EDMONTON, AB - Upon losing Games 4 and 5 by a score of 4-3 - Game 4 in overtime and Game 5 in double OT - the Oilers return to Rogers Place in Edmonton for Game 6 of their Western Conference Semifinal against the Anaheim Ducks.
For two matches in a row, the Oilers have gained the lead and then squandered it. They've also seen some close goaltender interference calls go against them, ultimately influencing the end result of each game. The players are the first to admit that the outcomes have been unfortunate but they must park the losses and focus on Sunday's series peak.
"I think we feel good about things," said Oilers forward Mark Letestu. "We're not in the situation we want to be in but there are no residual effects with the way Game 5 went. We're looking forward to this afternoon's game and we're just excited to get it going again."
The Orange & Blue got out to a 3-0 lead in the second period of Game 5 at the Honda Center but in the final three minutes of play with their net empty, the Ducks scored three times - the third with only 15 seconds remaining - to tie the match and force overtime. It's not the conclusion they desired but for the most part of, the Oilers had a strong performance.
"I would have loved to have got a stick on the bouncing puck (late in the third period) and I would have loved to have the shot go off of Leon and miss the net (on Getzlaf's goal)," said Letestu. "The last three minutes didn't go the way we wanted but we hung in there and played another 27 minutes of good hockey and just about had a chance to win it on a few occasions. I feel like if we play that same game, we're going to have a better result."
There's a level of trust within the Oilers dressing room that the players can force Game 7.
"We have the ingredients in this room to get the results we need," said Letestu.
There is an unusual characteristic regarding the Oilers second-round opposition.
In the Ducks' past four playoff eliminations, they have been outed the same way: they've won Game 5 to take a 3-2 series lead but have then lost Games 6 and 7. This occurred last season against the Nashville Predators in Round 1; in the 2015 Western Conference Final against the Chicago Blackhawks; in Round 2 versus the Los Angeles Kings in 2014 and then once again in 2013 when they faced the Detroit Red Wings in the first round.
Whether the Oilers are aware of this odd fact or not, the club is boiling Game 6 down to a single contest they need to win.
"If we're not confident then what are we doing here, really," asked Leon Draisaitl, who has eight points against the Ducks in Round 2. "We're a confident group. It's one game. It's one step at a time but tonight we have to come out strong."
For Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan, tonight's mandate is quite simple.
"We've got to stick within our structure and our team environment," McLellan said. "We've got to stay out of the penalty box and have a good start."
"If we do those things, the game will take itself over."
This series has seen plenty of players get injured. For the Ducks, they have missed the presence of defenceman Kevin Bieksa and forward Patrick Eaves. The Oilers were hit hard in the first period of Game 5, at one point losing Matt Benning, Andrej Sekera and Oscar Klefbom in what seemed like a matter of minutes.
Benning and Klefbom returned to action but Ryan Getzlaf's hit on Sekera was hard enough to force him out of the lineup for the rest of the series, McLellan disclosed Sunday.
Eric Gryba will draw in for the injured defenceman.
Said Ducks Head Coach Randy Carlyle regarding the heavy play: "It's been a physical series. It's not for the faint of heart. You've got to earn your space out there and there are big body checks thrown by both hockey clubs."
Klefbom did not participate in the morning skate as he was receiving treatment, per McLellan. It appears as though he is expected to play tonight.
The Oilers held an optional skate Sunday morning and it appears as no changes have been made to the lineup, aside from the Sekera shuffling.
The defence pairings will become more clear after pre-game warmup.
-- Paul Gazzola, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (6-5) vs. DUCKS (7-2)
TV: 5:00 p.m. MDT; Televised on Sportsnet
After a tough loss in Game 5, the Oilers return home for Game 6 with a chance to extend the series. The way momentum has changed on a dime at many points within the first five games, the Oilers have an opportunity for a fresh start in this one.
Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan stressed on Saturday morning that while momentum has shifted so often and without explanation in this one, an important thing to remember for his young squad is though they're down two games they can only win one tonight.
"We know what's at stake, and you don't have to have a lot of experience to figure that out," said McLellan. "You've got to come and play. The one thing that our players will be told and need to understand is you don't have to win two games tomorrow, you only have to win one. That's our goal and we'll see what happens after that."
OILERS KEYS TO SUCCESS:
STEADY HAND: In each of the last three games, the game has swayed wildly in terms of momentum with one of the teams giving up a lead of two or more goals. It's important for the Oilers to take advantage of that if trailing and if leading to try and prevent the Ducks from crawling back into the picture.
POWER PLAY: Edmonton has been excellent on the power play in this series with five goals on 18 chances (27.8%) and several others where the goal was scored shortly after the penalty expired. The Ducks are the third-most penalized team in these playoffs so the Oilers should continue to get a handful of chances tonight.
BALANCED ATTACK: For most of Friday's game, the Oilers did a good job keeping the Ducks on their toes by having Draisaitl, Nugent-Hopkins and McDavid all on separate lines. It will be interesting to see if the Oilers go with that same plan of attack in Game 6.
Edmonton:Tyler Pitlick is out for the season. Andrej Sekera was injured last game and did not return. He is questionable for tonight.
Anaheim: Kevin Bieksa and Patrick Eaves are both questionable.
The Anaheim Ducks have had a 3-2 series lead seven times in their history and their series record is the same as their record in Game 6: three wins, four losses. Those four game/series losses have come in each of the last four seasons: 2016, 2015, 2014 and 2013. In each of those years, the Ducks lost Game 6 on the road and then lost Game 7 at home to lose the series.
Two times in the last three years, 2016 and 2014, the Ducks lost the first two games of the series at home before winning the next three followed by losing Game 6 and Game 7.
When trailing a best-of-seven series three games to two, the Oilers have a record of 4-3 in Game 6 and an overall series record of 2-5. The last time the Oilers faced elimination in a Game 6 was in the 2006 Stanley Cup Final where they defeated Carolina 4-0.
The two times the Oilers came back to win a series when trailing three games to two were in 1990 (Winnipeg) and 1998 (Colorado). On both those occasions, they had trailed the series three games to one. The other two times the Oilers won Game 6 when trailing 3-2 were 1986 (Calgary) and 2006 (Carolina). They went on to drop those two series in Game 7.
"No lead is safe in this League, it's an entertaining League but it's tough to watch. Certainly, I didn't see a real huge momentum change last night. I saw us getting hemmed in the last three minutes and for a number of reasons we couldn't get the puck out. It was a tough loss to take, but in these series anything can happen, as you've seen so we've just got to get back on the horse." -- Oilers GM and President of Hockey Operations Peter Chiarelli on the team's loss of a three-goal lead in Game 5.
Ducks lead series 3-2
Apr 26:Edmonton 5 at Anaheim 3 Apr 28:Edmonton 2 at Anaheim 1 Apr 30:Anaheim 6 at Edmonton 3 May 3:Anaheim 4 at Edmonton 3 (OT) May 5: Edmonton 3 at Anaheim 4 (2OT) May 7: Anaheim at Edmonton - 5:00 PM MDT May 10: Edmonton at Anaheim - If Necessary
Edmonton won the season series this year 3-2-0
Nov 15: Edmonton 1 at Anaheim 4 Dec 3: Anaheim 2 at Edmonton 3 (OT) Jan 25:Edmonton 4 at Anaheim 0 Mar 22: Edmonton 3 at Anaheim 4 Apr 1: Anaheim 2 at Edmonton 3 (OT)
In 2006, Edmonton defeated Anaheim 4 games to 1 in the only playoff match-up ever between the two teams
May 19:Edmonton 3 at Anaheim 1 May 21:Edmonton 3 at Anaheim 1 May 23: Anaheim 4 at Edmonton 5 May 25:Anaheim 6 at Edmonton 3 May 27:Edmonton 2 at Anaheim 1