SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — After a more than a decade-long playoff drought in Edmonton, the Oilers are in no hurry to leave the NHL’s postseason party.
Leon Draisaitl and Anton Slepyshev scored on breakaways in the opening minutes of the second period and the Oilers advanced to the second round of the playoffs with a 3-1 victory in Game 6 over the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night.
“I think we’re a little bit more mature than people give us credit for and I think we showed that tonight,” said captain Connor McDavid, who sealed the game with an empty-net goal in the final second.
The three goal scorers in the clincher are among the nine skaters on the Oilers who are younger than 25 and had been almost entirely untested in the rigors of the postseason. But they managed to bounce back from a blown lead and overtime loss in Game 1 and a 7-0 shellacking in Game 4 to beat a veteran team that had gone all the way to the Stanley Cup Final a year ago.
Not that it came easy in their first postseason trip since 2006. The Oilers frantically tried to hold on after building the 2-0 lead and had to survive a tense power play after a penalty for too many men on the ice that included Joe Pavelski hitting both the cross bar and post on a shot that nearly tied the game.
“We were anxious. I’m not going to lie to you. There were anxious moments, there were mistakes, too many men on the ice, you get a little over excited,” coach Todd McLellan said. “There were lessons learned for us. We’ll be better the next time we get in that situation, but the good thing is we came through it.”
Patrick Marleau got the Sharks on the board with 7:48 left in the third period, but Cam Talbot didn’t allow anything else on 28 shots to send Edmonton into the second round against Anaheim.
The defending Western Conference champion Sharks had a quick exit this year in the playoffs as they never fully recovered after blowing a two-goal lead in Game 5 in Edmonton.
Martin Jones made 18 saves, but couldn’t stop the two breakaways and the offense failed to deliver in what could have been the final home game for longtime Sharks greats Joe Thornton and Marleau. The 37-year-old forwards are both free agents this summer and it is uncertain whether the Sharks will bring them back for another run.
After Marleau’s goal breathed life into the building, Pavelski’s backhand attempt was the closest San Jose came to a second goal.
“There are just a couple key moments in the series,” Pavelski said. “It’s a series at the end of the night you lose and you don’t know how you lost at times.”
The Sharks stumbled at the end of the season. They fell to third in the Pacific Division after blowing a nine-point lead in
the final month and were then were hurt by late-season injuries that slowed down Thornton and Logan Couture.
“My gut feeling is we ran out of gas in the last month,” coach Peter DeBoer said. “It’s just a reality.”
This game turned in the opening minutes of the second period. It started when Oscar Klefbom blocked Justin Braun’s point shot and Adam Larsson sprung Draisaitl on a breakaway. Draisaitl held off Braun and then beat Jones between the pads to make it 1-0.
After having no points in the first four games and getting ejected in Game 4 for a spearing penalty, Draisaitl played a big role in the final two wins with a pair of assists, including one on the OT winner in Game 5, and the first goal in the clincher.
Just 56 seconds later, Slepyshev got into the action when Paul Martin mishandled a pass from Chris Tierney at the point.
Slepyshev raced to the puck and got in alone on Jones on the goal to make it 2-0 just 1:50 into the period.
The Sharks finally found their game after that and put on heavy pressure late in the second period, but Talbot made a nice save on Marleau in alone and Marcus Sorensen hit the cross bar on another chance.
The Oilers came out fast, looking like the team that rallied for the overtime win in Game 5 instead of the one that got embarrassed in Game 4. That defeat turned into the spark Edmonton needed and they were much more composed the final two games.
“That’s not the team we are,” Draisaitl said. “We’re a team that usually shows up every night and that wasn’t our night. It just tells you how much character we have in this group that we can bounce back and win the next games.”
NOTES: Klefbom did not play the third period for Edmonton because of an illness. … F Joonas Donskoi returned to the lineup for the Sharks in place of Timo Meier.
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