Denver – Conor McDavid has dominated the NHL postseason so far. But he is feeling pressure to perform after the Edmonton Oilers were eliminated 4-0 by the Colorado Avalanche in Game Two of the Western Conference Finals on Thursday, trailing 2-0 in a best-of-seven series.
“Maybe I wasn’t at the top of my game here,” MacDavid said. “They did a good job limiting our chances. They found a way to break through [tonight]. We didn’t.”
Edmonton was backed by its co-stars throughout the playoffs, and McDavid was particularly impressive. He scores all skaters in the playoffs with 29 points in 14 games and was a dominant force in the Oilers’ second-round win over the Calgary Flames.
McDavid scored not a single goal and three points in the first game against the avalanche, and the Oilers lost 8-6. But like everyone else off the Edmonton bench, he was curtailed in Game 2 by a relentless Colorado team that imposed much of the game with quick transitional play and burst opportunities.
Edmonton coach Jay Woodcroft tried to stoke the Oilers by deploying the best skaters, putting McDavid and Leon Drystel in separate lines to start game two. Hyman.
The change did not have the desired effect on Edmonton as a whole.
“We did a few things to move the chess pieces around,” Woodcroft said. “We didn’t do enough to make it difficult for the opposing goalkeeper; We had some chances, but it wasn’t enough. Tonight we haven’t gotten our way, but we’ll be back on the drawing board.”
Match 1 was an exciting offensive affair, with both sides committing to a better defense in the second match. That somewhat came in a first goal-free period in which shots favored Colorado, 15-13.
Both goalkeepers, Mike Smith and Pavel Francoz (they started in place of the injured Darcy Comber), were excellent in this setting, mainly stopping to hold the equaliser.
Then within 2:04, the breakdown was 3-0.
Arturi Likunen had broken the ice in the match early in the second half, followed 15 seconds later by a goal from Josh Manson.
Woodcroft took some time to iron out his team. Did not help.
A poor streak change by the Oilers led to a solo rush for Colorado that turned into another target, this one from Mikko Rantanen.
Nazim Qadri made all three goals.
“They’re definitely fueling the momentum,” McDavid said. “They are finding ways to double one and turn it into three there. Obviously, we have to take advantage of that. Turns after goals – whether for or against – seems to have hurt us over the last two games. Turning after, they find a way to score right after that.”
Edmonton also missed out on what was a great performance for Smith. The veteran was pulled midway through the first game after allowing six goals but clearly put that behind in an authentic first period that required several key stops in the attacking avalanche.
Otters simply couldn’t help him. Colorado was all over Edmonton with good sticks for breaking opportunities and refusing to allow farmers any time for a large offensive zone. Early in the third period, Edmonton was 0-for-2 in the power game and was edging out 31-22.
“I thought we backed off, and it generated some insult,” Woodcroft said. “That little bit in the second period really hurt us, it took the wind out of our sails. We weren’t able to give birth.”
Nathan McKinnon added to Avalanche later in the third inning to make it 4-0 to Colorado.
“I thought we had a good game first,” said Tyson Barry. “There’s a little bit of a stretch in the second where they got one and we doubled it – they got two, they got three. And that momentum. That’s how this team rolls. We have to do better at it. When they get one, we have to stop the bleeding.”
As it was, Edmonton couldn’t get past a single piracy after Francos. Colorado started back up for the first time in the series, after Kuemper lost to an upper body disease midway through the first game. Francos scored his second lock-down run in his career with a 24 saves performance.
The series moves to Edmonton for Game 3 on Saturday, where Oilers will try to use their local audience to their advantage and return to the series.
“We got to a block on the road, and we didn’t win,” Woodcroft said. “Now we have to go back, regroup, look clearly at the things we can improve and go out and implement on the ice at home.”