The Edmonton Oilers have a rich history. Connor McDavid and Co. are eager to add another memorable chapter.
McDavid’s overtime goal Thursday night in Calgary won Alberta’s first playoff battle in 31 years as the Oilers beat rival Flames 5-4 to advance to the Western Conference Finals.
Whether the Oilers face Colorado or St. Louis, the excitement level in Edmonton is already high.
Edmonton won the Stanley Cup five times between 1984 and 1990 with teams led by Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Paul Coffey and Jari Kurri. The franchise made another final in 2006, but lost to the Carolina Hurricanes in seven games before missing the playoffs for 10 consecutive seasons.
Despite a roster that included McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, the Oilers had reached the second round only once in the star forwards’ previous six campaigns – so far.
“We’re proud of the Hall of Famers who have come through our organization,” interim head coach Jay Woodcroft said after eliminating the Flames. “We are proud of the various runs the team has completed over the years.
But our team wants to contribute to that kind of history,” he added. “Our team is looking to make its own mark.”
McDavid and Draisaitl lead the playoffs with a jaw-dropping 26 points apiece; McDavid had 12 against Calgary, Draisaitl an incredible 17 – in five games.
“We had a lot of tough times,” Draisaitl said looking back. “A lot of times when people were tough on us. We haven’t won yet. We’re only halfway there, but it feels good to take that next step.
Edmonton goaltender Mike Smith edged Calgary counterpart and Vezina Trophy finalist Jacob Markstrom, while McDavid and Draisaitl had a clear advantage over top Flames players including Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk. Edmonton lost 9-6 to Calgary in a memorable opener but then snatched four straight wins by a combined 19-11 to clinch.
“They made it difficult for us…we had to push twice as hard,” Draisaitl said. “But I think it shows our effort in our group, the type of guys we have in our room, the resilience to stick with it and get back to our game and take control.”
What was it like participating in Alberta’s first battle since Esa Tikkanen scored in overtime in Game 7 for the Oilers in 1991?
“Special,” McDavid said. “The fans were incredible at both buildings, especially in Edmonton. The energy and vibe around town has been incredible.
It will certainly continue with the Oilers and a fanbase that has endured many lean years now with just eight Cup victories.
“I’m sure people back home are very excited,” Draisailt said. “But we are only halfway. We are very excited. We are very happy, very proud of what we have achieved so far this post-season, but there is more to gain for us. This is our ultimate goal. Be proud – happy – but we are preparing for the next round.
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