EDMONTON, AB - Game 1 between the Oilers and Sharks was very much a learning experience for Edmonton. After setting the tone early and using the raucous Rogers Place crowd to their advantage by gaining a two-goal lead in the first period, the team got a sense of what playoff hockey is all about: tight-checking, limiting room and keeping the pace quick.
Having that knowledge will help going forward and in Part 2 of what could be a seven-game saga.
"Just having the experience of one game, I know it sounds silly but I think guys are probably a little looser today," said Oilers winger Jordan Eberle. "They know how the game's going to be tonight and I think you're going to see a better team tonight for sure just because of that."
The mandate since the beginning of the season in the Oilers dressing room was to grow as a team. That hasn't changed in the post-season.
"We're experiencing this for the first time in a decade and for the first time as a group," said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. "Every win, loss, tie - whatever it is - teaches you a lesson and we were taught one the other day."
Edmonton will look to "repair" the components of their game they believe fell apart in Game 1, including their shift lengths and discipline.
STAYING OUT OF THE SIN BIN
One way teams attempt to get ahead in a long playoff series is by bruising their opponent. The Oilers threw their weight around quite a bit last outing, out-hitting the Sharks 49-34.
Forward Drake Caggiula was evidently physical in Game 1 and his five hits prove it.
"I got that little Pitbull mentality in me," said the Oilers rookie. "Every game is more physical; everybody plays a little more physical and that's always been part of my game."
In playing a heavy game, though, infractions are more likely. The Oilers took six penalties and the Sharks scored on one of them to ignite the comeback. Caggiula was sent to the sin bin twice, getting called for hooking and high-sticking.
"The first one was an offensive zone penalty and it was a hooking penalty, too, so you're not happy about that," said Caggiula. "The second one was kind of unfortunate. I got bumped into by one of their players and because of that, I got my stick up."
It's all about staying within the physical boundaries without putting your team down a man.
"There's a fine line between playing aggressive and then crossing the line... You just got to make sure you're staying on that line."
Many Oilers felt that they were trying to do too much and as a result were getting caught on the ice for extended periods of time. Edmonton will attempt to solve their shift length woes by maintaining the puck better and changing while in the offensive zone.
"They did that to us a few times and it led to three, four, five shots on net in a row," said Caggiula. "That creates momentum and the next shift is kind of the same effect."
Other than that, it's just about changing when it's smart to do so.
"You just have to make sure you're sharp in your changes so that way they don't quick-up you but at the same time, you got to make sure you have short shifts," said Caggiula.
Nothing has changed for San Jose forward Joe Thornton, who remains day-to-day and a game-time decision as per Sharks Head Coach Peter DeBoer.
Judging by who came off the ice first, the Oilers lineup could be:
Klefbom - Larsson Sekera - Russell Nurse - Benning
-- Paul Gazzola, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (0-1) vs. SHARKS (1-0)
TV: 8:30 p.m. MDT; Televised on Sportsnet
It was an amazing atmosphere at Rogers Place on Wednesday night and the Oilers fed off the crowd's energy with an explosive start, scoring twice in the opening frame to put the visiting Sharks on their heels.
But the veteran Sharks found a way to turn the momentum in a hostile building and despite not being a great third-period team this season they did enough to force overtime where the game was won on a Melker Karlsson goal.
Tonight, the Oilers have a chance to steal back some of that momentum and certainly they'll have a great crowd behind them as they look to build on what was an outstanding first period and make it stretch the full 60 minutes (or more).
OILERS KEYS TO SUCCESS:
STAY OUT OF THE BOX: The Oilers gave San Jose six power plays and only had three of their own. The penalty trouble disrupted the team's flow at times.
SHORTER SHIFTS: Coach McLellan spoke after the game on Wednesday about the Oilers getting caught on longer shifts than the Sharks and that leading to some goals.
JUST PLAY: The Oilers are only down one game in this series and have played some great hockey down the stretch. They've also bounced back from losses quite well over the past month. Patrick Maroon said: "It's Game 1. Our game didn't go to crap over night… This is all positive. We're all excited in here."
Edmonton: The Oilers are healthy with the exception of Tyler Pitlick, who's out for the season.
San Jose: Joe Thornton (lower body) and Logan Couture (face) both were injured late in the season. Couture returned on Wednesday and Thornton remains day-to-day.
The team which wins Game 1 of a best-of-seven series in the NHL ends up winning the series 68.5% of the time. When the team that wins is the road team, that gets reduced to 56.5% of the time. The visiting team also has only won Game 2 37.5% of the time in those scenarios.
Eight Oilers played their first-ever playoff game on Wednesday: Leon Draisaitl, Jordan Eberle, Oscar Klefbom, Connor McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Darnell Nurse, Iiro Pakarinen and rookie Drake Caggiula.
"We weren't going to go 16-0. We didn't expect to sweep these guys. The idea coming into today is flush it, be ready for another game. There's no panic in this group. We know we're a lot better than what we showed." -- Oilers forward Mark Letestu
Sharks lead best-of-seven series 1-0
Apr 12: San Jose 3 at Edmonton 2 (OT) Apr 14: San Jose at Edmonton - 8:30 p.m. MDT Apr 16: Edmonton at San Jose - 8:00 p.m. MDT Apr 18: Edmonton at San Jose - 8:00 p.m. MDT Apr 20: San Jose at Edmonton - TBD Apr 22: Edmonton at San Jose - TBD Apr 24: San Jose at Edmonton - TBD
Edmonton won the season series this year 3-1-1
Dec 23: Edmonton 2 at San Jose 3 (OT) Jan 10: San Jose 5 at Edmonton 3 Jan 26: Edmonton 4 at San Jose 1 Mar 30: San Jose 2 at Edmonton 3 Apr 6: Edmonton 4 at San Jose 2
In 2006, Edmonton defeated San Jose 4 games to 2 in the only playoff match-up ever between the two teams
May 7: Edmonton 1 at San Jose 2 May 8: Edmonton 1 at San Jose 2 May 10: San Jose 2 at Edmonton 3 (3OT) May 12: San Jose 3 at Edmonton 6 May 14: Edmonton 6 at San Jose 3 May 17: San Jose 0 at Edmonton 2