Edmonton – The Oilers learned a lot this spring.
And a team looking for success in the playoffs finally did just that.
Edmonton came back from a 3–2 deficit to defeat the Los Angeles Kings in seven games in the opening round before settling the Calgary Flames in five to advance to their first Western Conference Finals in a generation.
The Oilers are now well aware that they will need to deliver even more if the once proud franchise is going to reach its ultimate goal.
Arturi Lehkonen scored 1:19 of overtime on Monday as the Colorado Avalanche beat Edmonton 6-5 to complete a four-game sweep and advance to their first Stanley Cup final since 2001.
“We’re playing hockey on June 6,” said Jay Woodcroft, the Oilers’ interim head coach. “ To get this done and be one of the last four teams, you’ve done some great work – and I don’t think we can take our eyes off that. But more is needed to find a way to reach the Stanley Cup Finals.
“And then more is needed to win the trophy.”
Black Capricorn had one goal and four assists for Colorado, who went out of the hole of two goals in the third period before being tied late by Edmonton to set up a dramatic extra-time winner.
“It’s a good achievement,” said Makar, the first defending team in NHL history with five points in a potential series-cleaning game. “You are reaching the biggest stage in the world in hockey. It’s exciting.”
Gabriel Landeskog scored one goal and two assists, while Nathan McKinnon scored one goal and one assist, with Miko Rentanen and Devon Toes also scoring for the Avalanche.
Lehkonen made two assists for the three-point night.
Trade deadline pickup’s sixth goal after the season came when he dropped Makar’s point shot with his stick and then pressed his rebound. Target stood up after video review for a potential Hi-Stick.
Lehkonen also scored in overtime of Game 6 for Montreal in last year’s semifinal, sending the Canadiens to their first final since 1993.
“ Kind of weird,’ said the gritty Finn. “It was a good jump. I got a tip on the first shot and it bounced right on my tape.
Pavel Françoise made 30 saves for the Avalanche, who are in the final after three second consecutive round exits.
“Such a tough trophy to win,” said Colorado head coach Jared Bednar. No one goes through it suffering a bunch of ups and downs and faces adversity, to injuries, in the series. It seems that the teams that make the best of it usually stand at the end.
“We have faced our share.”
Zach Hyman scored twice for Edmonton, while Conor McDavid scored with one goal and two assists, with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Zack Cassian providing the remaining offense.
“No stone was left unturned,” McDavid said as fans cheered on their heroes on the street outside Rogers Place. “But we clearly let it go.”
Leon Dreitel, a hobbyist, had four assists, while Mike Smith blocked 36 shots as Edmonton abruptly ended their first trip to the Conference Finals since 2006.
“There is no participation medal,” said the 40-year-old goaltender. “It’s very disappointing. It is difficult to reach this point.
Teams taking a 3-0 lead in the NHL Conference Finals/Semifinals are now 45-0, including 27 sweeps.
“It looks like it (we) have taken steps,” McDavid said after the Oilers made the third round for the first time in his career. “You look at a Colorado team that has been in that position several times. They’re just knocking on the door.
“It’s a step in the right direction, but that’s it.”
Colorado will face either the New York Rangers or the Tampa Bay Lightning in the final. New York leads that series 2-1 with Game 4 set for Tuesday in Tampa.
The Avalanche improved to 11–2 in the playoffs, including a perfect 7–0 on the road. Only six other teams in NHL history have achieved at least seven consecutive road victories after one season.
“I’m proud of the group for getting to this point,” Driestal said. “I don’t think anyone expected us to be here. With that being said, we were hoping to be here.
“And we want to stay here and we want to go even further.”
Trailing 1-0 after Monday’s first period and with both teams almost sleepless through the second, the Oilers were finally going at 7:39 when Hyman scored a backhand to Françoise for his 10th goal of the playoff. defeated by
Nugent-Hopkins gave Edmonton their first lead at 16:57 when they jumped on the turnover and beat Françoise in sixth, as Dracital, who was originally playing on a good foot late in the first round, He was undergoing treatment on the bench.
Driesett and Edmonton defenseman Darnell Nurse, who revealed he had been dealing with a torn hip flexor in all of the playoffs, were described by Woodcroft as “warriors”.
“People are putting it on the line,” said the coach. “There are many more (injuries) which have not been made public.
“I’m proud of him for being able to play with these kinds of boundaries.”
After Hyman hit the post, Colorado rookie Alex Newhook was whistled for delaying the game for shooting the puck onto the late glass. Edmonton paid off the visitors when McDavid left his 10th past François to lead 3–1 from another Dracital feed with 1:06 on the clock.
McDavid and Draisaitl are the eighth pair of teammates in NHL history to record at least 30 points in the playoffs.
Colorado had a time of 31 seconds in the third when Toez’s shot hit Oilers defenseman Cody Ceci for the fifth of the blue-liner.
Hyman scored his second of the night and 11th overall on a 4-on-2 rush, where his knee attempt from the Dracital setup fooled Françoise at 3:55 for a 4–2 lead.
Edmonton should have been home and sober and ready to fly back to Denver for Wednesday’s Game 5, but Landeskog got into the mad scramble with his eighth after Smith unnecessarily flipped the puck at 8:58. Colorado got back.
McKinnon then leveled with his 11th shot on the top shot with 6:30 to set the stage for Rantenon’s advancing goal, his fifth, with 5:13 remaining.
But Cassian made his second to finish the score once again with 3:22, as the see-saw affair provided another twist before Lehkonen won.
The Avalanche was without injured center Nazem Qadri after he was awkwardly pushed across the board by Oilers winger Evander Kane at the start of Saturday’s Game 3.
Kane, who leads the playoffs with 13 goals, was suspended for Monday’s winning contest, opening the door for rookie forward Dylan Holloway _ 14th pick in the 2020 draft and Edmonton’s top prospects One of _ to make his NHL debut.
The Oilers were short of second-line winger Kailar Yamamoto for a third straight contest after taking a hit from Landeskog in Game 2.
1 goalkeeper Darcy Kumper and top-6 winger Andre Burakovsky were injured in Game 1 as Colorado thrashed the Oilers in a straight four before Qadri lost Saturday.
Burakovsky returned to work on Monday, while Kumper acted as Françoise’s backup.
The Avalanche has also dealt with the absence of top-4 defenseman Samuel Girard as he was injured in a first-round sweep of the Nashville Predators.
Edmonton used his pace and prowess to start the season later, defeating the Kings and Flames, but ran against an opponent in Colorado who played at even greater pace combined with tenacity and defensive commitment.
The Avalanche took a wild Game 1 from an 8-6 scoreline before edging out Edmonton 4-0 two nights later and then won 4-2 on Saturday to push the Oilers to the brink of elimination.
Edmonton was short-handed for seven of the first 12 minutes in Game 3 – which included a major for Kane’s boarding on Qadri and once again in trouble for an early penalty.
The visitors opened the scoring at 3:46 on the power play when Makar fired a shot through traffic for his fifth, before proceedings eventually took a wild turn.
Now turning to the Oilers next year, they are proud of what they accomplished.
But with direct knowledge one more level is required.
“It’s very disappointing and it sucks right now,” Driestal said. “We have to make sure we come back next season and understand how hard it is to win, what it takes to go into a deep race.
“And take that next step.’