ANAHEIM, Calif. â€” The Edmonton Oilers might be returning home with a 2-0 series lead over the Anaheim Ducks, but they understand nothing is settled yet.
Patrick Maroon had a power-play goal and Cam Talbot made 39 saves as the Oilers defeated the Ducks 2-1 in Game 2 of their second-round series.
“Take the win, but we still have a long way to go,” Oilers captain Connor McDavid said in a surprisingly subdued dressing room.
Andrej Sekera also scored for Edmonton, which also won the first two games on the road in the 2006 Western Conference Finals against Anaheim.
But despite being two games away from a return visit, with Game 3 on Sunday in Edmonton, the Oilers understand the slim margin they have navigated in being up two games instead of down by two.
A skate sent in the Oilers’ winning goal in the series opener and it happened again, with Maroon in the right place at the right time. Jordan Eberle fired a centring pass towards the crease and it struck Maroon in the right skate. John Gibson, who made 21 saves, tried to knife it away with the blade of his stick but the puck still had enough on it to end up in the net 6:41 into the second period for a 2-0 lead.
From that point on, the Ducks came after the Oilers with everything they had. Jakob Silfverberg cut the deficit in half with 4:16 left in the second, unleashing a blast of a shot that Talbot would have struggled to stop even if Patrick Eaves was not expertly blocking his line of sight.
It took a couple of fortunate bounces off the net and a timely clearance off the goal line to keep the game from going into overtime.
“We didn’t want to come here and split,” Maroon said. “We wanted to come here and win hockey games, and that’s what we did. I thought tonight was a gutsy win.”
Maroon also understands the pressure the Ducks now face, having played five seasons in Anaheim. He had four goals in 16 playoff games at Honda Center with the Ducks. He now has one in two appearances as a visitor.
The Ducks have never overcome a 2-0 series deficit in seven previous tries, and it’s a scenario they have now faced three times in the last four seasons.
“We’ve been in this position before,” Ducks defenceman Cam Fowler said. “Last year, Nashville came in and stole two from us, and we went to their place and won two also. So by no means is it impossible. Certainly not how we scripted it, but there’s still plenty of life left in this group, and we’re going to make sure that we fight and claw to try and win one in their building.”
But the Ducks will have to find a way to make the Oilers chase them instead of the other way around. Edmonton has looked comfortable with the lead through two games despite its relative playoff inexperience.
After getting unlikely goals from defenceman Adam Larsson to win Game 1, another unexpected source of offence put the Oilers ahead 1:05 into the game. Sekera fired a slapshot to the short side off Gibson’s right stick hand and in.
It was only Sekera’s second playoff goal, the other came in 2011.
In building on that initial advantage and protecting the lead after Silfverberg scored, the Oilers showed a knack for making the critical plays.
Antoine Vermette had a promising opportunity on special teams in the first, where the Oilers managed three shots to the Ducks’ 12, only for Oscar Klefbom to alertly use his stick to prevent Vermette from getting any power on a shot from the foot of the crease.
Vermette’s chance came after a goaltender interference penalty waived off a goal for the Oilers. Mark Letestu plowed Brandon Montour right into Gibson and created an open goal for Zack Kassian’s shot. There was little argument from the Oilers and a sheepish Letestu skated directed to the penalty box without objection.
Vermette could have had the equalizer on another power play in the third. The puck trickled through Talbot’s legs and was inching towards the goal but the Oilers were able to pull it off the line.
“I’ve always said it. We have more experience than people give us credit for I think,” McDavid said. “We have a bunch of great leaders on this team and can handle those momentum swings. We had a big kill there in the third period. We’re comfortable playing from behind, comfortable playing from ahead. Fun group to have right now.”
NOTES: Oilers forward Drake Caggiula did not play again after his first and only shift of the second period. â€¦ Ducks D Kevin Bieksa (lower body), LW Nick Ritchie (flu-like symptoms), and D Sami Vatanen (upper body) did not play. â€¦ Leon Draisaitl did not score after posting a goal in all six previous games against the Ducks this season.
Dan Greenspan, The Canadian Press