EDMONTON — The Edmonton Oilers followed their most lopsided loss of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs with one of their most impressive wins.
Facing the threat of falling one game from elimination, the Oilers dominated the Vegas Golden Knights in a 4-1 win in Game 4 of the Western Conference Second Round at Rogers Place on Wednesday, tying the best-of-7 series 2-2.
“We have to follow it up, somebody has to do it two nights in a row, and it’s got to be us,” Oilers captain Connor McDavid said. “We talk about it all the time, shifts after a big goal, and I thought we did a good job of grabbing the momentum after we scored one and continued to play our game the way we want to, play with pace, and I thought we did a good job as a team.”
Game 5 is in Las Vegas on Friday (10 p.m. ET; TNT, CBC, SN, TVAS).
Edmonton lost 5-1 in Game 3 here Monday to fall behind 2-1 in the series. In Game 4, the Oilers scored three goals in the first period and built a 4-0 lead by 14:45 of the second period, when forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored his first goal of the playoffs. Nugent-Hopkins had an NHL career-high 104 points (37 goals, 67 assists) in 82 games during the regular season. He had six assists in nine playoff games going into Game 4.
“I thought we were ready right from the get-go, that was kind of the theme for Game 2 and tonight, the starts are so important in the playoffs,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “It really just gives you momentum and [Nick Bjugstad] gets us a massive goal to start and we kept rolling from there. It was a great response tonight, but we need to replicate that in Game 5.”
Edmonton won 5-1 in Game 2 after losing the opening game of the series 6-4 in Las Vegas.
Bjugstad scored at 6:46 of the first period Wednesday to make it 1-0. Evan Bouchard scored on the power play at 7:38 for a 2-0 lead, and Mattias Ekholm scored at 13:30 to put the Oilers ahead 3-0.
Nicolas Roy scored at 5:58 of the third period to ruin the shutout bid for Edmoton goalie Stuart Skinner, who made 25 saves. Adin Hill, in his first NHL playoff start, made 29 saves for Vegas. Hill replaced Laurent Brossoit, who sustained a lower-body injury 11:44 into the first period of Game 3.
“I felt good, but it was a huge win by the group, and that’s the most important thing,” Skinner said. “The way they battled tonight was impressive.”
Skinner was pulled at 12:03 of the second period in Game 3, after giving up four goals on 23 shots, and replaced by Jack Campbell. Skinner was busiest in the second period of Game 4, when the Oilers took three consecutive penalties, including one on him for touching the puck in the restricted area behind his net.
“That’s why I took that penalty, so I could keep on getting shots,” Skinner joked. “It was a silly mistake by me, and then I gave [Vincent Desharnais] a bad pass that ended up being a penalty as well (puck over glass). So, I definitely had to fight to make sure those didn’t bite us in the butt, because I think those were my doing. But being able to get that action, you get a good sweat on, you start feeling good again.”
Edmonton played one of its most physical games of the playoffs, making a concerted effort to finish body checks against the Vegas defensemen.
Alex Pietrangelo was a target of a number of those hits and showed his frustration towards the end of the game, when he was assessed a five-minute major penalty and game misconduct for slashing Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl at 18:33 of the third period.
“It’s a skilled group of defensemen back there, so we know we have to play them hard,” Bjugstad said. “That’s been a focus from the get-go. It’s the playoffs, we’re all trying to finish our checks and be physical. Sometimes it’s easier some nights to lay hit when you’re placing the puck in the right spots on the forecheck and when guys are on the same page, that puts you in a position to finish a check and create a forecheck. I thought tonight we were well prepared, and we’ll take the positives from that.”