Oilers battle back from early deficit to defeat Stars 5-2 and pull even in West final

EDMONTON — Kris Knoblauch thought he might be in for a long night.

The Edmonton Oilers head coach was watching a confounding, uninspired, flat start unfold right in front of him on the Rogers Place ice.

Down 2-1 heading into Game 4 of the NHL's Western Conference final to the battle-tested Dallas Stars, his team trailed 2-0, had yet to register a shot, and seemed like it might fade into the night midway through Wednesday's first period.

"Didn't look very good," Knoblauch said.

But in a series with wild momentum swings — Edmonton blew a 2-0 lead before falling 5-3 in Game 3 — the home side was far from out of it.

One good shift finally bled into another. The Oilers pushed back, tied the game before the period was out, and didn't break when the Stars applied pressure.

Now the teams are in a best-of-three for a Stanley Cup final berth.

Mattias Janmark and Leon Draisaitl scored less than one minute apart in the second period as Edmonton responded from that early two-goal deficit to beat Dallas 5-2 and even this matchup with razor-thin margins 2-2.

"We were a little sleepy," Draisaitl said of his team's opening. "Found our legs, got going a little bit, started to play our game."

Ryan McLeod, Evan Bouchard and Mattias Ekholm, into an empty net, had the other goals for Edmonton. Stuart Skinner made 20 saves and Connor McDavid had three assists.

"You're down two in a game like this, it's hard to overcome," Knoblauch said. "Got back to the way we were supposed to be playing."

Wyatt Johnston and Esa Lindell replied for Dallas, which got 24 stops from Jake Oettinger. Jamie Benn had two assists.

The best-of-seven series now shifts south to Dallas for Game 5 on Friday. Game 6 is set for Sunday in Edmonton.

"Got home ice back," Stars head coach Pete DeBoer said. "This isn't supposed to be easy."

Tied 2-2 after the roller-coaster first, Edmonton grabbed the lead at 14:31 of the second when Janmark took a pass from Connor Brown on a short-handed 2-on-1 and buried his second goal of the playoffs.

Draisaitl doubled the lead 51 seconds later when he connected with Zach Hyman, who had an earlier breakaway stopped, off the rush for his 10th.

"They're going to grab momentum at times," Brown said. "It's about what we do to go grab it back."

Dallas came out with energy to start the third, but unlike Monday when the Oilers had no answer to a Stars surge, Edmonton weathered the storm and responded with a disciplined final period.

The visitors got their second power play with eight minutes left in regulation. The Oilers, however, killed off an eye-popping 23rd straight penalty before Ekholm scored his fourth late with Oettinger on the bench to pick up the franchise's first home-ice victory in a conference final since May 23, 2006.

Edmonton made three lineup changes as defenceman Philip Broberg drew in along with McLeod and fellow forward Corey Perry for Vincent Desharnais, Warren Foegele and Sam Carrick.

The move to insert the fleet-footed Broberg came with Dallas having stretched the Oilers' structure through the first three games.

The changes didn't have the desired effect early.

Johnston scored his ninth just 58 seconds in when he snapped the game's first shot past Skinner's glove on a 2-on-1. Lindell made it 2-0 at 5:29 with his third on a shot that hit under-fire Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse.

Stars centre Roope Hintz missed high on a breakaway and Skinner had to be sharp on a Tyler Seguin chance moments later.

The crowd gave the home side a sarcastic cheer when Edmonton finally registered its first effort on target more than eight minutes into the game.

McLeod breathed life into the Oilers at 13:30 when he popped a loose puck upstairs for his first point of the playoffs after Oettinger couldn't squeeze Perry's initial shot.

"Tough start," Perry said. "Kept our foot on the pedal."

Bouchard tied it 2:47 later when the Stars goaltender kicked McDavid's initial attempt into the slot for the defenceman to score his sixth.

"It's funny in the playoffs how the psychology works," Janmark said of the blown leads. "We were in the opposite position two days ago. It's hard to explain."

Edmonton's power play got a chance late in the period and had a couple of terrific looks, including a McDavid redirection that was foiled by Oettinger's errant goal stick lying in the crease after it was knocked from his grasp.

The Oilers continued to push coming out of the intermission — and kept momentum the rest of the way.

"Four games that Dallas thought they could have won," Knoblauch said. "And we felt there's four games that we could have won. I like stretches of how we've been playing.

"It's just important that we are able to do it for longer stretches."


Stars defenceman Chris Tanev suffered a lower-body injury after blocking a shot in the second period and didn't return.


Nurse, who entered Wednesday a playoff-worst minus-12, had one of his best games of the playoffs, finishing with 12 hits, three blocked shots, and an assist on McLeod's goal that made it 2-1.

"Maybe his confidence hasn't been where we've all seen it be," Draisaitl said of the big blueliner. "But those things happen. That's normal. He's a human being. Tonight was a great step for him."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 29, 2024.


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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press