ANAHEIM – Adam Larsson, acquired by Edmonton in the off-season to bolster its defense, expanded his role Wednesday night.
Because of that, the Oilers grabbed a 1-0 lead in the best-of-7 Western Conference semifinals over the Ducks.
Larsson put Edmonton ahead, 3-1, but then did his best work with 4:40 left. He surged past Cam Fowler and let a shot go wehen he was just going behind the net. It bounced off the skate of Hampus Lindholm and past John Gibson.
Leon Draisaitl added an empty-net goal to wrap up the 5-3 Edmonton win.
The Ducks thus lost their first playoff game and took their first loss of any kind since a 4-3 OT loss to these Oilers on April 1. They hadn’t lost a regulation game since March 10.
Larsson scored only four goals in 79 games for the Oilers during the regular season but was a plus-21. They got him from New Jersey in exchange for former first-overall pick Taylor Hall.
A tightly played game suddenly took flight in the third period. The Oilers went ahead 3-1 on Mark Letestu’s second power play goal, following a holding penalty by Jakob Silfverberg on Connor McDavid. Then Leon Draisaitl, who scoredf eight points on the Ducks on the regular season, got his third asisst of the game when he fed Adam Larsson.
The Ducks did not waste much time storming back from that two-goal deficit. Patrick Eaves got a tap-in after Brandon Montour’s shot rebounded off goalie Cam Talbot. That play began with Ryan Getzlaf’s clean faceoff win.
Then the Ducks, within a minute, generated an odd-man rush that culminated in Silfverberg’s goal off a shot by Andrew Cogliano. The officials reviewed in but let the goal stand. All that happened in the first 10:57 of the third period.
The Ducks got Cam Fowler back for his first playoff game, but again skated without Sami Vatanen. Then Kevin Bieksa had to leave the ice early in the first period after he collided with Shea Theodore, but came back before the stress built up.
The first period was played chin-to-chin, with few good chances, no odd-man rushes to speak of, and lots of contact. The Oilers’ Matt Benning cleaned out Andrew Cogliano with an elbow, and young defenseman Darnell Nurse had no problem challenging Ryan Getlzaf. The officiating crew was, well, pretty officious, whistling three penalties on each team.
Zack Kassian of Edmonton probably had the best chance, flicking a boucning puck against John Gibson’s shoulder. The top line, featruing Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, was able to get on the ice at times against the Ducks’ fourth line, and Draisaitl drew a penalty against Logan Shaw that way, but a sharp Ducks penalty kill defused that.
When aked about the possibility of rust for the Ducks, who hadn’t played in eight days, Randy Carlyle replied, ‘What rust?” He pointed out that the Ducks had rebounded swiftly from the All-Star break and their mandated week off, and indeed their timing appeared reasonably intact.
There was also a lot of pregame talk about faceoffs, since…