ANAHEIM, CA -- Capping off a classic best-of-seven series that had everything you could think of, the Oilers dropped a 2-1 decision to the Anaheim Ducks to fall four games to three in their best-of-seven Western Conference Semifinal series, putting an end to a fantastic season.
"The overall feeling right now is one of disappointment," stated Oilers head coach Todd McLellan, adding that he was proud of his group. "Our entree into the playoffs was as good as we could ask. The types of teams that we played, the series that we played in, the ups and downs. We basically got a college degree in a month for the playoffs."
McLellan added that the team has shown great strides and it means a lot for the organization to go into tough buildings like San Jose and Anaheim, stretching them to the limit.
"It wasn't long ago that we talked about just coming into these buildings in the regular season and trying to survive and now we can compete with these teams."
Ducks head coach Randy Caryle agreed with his Oilers counterpart.
"If you go seven games with a hockey club and you lose the first two in your building, they've done a lot of good things over there," Carlyle said. "They have the most dynamic young player in the League right now."
After a strong second period in which they outshot the Oilers 16-3, the Ducks scored the deciding goal 3:21 into the third. Nick Ritchie, who was promoted to the top line early in this one, rifled a wrist shot from the right circle that beat Cam Talbot blocker side.
Ritchie moved up to the top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry in an adjustment Carlyle made to combat Leon Draisaitl.
"I thought about doing it before the game but I just wanted to see the temperament of the game and how it was going," Carlyle stated. "The way that Draisaitl line had performed, particularly last game, I felt it was important to have more size there. It was about Nick Ritchie's size.
"He's a pretty tough kid and he can score goals. We're glad he's on our side.
The game started much like the previous four seventh games for Anaheim with an early goal by the visitors.
3:31 into the contest, the puck just inched over the line when Drake Caggiula chipped the puck off the stick of Ducks defenceman Shea Theodore in front of the Anaheim net. The puck bounced off Theodore and in past a stunned John Gibson.
Edmonton had another great chance midway through the opening frame as Pouliot's slap shot was redirected in front of the net by Nugent-Hopkins but Gibson slid across to make a nice save.
It appeared as if Anaheim had scored to tie the game with 5:49 left in the first, but the puck narrowly went offside before Cam Fowler skated in to rifle home a wrist shot past Talbot. The whistle blew so it was a non-reviewable play but replays did confirm that the puck was offside.
Sami Vatanen used his stick to deny David Desharnais of a five-star scoring chance with just over a minute to play in the first. Desharnais fell to the ice and Vatanen headed to the box for hooking, giving the Oilers the game's first man advantage.
After one, shots on goal were 13-7 for Edmonton.
The only Ducks power play of the game occurred 4:35 into the second after Eric Gryba received two minutes for interference. Anaheim had several chances on that power play and one shortly after but Talbot was outstanding in keeping the Ducks off the board.
Talbot then made a great glove grab on Josh Manson as the Ducks kept pushing for the equalizer.
The home team would eventually tie it with 11:05 to play in the second. Andrew Cogliano crashed the net and tipped a backhand home after Ryan Kesler did some good work in front.
The latter half of the middle frame was owned by the Ducks, In all, they fired 16 shots on Talbot in the period to take a 23-16 lead on the shot clock after 40 minutes but the story was the Oilers goaltender standing tall to keep the game knotted at 1-1.