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GAME CHANGER: Slepyshev's series-winner

Anton Slepyshev provided a game-changing moment with his series-winning goal in Game 6 against the San Jose Sharks

by Paul Gazzola /

It was like déjà vu.

Because just under a minute before Anton Slepyshev was raising his arms in celebration after scoring a breakaway goal on San Jose Sharks goaltender Martin Jones - what proved to be the series-winning goal - Leon Draisaitl did the same.

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It was Round 1, Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the Sharks were one loss from post-season elimination. The game would begin with hesitance from both sides, as it was the first time the Oilers had been in a situation to win a playoff series since 2006 and the Sharks were battling injuries and the threat of post-season withdrawal.

Edmonton led the shot department 9-6 after the opening 20 minutes but the game remained scoreless until Draisaitl and Slepyshev doubled down in the opening minutes of the second period.

It began with the Deutschland Dangler just 54 seconds into the middle frame. Oscar Klefbom sacrificed his body in order to block a shot. His defence partner Adam Larsson scooped up the loose puck immediately after, catching Draisaitl up ice and with a stride on Sharks defenceman Justin Braun. Draisaitl cradled the puck from his backhand to his forehand, slipping it 5-hole on Jones to give the Oilers a 1-0 lead.

Then came the series-decider; Slepyshev's goal just 56 seconds later.

San Jose defender Paul Martin was unable to handle a hot pass at the Oilers blueline and Slepyshev happened to be on his way to covering the point. As the puck trickled past Martin's blade, the Oilers 2013 third-rounder had plenty of time and space, skating in all alone on Jones.

Video: EDM@SJS, Gm6: Slepyshev nets wrister on breakaway

Unlike Draisaitl, the Russian didn't have any nagging Sharks players behind him. Slepyshev was able to fire an accurate wrist shot - under Jones' blocker and over his right pad - making it two tallies for the Oilers in under two minutes into the second period. 

With the marker, Slepyshev became the first Oilers rookie to score a goal in the playoffs since Brad Winchester did so in Game 2 versus the Detroit Red Wings in Round 1 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The 23-year-old also became the third rookie in Oilers history to score a game-winning, series-clinching playoff goal with what was the first post-season strike of his career.

The Oilers held a two-goal cushion but were still in tough against the bloodthirsty Sharks, who would end up out-shooting Edmonton 22-12 in the final 40 minutes of play. Patrick Marleau got the Sharks within one in the third period but thanks to some timely saves and team defence, Edmonton managed to hang on - as Connor McDavid added an empty-net insurance goal in the dying seconds of the match to solidify the Round 1 victory with a 3-1 Game 6 win.

Slepyshev's quick-strike goal proved to be a game-changing game-winner. The Oilers had defeated the Sharks in six games winning the series 4-2, just like they did in Round 2 of their run in '06. 

Like déjà vu.

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