EDMONTON, Alberta — In Game 5 on Friday night with less than four minutes left, the Edmonton Oilers led the Anaheim Ducks 3-0. The Ducks mounted an epic comeback to win 4-3 in overtime and take a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference semifinal series.
That’s not the first time the Oilers have lost a lead. After two games in the series, Edmonton was up 2-0 after winning twice on the road. But Anaheim came back to win the next two games in Edmonton, including a Game 4 rally from two goals down.
Now the question for a young, inexperienced Oilers team is do they mentally recover for Sunday’s Game 6.
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The Oilers need to win to extend the series to Game 7. Lose and the Ducks advance to the Western Conference final.
MVP finalist Connor McDavid, who had a goal and an assist in the Oilers’ Game 5 loss, showed a bit of defiance after the collapse.
“It sucks, but we’ll be back here (in Anaheim for Game 7) Wednesday,” he said.
“We’re all (ticked) off, we’re down, we’re allowed to feel those emotions right now,” Oilers coach Todd McLellan said. “We’re allowed to vent and feel that way. But we’ve got to come back with a game that’s that much better at home. We can do that. We believe we can play with this team since day one.”
In Edmonton, the focus was on two video reviews that both went the Ducks’ way. Both calls have been hot topics on social media and talk radio. There is even talk about anti-Canadian conspiracies and pro-Anaheim refereeing. (A Canadian team hasn’t won the Stanley Cup since 1993.)
In Game 4, the comeback was spurred when Ryan Getzlaf scored as teammate Corey Perry made contact with the skate of Oilers goalie Cam Talbot. The NHL allowed the goal to stand, ruling that the contact was incidental and didn’t prevent the goalie from stopping the puck.
In Game 5, Rickard Rakell’s late tying goal came as Ryan Kesler’s arm looked to be hooked on Talbot’s pad. But the league ruled that Kesler was in the crease because he was knocked in by Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse.
But that’s all history now. Those controversial calls may have confirmed a couple of key goals, but they were both only parts of major comebacks by the Ducks.
The truth is, the Oilers have had the Ducks by the neck several times — up two games to none, up 2-0 in Game 4, up 3-0 in Game 5 — and each time showed their inexperience and inability to close a team out.
Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf, who has 15 points in nine playoffs games, said it wasn’t so much about his team getting off to slow starts and needing to scramble back. It’s about a team that has kept its intensity high and doesn’t get breaks early but keeps the effort going.
“The message is, to keep doing what we’re doing,” Getzlaf said. “We talk about the same things every time, our group is resilient and we have to be able to maintain things throughout a game.”
Remember that the Ducks were down 4-0 to the Calgary Flames in the Game 3 of the first round, so it’s fair to call them the comeback kings of this year’s playoffs.
The Oilers have to know that — with the leads they’ve had through this series, with the chances they’ve had to win games — if they lose Game 6 at home and their season comes to an end, they’ll have to live with the “Atlanta Falcons of the NHL” tag all summer long.
Knowing that, the Ducks expect a big pushback.
“It’s a great achievement for our players and we should feel good about ourselves,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said of the comeback. “But the next one will be the most important one, the toughest one, in their building.”
On Saturday, McLellan said he had no update on the condition of defenseman Andrej Sekera, who left in the first period of Game 5 after taking a clean hit from Getzlaf.
Ducks winger Patrick Eaves, who has missed the last two games with a lower-body injury, and defenseman Kevin Bieksa, who has missed the last three, are question marks.