recognition of his stellar play.

"The puck seemed to follow me tonight," said a humble Kassian post-game.

Video: SJS@EDM, Gm2: Kassian nets SHG on breakaway

His teammates, though, were much more straightforward.

"He was unbelievable," said Oilers Captain Connor McDavid, who added a shorthanded insurance goal - the first playoff goal of his career. "It was his show tonight and we're happy for him."

Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan's post-game comments regarding the forward exceeded the game.

"There's more to Kass' story than just the equipment, the skates and gloves," said McLellan. "He's pretty inspirational for everybody in that room considering everything he's gone through in his personal life. He's a rallying point and we're lucky to have characters like that."

Kassian's display of brute force and finishing ability was another game-changer for the Oilers and proved to be instrumental in Game 2 against the Sharks.

The Oilers would go on to take the series in six games.

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