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Tencer's Blog: First Round Memories

by Dan Tencer / Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers celebrate Jarret Stoll's overtime-winning goal in Game 3 of the 2006 Western Conference Quarter-Final series -- a pivotal win that pushed the copper and blue to a 2-1 series lead over the heavily-favoured Red Wings (Photo by Tim Smith / Getty Images).

There's nothing better in professional sports than the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 16 teams combine for 8 Best-Of-7 series and hockey every night for 2 weeks. It's a beautiful thing!

This opening round has provided a thrilling combination of offense, nastiness and controversy that has made it a treat for hockey fans everywhere. But, in our heart of hearts here in Edmonton, there's still an empty feeling when the Oilers aren't involved. So, as we continue to get excited for what lies ahead in the future, here's a quick look back at some of the past. In honour of the Best-Of-7 playoff format, I present the "Best-Of-7 Oilers 1st Round Memories":

1981 - Oilers sweep Montreal for first ever playoff series victory

In just their second season in the NHL, nobody gave the Oilers a fighting chance against the storied Montreal Canadiens in the opening round. With Andy Moog in goal the Oilers shocked the hockey world by winning 6-3 on the road in Montreal in Game 1, followed by a 3-1 decision in Game 2 and a 6-2 thrashing to sweep the series on home ice at Northlands Coliseum, winning the first playoff round in franchise history.

1984 - Oilers sweep Winnipeg to kickstart the run to their first Stanley Cup Championship

It never was easy for the old Winnipeg Jets in the Smythe Division, having to go up against the Oilers and Flames. 1984 was no different as the Oilers scored 17 goals in 3 games to roll over Winnipeg en route to defeating the Flames, North Stars and Islanders to capture the Stanley Cup. The closest game in the opening round series versus the Jets was Game 2, which went to overtime and featured Randy Gregg as the hero.

1990 - Oilers win 5th Stanley Cup after almost being eliminated in the opening round

As I alluded to previously, the Winnipeg Jets never did get the Oilers' number. But, they did come really close in the opening round in 1990. A goal by Dave Ellett in double overtime of Game 4 gave the Winnipeg Jets a stranglehold 3-1 series lead. Eventual Conn Smythe Trophy winner Bill Ranford anchored the team in the final 3 games, which featured a huge goal by Jari Kurri in Game 6 to force the tiebreaking Game 7, where the Oilers prevailed 4-1 on home ice to advance.

1991 - A classic Battle of Alberta goes the distance

After jumping out to a 3-1 series lead, the Edmonton Oilers nearly let the Calgary Flames come all the way back. An OT goal from Theoren Fleury in Game 6 in Edmonton, featuring a memorable celebration, propelled the series to a Game 7 back in Calgary. The deciding game would go to OT as well, tied 4-4, and ended with the Oilers advancing on Esa Tikkanen's 7th goal of the series.

1997 - After 4 seasons out of the playoffs the Oilers return and shock the Stars

A record of 36-37-9 for 81 points got the Oilers into the playoffs in 1996-97 after 4 years removed from the post-season. The opponent was the heavily favoured Central Division champion Dallas Stars, who won the opening game of the series 5-3. Curtis Joseph earned a shutout for the Oilers in Game 2 to even the series, setting up a dramatic Game 3. Trailing 3-0 late in the 3rd period, the Oilers got goals from Doug Weight, Andrei Kovalenko and Mike Grier to send the game to OT. Kelly Buchberger was the hero in the extra frame to give the Oilers the series lead. Despite winning Game 5 in double overtime, the Oilers still needed to go to a Game 7 to close out the series. Tied at 3-3 in OT, Curtis Joseph made a miraculous save off of Stars forward Joe Nieuwendyk, setting up a breakaway moments later for Todd Marchant, who sealed the series by beating Andy Moog.

1998 - Oilers fall behind 3-1 in the series against Colorado but rally to win in 7 games

After defeating Dallas in 7 games in 1997, the Oilers were eliminated in the 2nd round by the Colorado Avalanche. In 1998, the Oilers would get their revenge. After winning the opening game of the series, the Oilers lost 3 straight to fall to the brink of elimination. Goaltending hero Curtis Joseph seized the moment and closed the door the rest of the way, allowing just 1 goal in the final 3 games, including back-to-back shutouts to end the series. By Game 7, it was no contest as the Oilers easily romped to a 4-0 victory to advance to the 2nd round.

2006 - 8th seeded Oilers defeat 1st seeded Red Wings in 6 games

After narrowly squeaking into the playoffs in the final week of the regular season, the Oilers were destined to face the best team in the league, the Detroit Red Wings, who finished the regular season with 124 points. After losing Game 1 on the road in double overtime, the Oilers would win a 2OT game of their own in Game 3 as Jarret Stoll played the role of hero. After Detroit won Game 4, the Oilers hung on for a courageous victory on the road in Game 5 and would seal a series victory in Game 6 with a dramatic 3rd period comeback. A pair of goals for hometown boy Fernando Pisani and another pair for Ales Hemsky, including the winner in the final 90 seconds of regulation, vaulted the Oilers to a stunning upset.

You can listen to Dan on Inside Sports weeknights from 6 to 9 on 630 CHED. Follow Dan on Twitter | @dantencer
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