NHL playoffs: Big guns lift Oilers to series-tying win over Golden Knights
Leon Draisaitl added to his playoff legend with another epic night, while Connor McDavid and Evan Bouchard also feasted on the Golden Knights in Game 2.
Heading into Saturday's Game 2 between the Edmonton Oilers and Vegas Golden Knights, people questioned Edmonton’s supporting cast members. Logically enough, fans wanted more from players beyond Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
Well, those concerns didn’t particularly matter in Game 2, as the Oilers’ biggest names were unstoppable in Edmonton's 5-1 win to even the series heading back to Alberta.
McDavid and Draisaitl popped two goals a piece — including this shorthanded gem from No. 97 in the opening frame — while Zach Hyman (3) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (2) added multiple assists in the win.
And with another goal and a helper in Game 2, Evan Bouchard keeps making a name for himself, too.
Oilers truly special against Golden Knights
Sandwiched in between two Leon Draisaitl goals, Connor McDavid’s shorthanded tally felt like a microcosm of Game 2. Truly, there was only so much Shea Theodore and the Golden Knights could do about two spectacular talents at the top of their game.
The Captain capitalizes pic.twitter.com/mK8LwE78Nz
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) May 6, 2023
You can read more about that dominant first period here. In short: the Oilers’ special teams (and their special stars) pushed Game 2 out of reach, and left the Golden Knights searching for answers. Naturally, Vegas will want to limit penalties, but at some point you have to be able to kill more of those chances off.
Edmonton's PP is converting at a ridiculous 56-percent clip so far this postseason.
Best Power Play percentage through first 8 games of a single postseason, NHL histry
2023 Oilers 56.0%
1981 Islanders 42.9%
2021 Avalanche 40.7%
2012 Flyers 38.2%
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) May 7, 2023
After falling behind 4-0, the Golden Knights created some chances, but Stuart Skinner was alert and sharp. Vegas couldn’t build much of a push in the second period with Skinner making stops like this one on Chandler Stephenson — who was on a five-game point streak with five goals and four assists.
Skinner ended up stopping 30 out of 31 shots he faced in Game 2.
Stuart Skinner shuts down Stephenson's breakaway try, keeping Vegas off the scoreboard#LetsGoOilers | #VegasBorn pic.twitter.com/oQtX100TU1
— Hockey Daily 365 l NHL Highlights (@HockeyDaily365) May 7, 2023
Nastiness in garbage time, Hill replaces Brossoit in the third
Down 5-0 to start the third period, the Golden Knights replaced Brossoit with Adin Hill. While Brossoit was the clear choice through seven playoff games so far, he only played in 11 regular-season games (starting 10), while Hill started 25 and played in 27. (Injured goalie Logan Thompson led Vegas with 36 starts and 37 games played).
Could there be room for some goalie controversy? You might quibble about the optics of both of McDavid’s goals, but it’s foolish to place too much blame on goaltending.
Less than two minutes into the third period, Ivan Barbashev spoiled Skinner’s shutout attempt.
Game 2 ended up going out with a whimper, aside from moments of violence with Evander Kane right in the middle of it.
in the press box howling at this. the little flip! look at it! https://t.co/PfjwjAflVv
— Sean Gentille (@seangentille) May 7, 2023
Draisaitl continues playoff run for the ages
In just 16 playoff games last year, Draisaitl scored seven goals and 32 points. Shockingly, that might have just been a warmup for the German forward. While his playmaking has been sharp, it’s interesting that he’s been more of a finisher this postseason.
With two tallies in the first period, Draisaitl now has 13 goals in just eight playoff games. Sportsnet stats notes that Draisaitl became the first player to score at least 13 goals in any eight-game playoff span since Jari Kurri did it in 1985. It’s very plausible (more likely than not at this pace) that Draisaitl could tie or exceed 17 goals through two playoff rounds — the current record held by Edward “Newsy” Lalonde.
Most goals in first 2 rounds of a single postseason
Newsy Lalonde (Canadiens: 1919) 17
Reggie Leach (Flyers: 1976) 15
Tim Kerr (Flyers: 1989) 14
Leon Draisaitl (Oilers: 2023) 13...and counting
Joe Sakic (Avalanche: 1996) 13
Brett Hull (Blues: 1990) 13
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) May 7, 2023
Depending upon how far the Oilers go and if Draisaitl can remain healthy (and confident), Draisaitl can set his sights on other top marks. Reggie Leach and Kurri share the NHL playoff record with 19 goals (Leach did so in just 16 games versus 18 for Kurri).
Draisaitl reached 30 career playoff goals in his 45th postseason game, becoming just the seventh player in NHL history to reach 30-plus playoff goals in 45 games or fewer.
Bouchard booming in his own right
When handing out praise, don’t forget Evan Bouchard. Bouchard extended his playoff point streak to eight games, tying Miro Heiskanen for the third-longest playoff point streak for a defenseman 23-years-old or younger. Only Bobby Orr (14 games in a row) and Denis Potvin (12) managed longer point streaks as under-24 players.
Bouchard set a new Oilers franchise record for defensemen for power-play points in the playoffs, passing Chris Pronger’s 11.
Eichel vs. McDavid not much of a story so far
How do you really judge Jack Eichel’s play so far?
In Game 1, Eichel finished with two points. They weren’t the most demonstrative points, though, as his goal was an empty-netter (though to be fair, a long-distance one) and a secondary assist.
Appraising Eichel’s performance in Game 2 is tricky in its own right, being that the game went off the rails so quickly. Officials whistled Eichel for two minor penalties during the second period, he fired several shots on goal, and his line basically drew even at 5-on-5.
Eichel’s seen a smattering of minutes against Draisaitl and McDavid (seeing No. 29 a bit more than 97). Perhaps we’ll get a better taste of a marquee matchup when the scene shifts to Edmonton, but so far, Eichel hasn’t been a huge difference-maker. Of course, it’s early, and Game 2 was odd enough that it may be tempting to label it a one-off.