Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl did all they could, but two of the greatest pure point-getters in NHL history could only carry their team so far.
The Colorado Avalanche put the dagger in the heart of the Edmonton Oilers on Monday night, earning a 6-5 overtime victory to sweep the Western Conference final series and advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2001.
The Avalanche were simply too much for the Oilers to contain in this do-or-die game, pelting Mike Smith with 42 shots and relentlessly tracking the puck in the offensive zone.
The Oilers, however, did not make it easy on them. After the Avalanche surged back from a 4-2 deficit to take a 5-4 lead in the final minutes of the third period, Zack Kassian, of all people, crashed the net to tie the game at five and extend his team’s season for at least another period.
Kassian may have scored the tying goal, but it was the stars that shone the brightest tonight — and on both sides, too.
For the Oilers, Draisaitl put forth one of the gutsiest performances we’ve seen in a playoff game in recent memory, racking up four primary assists while clearly playing through multiple injuries that caused him to limp back to the bench after every shift. McDavid was his usual dominant self with one goal and two assists, while Zach Hyman tallied two goals of his own at crucial points of the game.
On the Avalanche’s end of things, Cale Makar continued to set the standard for modern NHL defenseman with a five-point night, chipping in a goal and four assists while seemingly controlling the possession game all by himself. Gabriel Landeskog and deadline addition Artturi Lehkonen surged ahead with a goal and an assist apiece, with Nathan MacKinnon also getting in on the fun with a goal of his own.
At the end of the day, it came down to goaltending, though. And the Oilers didn’t have it.
Mike Smith surrendered at least four goals for the fourth time in this four-game series, making a particularly ill-advised decision in the third period to leave his net and play the puck along the boards with opposing forwards swirling, hitting a referee with his clearing attempt that would end up in the back of the net seconds later.
After a thrilling run through the first two rounds, Smith seemed to run out of gas in the Western Conference final, and his dip in play ultimately came at the worst possible time for the Oilers.
With their sweep now in the books, the Avalanche will have ample time to rest up and heal from the assuredly gruesome injuries they’re playing through before hitting the ice for the Stanley Cup Final, with Jared Bednar’s group now having at least nine days off to prepare for the final stretch of the playoffs.
With how this team is playing right now, they may not need it. But if it means they can get a player like Nazem Kadri back, who was ruled out for the rest of round three following Saturday’s contest and recently underwent surgery to repair a thumb injury, would certainly be a boon.
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