EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) The Edmonton Oilers bounced back from a tough loss in the last game with a resounding win, and put the pressure on the Anaheim Ducks.
Leon Draisaitl had three goals and two assists, Mark Letestu added two goals and two assists, and the Oilers cruised to a 7-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday night, forcing a decisive Game 7 in their Western Conference semifinal series.
”Obviously the season was on the line and we all had to step it up a notch and the whole group did,” Draisaitl said.
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Game 7 is Wednesday night at Anaheim, with the winner advancing to face the Nashville Predators in the conference finals.
”The big test is coming up,” Oilers coach Todd McLellan said. ”We’re going to have to park this one quickly and get ready for a big battle down there.”
The Ducks will be head back to southern California looking to end a trend of having lost a Game 7 at home in four straight years. Anaheim was eliminated in the first round of 2013 (Detroit) and 2016 (Nashville), the second round in 2014 (Los Angeles), and the conference finals in 2015 (Chicago) in Game 7s at the Honda Center. The Ducks led each of those series 3-2 before back-to-back losses ended their seasons.
”Half of the guys in here haven’t been here for that stuff,” Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf said. ”We’re going back with the preparation to be ready for a big game. It doesn’t really matter what the situation is. It is still win or go home.”
The Oilers won twice in Anaheim to open this series and narrowly lost Game 5 there in double overtime.
Zach Kassian and Anton Slepychev also scored and Cam Talbot stopped 34 shots for the Oilers, who led 5-0 after the first period.
Rickard Rakell scored midway through the second period for Anaheim. John Gibson was pulled after giving up three goals on six shots less than 8 1/2 minutes into the game. Jonathan Bernier came on and finished with 25 saves.
”I wasn’t very good,” Gibson said. ”I have to come up with a couple of saves and maybe it’s different, maybe it’s not. As it went on they kind of took it to us, it wasn’t our best. I wasn’t as good as I wanted to be and I kind of let them down.”
Slepychev extended the Oilers’ lead to 6-0 in the opening minute of the second period before Rakell got the Ducks on the scoreboard just shy of the 9-minute mark.
”For us to come out in the second period and get that sixth goal, that was big,” Letestu said. ”It showed we weren’t going to get back on our heels and possibly let them get back into the hockey game.”
The Oilers were up 3-0 on Friday night and on the cusp of taking a 3-2 series lead home when the Ducks became just the second team in NHL playoff history to erase a three-goal deficit in the last four minutes of regulation. Ducks center Ryan Kesler had his glove on Talbot’s pad when Rakell put a backhand between his pads to tie it with 15 seconds remaining. Corey Perry then scored the double-overtime winner.
”What we experienced in Game 4 and 5 with two comebacks by them, we knew we had to keep our foot on the gas pedal and the hockey gods gave us a chance in Game 7,” Oilers forward Milan Lucic said.
Edmonton’s last Game 7 was the 2006 Stanley Cup final, which they lost 3-1 at Carolina.
Draisaitl completed his hat trick on a give-and-go with Lucic with 4 1/2 minutes left in the second period when Kesler was serving a roughing minor.
Draisaitl whiffed on breakaway, but the puck had enough forward momentum to slide under Gibson 2:45 into the game. Gibson was fooled by Draisaitl’s no-look backhand off a feed from Milan Lucic at 7:22.
Kassian won a race with Ducks defensemen for a loose puck in Anaheim’s zone. He shook off Josh Manson and beat Gibson with a forehand five-hole at 8:25 to make it 3-0.
Bernier left the puck unattended instead of smothering a rebound, which gave Letestu two swings at it with success on his second try at 11:39. Letestu put a one-timer over Bernier’s right pad for a power-play goal with 1:15 remaining in the first.
NOTES: Draisaitl has a team-leading four goals and nine assists in the series. … Edmonton’s blue line ran with reinforcements as Eric Gryba and Griffin Reinhart replaced Andrej Sekura and Oscar Klefbom in the lineup. Sekura played less than two minutes in Game 5 because of an apparent leg injury. Klefbom took a shot in the chest and missed half a period, but returned to that game. Klefbom left warmup early Sunday and was replaced in the lineup by Reinhart.