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Oilers' line shuffling pays off in Game 4 win over Canucks


It started with a failed clearing attempt and ended with the winning goal, a 15-second sequence that snuffed a comeback effort by the Vancouver Canucks and lifted the Edmonton Oilers to victory on Tuesday night.

The Canucks had just clawed their way back into Game 4 of their second-round playoff series less than a minute before on a late third-period goal by Dakota Joshua when, following a tone-setting hit by Oilers winger Evander Kane on defender Filip Hronek, Brock Boeser lifted the puck to try to send it out of the Vancouver zone.

That's when Oilers star Leon Draisaitl knocked the puck down out of mid-air.

It landed in the skates of defenceman Mattias Ekholm, who kept the puck in the offensive zone to allow a circling Drasaitl to retrieve it.

That led to Draisaitl's pass from behind the net to Evan Bouchard, who shot the winner past a trio of would-be Canucks shot-blockers and goalie Arturs Silovs with 38 seconds left in the game.

The 3-2 Oilers win tied the best-of-seven series at two games apiece.

"Usually it's not just one guy making a nice play, it's a lot of guys," Oilers head coach Kris Knoblauch said of the chain of events that led to the goal.

"I'm happy for our guys because after giving up that late goal, when you feel like you've won it, you had a two-goal lead and they tie it up, it can be hard to rebound, and they did well."

And it was those "guys" on the ice at that moment who led the Oilers on Tuesday, in particular Draisaitl, who scored the game's first goal in the opening period and finished the evening with two points.

Vancouver Canucks goalie Arturs Silovs makes a save as Edmonton Oilers forward Dylan Holloway looks for a rebound on May 14, 2024, second-round NHL playoff action in Edmonton. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

Trio sets tone

Knoblauch had put the National Hockey League playoffs' leading scorer — Draisaitl now has 20 points through nine games — on a line with Kane and winger Dylan Holloway for Game 4.

Draisaitl had played the previous two games of the series on a line with Connor McDavid and Zach Hyman, a move Knoblauch — and several Oilers head coaches before him — sometimes employs to spark offensive production.

Tuesday's move had a noticeable effect, with Draisaitl commanding an attack punctuated by the physical Kane and the agile Holloway.

Draisaitl said following the game Kane "did an unbelievable job" setting the stage on the forecheck soon after the Canucks' tied the game — punctuated by Kane's bruising hit on Hronek — for the winning goal.

"When things like that happen, it's a bit of a shock — and sometimes you can get on your heels a little bit and (say), 'Let's get this into overtime' — but he goes in, he forechecks hard," he told media following the game.

"That goal is all Kaner."

Elevating Holloway to the second forward line alongside Draisaitl and Kane paid off, too, Knoblauch said Wednesday in Vancouver after the team travelled there ahead of Thursday's Game 5.

The 22-year-old first-round pick of the Oilers' in the 2020 NHL Draft dealt with an injury early in the season and had been sent to the minors to regain confidence and "find his game," the coach said.

"He's a threat to score, he can shoot the puck, but also, I like his speed," Knoblauch told reporters.

"He can get in on the forecheck, he is physical, and he's a player that's just difficult to play against just with his speed and tenacity, and when there is a puck battle, he's strong, and he can come up with it.

"That being said, (among) all those other attributes, he is pretty good with the puck. He doesn't give it away, and he can play with those skilled players, not just a chip and chase."

Players from both the Vancouver Canucks and the Edmonton Oilers crash the net during NHL playoff action on May 14, 2024, in Edmonton. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

Rolled all 4 lines

Importantly, though, the Oilers deployed four forward lines all night to great effect, controlling much of the game and withstanding the Canucks' rise late in the game.

And while Draisaitl said "everyone contributed and played well" on Tuesday, he acknowledged that, at times, coaches lean on particular players, referencing Knoblauch's heavy use of him and McDavid in Game 3.

In it, a 4-3 Oilers loss, the two stars racked up almost 30 minutes in ice time each. In Tuesday's Game 4, Draisaitl played 20:47 while McDavid skated for 23:12.

"Sometimes from the outside, I think it's easy to be on the coach and say, 'Why is he playing (certain) guys so much?'," Draisaitl said.

"In certain moments, that's just the way the game goes sometimes, but definitely (on Tuesday, we saw) more of the rhythm and game that makes us a really good team." Top Stories

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