Edmonton Oilers defenceman Adam Larsson said they were “looking for redemption.”
And why not? His Oilers team had been sailing along through the 2021 season with the two best scorers in the game, and yet here it was down three games to none against a team, the Winnipeg Jets, that the Oilers were widely expected to walk – or skate – over with ease.
Monday night and Tuesday morning found the Oilers in Winnipeg, the third straight game in the best-of-seven Stanley Cup series heading into overtime. In this case, triple overtime.
Redemption it would be, if they won. Shame would be, if they lost.
It took six total periods to settle the matter in favour of shame, 4-3 for the home side. Winnipeg’s Kyle Connor ended up on a partial breakaway at the 6:52 mark of the third overtime and ripped a shot past Oilers goaltender Mike Smith after three periods of frenetic, desperate extra-time play.
It seemed just after four games of Winnipeg grit and determination versus Edmonton’s renowned offence that had difficulty finding its game. It marked the first ever series sweep for the Jets.
The Oilers debacle through the first three matches had been a meltdown of historic proportions.
Up 4-1 with Game 3 well in hand, Edmonton had taken a stunningly dumb penalty – forward Josh Archibald was sent off for tripping Winnipeg Jets defenceman Logan Stanley, a foul the NHL later upgraded to clipping and a one-game suspension – and the struggling Jets had scored three goals in just over three minutes in the final period. The Jets then scored early in overtime for a 5-4 win and a 3-0 series stranglehold.
Monday night’s win made it four in a row and eliminated the Oilers from further playoff action.
“We shot ourselves in the foot a bit,” said Edmonton head coach Dave Tippett of Sunday’s bad penalty by Archibald and the very bad result that followed.
Millennials were taken back to 2013, when Patrice Bergeron scored in overtime to complete a similar three-goal rally for the Boston Bruins, that 5-4 comeback in Game 7 dumping the Toronto Maple Leafs from the playoffs.
Boomers reeled back to Game 2 of the 1971 quarter-finals, when the Bruins led the Montreal Canadiens 5-2 heading into the third period and somehow lost 7-5, the Canadiens moving on to win the Stanley Cup.
The Oilers were out to become only the fifth team in NHL history to come back to win a series after being down 3-0 in games.
In a series the powerful, high-scoring Oilers had been widely predicted to win easily, they had instead lost the first three matches by a single goal (Game 1 featuring two empty net goals to close the game out at 4-1). Both Games 2 and 3 had gone to overtime
“Close doesn’t get you anything if you’re not winning games,” Tippett had said earlier in the Victoria Day long weekend.
The fireworks the Jets set off in the final frame of Game 3 had severely rattled the Oilers. It had, up until Archibald’s foolishness, been a resounding statement of return by Edmonton. The Oilers’ two superstar scorers, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, were dramatically no longer missing in action, Draisaitl with two goals and an assist, McDavid with three set-ups.
Game 4, an unusual back-to-back playoff match, began cautiously but soon turned as wild as the third period of Game 3. The Jets struck first on the power play when Larsson was sent off for holding. The Winnipeg power play sputtered badly through most of the two minutes but then Mark Scheifele scored his first goal of the series on a hard one-timer from the left circle, putting a perfect pass from captain Blake Wheeler past Smith.
Little more than a minute later, the Oilers tied it when McDavid, with his first of the series, scored on a wraparound that caught Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck off-guard.
Near the end of the opening period, the Jets went ahead 2-1 when Mason Appleton managed a difficult tip on a point shot by Josh Morrissey.
The Oilers tied that game at 2-2 four minutes into the second period when Ryan Nugent-Hopkins came straight through centre, took a shot, slipped past Jets defender Neal Pionk and buried a backhand shot past Hellebuyck.
A dozen minutes later, the Oilers again struck, this time on a power play courtesy of a holding penalty to Pierre-Luc Dubois. Edmonton, showing superb puck movement, set up a shot into traffic by Draisaitl, leaving a rebound for Alex Chiasson, who hadn’t dressed for Game 3, that he easily poked past Hellebuyck for a 3-2 Oilers lead heading into the third period.
It seemed the energized Oilers might pull off the game they had to have right up until the six-minute mark of the final period, when a clearing pass by Edmonton defender Ethan Bear was plucked off by the Jets’ Wheeler, who passed to Connor, who fed Scheifele for his second of the game, another one-timer that beat Smith and this time tied the match at three goals apiece.
For the third straight game, the Oilers and Jets were heading into overtime.
And then a second overtime.
And then a third.
Lights out in Edmonton, even though the game was played in Winnipeg.