When I saw both Edmonton and Anaheim fans filing out of the arena seats with about five minutes to go in the third period on Friday night, I thought of the rule we used to talk about in my Montreal neighborhood. It went like this: “Always get there for the warm-up. Never leave until you know the three stars.”
I had to remind my dad of this one time when we went to a Canadiens game at the Forum. He was OK with me doing this. We stayed until Serge Savard was amongst the three stars.
But some people don’t follow the code, and boy, they, and not the Oilers, were the real losers at Honda Center Friday night (or Saturday morning, depending upon when the hardcore stay-to-the-end types finally left.) The Ducks pulled John Gibson with about 3:35 to go, and they scored scored, a slapper from the point that hit an Edmonton player on the way in and shot up over the goalie. There were just three minutes and 16 seconds left in the game.
Or so it appeared at the time. It would turn out that there was actually more than a period to go, because after the ensuing faceoff, Carlyle pulled Gibson again. The Ducks took just thirty seconds for a puck to come from the point on a wrist shot and beat Cam Talbot. Getzlaf had had the first, and Cam Fowler got this one, his first of the playoffs—despite his having played a lot of offensive minutes, especially in game four back in Edmonton.
The goalie went back in once more, and off a faceoff, he made a blocker save to keep the game 3-2. He stayed until the Ducks left the zone, of course, and then tried to escape. No dice, and good thing, because Edmonton came down on a rush and forced him to make a save when Pouliot shot one off his blocker on a two-on-two rush with Montour and Vatanen back on D. There was a whistle with 1:37 left to go.
The Ducks got possession, but couldn’t get the puck in the Edmonton zone, as it went in and came back out. With but 1:03 left, they finally got it into Edmonton’s end, and then it came out again. Getzlaf took it back in. He cruised all the way around the back of the net and out the other side, then took it to the net, where a group of players crashed for it and Talbot made a save.
The puck rolled out away from him and was picked up by Rakell, who skated away from the net and backhanded the puck towards the cage. Talbot was down. Others were there, including Ducks players. It sneaked through the legs of Talbot as he was lying there. Game tied, with fifteen seconds to go.
Carlyle would later discuss this: “I don’t know if there’s a recipe, something you can hang your hat on, other than, you cannot quit believing. In any situation, momentum swings in the playoffs are so drastic, and they mean so much, when you are able to get one [goal] you start to believe, and it sends a different message to the opposition. You get two and it really sends a ‘we can get this done,’ and the intensity level from your perspective goes up dramatically. And you know, we just found a way and willed it across the line.”
But he was quick to put his team’s eventual win away: “It’s a great achievement for our players, and we should be very proud of ourselves, but the next one will be the most important one, the toughest one, in their building.”
Did the Ducks deserve the tie?
The answer to that question would tell you, if you weren’t a diehard for either team, what the right outcome of OT would be. But wait. There was a review of that third goal. “Goalie interference is challenged” and etc. etc.
Why not make that claim, if you’re Edmonton, because while there was no interference, there were people crashing around the crease. But so many calls this playoffs have gone so oddly, it was worth a try. The review was short-ish, and denied.
Lucic after the game was quite sure they got it wrong, and that he thought the play was unfair. He’s wrong, though had he made a similar case the other night in Anaheim, when Perry clearly interfered with Talbot to cause a goal, he would have been right.
McLellan was clearly seething in his press conference, and he wasn’t about to be drawn in to the discussion: “Interference, you’re asking the wrong guy. I don’t know what interference is any more, so obviously Kesler was pushed in. There’s no doubt about that. But we had a strong belief that he had wrapped his arm around Talb[ot]’s leg, but I don’t know what it is anymore, so you’ll have to ask somebody else.”
Problem: There is nobody to ask. The league doesn’t seem to know, either. He said to a follow-up question, “They don’t give explanations anymore. They drop the puck and go.” He said he hadn’t read the league’s explanation. “I don’t know what they said. I don’t know if they put anything out.”
And Carlyle, well, what would you expect him to say, but, “To me, it was more about how our player got there, to the ice surface, and how did he get tangled up with their goaltender a’tall? I clearly saw that once he was pushed into their goaltender, it was a whole different scenario.” But he would shortly say, “I’ve said enough about what [the NHL] thinks, what they do. I’ll leave it up to the other people who are in charge of making the decisions. We live by their decisions, and we cannot change or influence their decisions. Those people that are making those calls make it on a consistent basis. They don’t tell me . . . how to coach or who I’m supposed to put on the ice, so I’m not going to tell them how to do their job.”
So it was knotted. It would be OT. And all of that took place with three goalie pulls in just over three minutes. Significantly, the players who got the points on the plays were Getzlaf with a goal, Fowler with a goal, Rakell with one; and Kesler with an assist, Silfverberg with two assists, and Perry with two assists. And he wasn’t finished.
Notice that there were no invisible fourth-liners in on any of that. No miracles from young call-ups like Nicolas Kerdiles. Nope. When Anaheim needed to be bailed out, it was the big boys that came with the buckets. Note too that for the entire last four minutes (or just shy), the same set of players was on the ice, with the exception that on the first goal, Vermette was out rather than Perry, who then was on for the duration after that.
Why they waited until so late is a question that can mostly be answered by saying that the Oilers were very, very good in this game, and by all rights deserved to win it.
But OT would decide that. Or not. The first extra frame saw the Ducks pound away in the early going, but then retreat. The Oilers were stronger with the puck. While the zone time might have not been entirely lopsided, when Edmonton had the puck in the Anaheim end, they were able to back the defense off and get to the net. Though the Ducks outshot thenm 14-9 in that period, the chances were all Edmonton. Gibson made save after save on pucks that could well have gone in. They also seemed to be able to keep the puck in the Ducks’ end at will.
The Ducks’ best chance in that twenty minutes was when they got a four-on-two and the puck came off Shaw’s stick and through Talbot, rolling a foot from the goal line before being scooped away by Kris Russell.
The Oilers responded with a McDavid wrap-around that didn’t go, then a wrister that he fired high and wide. They later got a two-on-one chance that Gibson made a leg save on.
They scared their fans at one point when they took a very obvious too-many-men minor penalty, with the shots at 54 for Anaheim and 36 for Edmonton. The Ducks passed endlessly in the Oilers’ zone, but nothing came of it. Kassian roared after a puck that had been flipped out near the end of the PP and almost caught up with it, but by the time he got to it, it was at the Ducks’ goal line. Maroon fired a shot off the shoulder of Gibson late to pose another threat. He rushed the puck after this, with just forty seconds left in the first OT. The Ducks returned the rush in the form of Getzlaf, but he wheeled around and passed a puck he should have shot, and the period ended.
The second period of OT began with the Ducks making the mistakes a tired team makes. Fowler made a weak clear off the boards and saw the Edmonton team gain the zone. The Ducks tried to return the rush, but it was like OT1—they weren’t able to get deep in the zone and stay there. Vatanen turned a puck over. Montour chipped a puck at center and saw it go right to Edmonton. They took a shot that Gibson nabbed, and that led to a faceoff in the Anaheim end.
Finally a break came for the home team when they got an odd-man rush with three Edmonton players behind the play after a faceoff. The Ducks rushed, but a backwards pass broke that up.
It almost seemed like they were happy to have done what they’d done already in the game—a mythical and miraculous near-miss it would have been. But then Perry. That’s all, no verb—just Perry. He scored.
Getzlaf fed him from the left hashmarks. Perry took the puck and wheeled out high, rather than crashing right to the net. He held the puck long enough for me to say, “He’s held the puck too long,” and then to watch as a prone Talbot helplessly tried to get across his crease while Perry put it in the empty side of the net. The place exploded, and all those people who had left started to make themselves believe that they’d really seen the goal, rather than having listened to it on their car radios. Heck, it took so long after the tying goal that they probably did see it—on TV at home.
The lesson is clear, and I’m not going to say it all fancy-like: Don’t leave games until they end.
Perry had a book on the goalie going in, as he later explained: “Well, we go over film on what’s . . . on what his tendencies are. You play many games against him during the season. But as many times as we’ve played now, you kind of just get shots on net. When I saw an opening, I knew what I wanted to do.”
Does this make up for his season? Carlyle was quick to correct the idea that any making up needed to be done: “The criticism that has been directed towards Corey Perry for lack of offensive production over the course of the season . . . it’s not always the individual. You cannot always look at the individual and say ‘He ought to do this; he ought to do that.’ The game evolves; people change. The one thing you can’t stop is that clock.” He would later say, “The older you get, it just seems that the clock speeds up . . . . The things that you were able to accomplish a year ago, a year and a half ago, aren’t the things you can accomplish now, but he still made a huge contribution to our hockey club. I think he was third in scoring. . . , part of our power play for the first forty games of the year. He scored big goals in different situations . . . so why would we think he can’t do it now?”
He could. He did. Game over at 6:57 of OT number two.
But let’s not forget another unsung hero: Rickard Rakell. It was his rush that had taken the puck all the way up ice, through center. He had beaten two or three guys, and he almost lost the puck twice, picking it back up in his feet. He had then crashed Nurse in the corner to get him to cough up the puck to Getzlaf on the boards.
And to sum up the game as a whole, McLellan said he was not in the least upset with how the Anaheim goals were scored. Each one, and he broke all three of the ones scored in regulation down, was simply circumstance. The first, Draisaitle blocked a shot with a bare hand and it dribbled to the wrong (from Edmonton’s POV) guy. The second, “We had a stick stripped out of our hands, and we were handing off to the D man as you always do, and the last one, um, bounces over a stick with fifteen seconds to taking the lead [in the series]. So we’re disappointed, but we can’t get mad at anybody. They were all effort opportunities.”
And so you have it—the Comeback on Katella.
The Oilers had all of these three defensemen hurt within six our eight minutes of the start of the game: Sekera (he left early and didn’t come back), Benning, and Klefbom. Pouliot played some defense in the gap, well enough that McLellan said, “And if you didn’t notice, he played that well on [D].” Larsson got almost 45 minutes of playing time to exceed his nearest competitor on either team by ten minutes. TEN!
I was the guest co-host on this week’s Puck Podcast. Look for it on ITunes or follow the guys @puckpodcast on twitter.