Oilers intend to tighten defence around their own net in Game 4 versus Golden Knights
EDMONTON — Stoutness around their own crease is what the Edmonton Oilers want more of to even up their playoff series with the Vegas Golden Knights.
The Golden Knights own a 2-1 lead in their second-round series with the Oilers by scoring early and often from Edmonton's own doorstep in a 5-1 win in Game 3.
After taking a split home from Las Vegas, the Oilers now need the same from Rogers Place heading into Wednesday's Game 4 in the best-of-seven affair.
Vegas scored their first two goals Monday by outcompeting the Oilers around their own net. Zach Whitecloud was then allowed to walk in and score from the faceoff circle for the Knights' third goal.
Their fifth was a tip-in off the rush from the top of the blue paint.
"I think we have to be harder all over the ice. We weren't as hard in front of our own net as we needed to be, especially at this time of year," Oilers forward Evander Kane said Tuesday.
"You look at a lot of their goals coming around our net. That's uncharacteristic of our group and something we'll fix tomorrow night."
In their first home game in almost three weeks, the Oilers laid an egg after dominating Game 2 in Vegas to win 5-1.
"We seem to forget, or lose our memory, which is a good thing at this time of year and focus on the next game," Kane said.
"We've been in this situation a couple of times, but I know we have a lot of belief in our group and know we're going to bring our best tomorrow night."
Game 5 is Friday in Las Vegas. If necessary, Game 6 is Sunday in Edmonton and a Game 7 would be next Tuesday back in Vegas.
Both clubs take injury subplots into Wednesday's game.
Expect Knights' goalie Adin Hill to get his first start in over two months.
Laurent Brossoit suffered what appeared to be a left-leg injury sliding across the crease in Monday's first period. He needed help from his teammates to get off the ice.
While Cassidy didn't provide clarity Tuesday on Brossoit's status, Jonathan Quick had a locker beside Adin's in the visitors' dressing room.
The Knights played five different starters in the regular season because of injuries.
"I don't have anything on L.B. right now," Cassidy said.
"The next guy up has done a good job for us all year. That's why we're still playing in one sense. That's such an important position.
"The team adapts well whoever is in there."
Oilers forward Zach Hyman didn't skate Tuesday. He's integral to Edmonton's power play as a net-front presence.
Hyman's leg collided with Knights' defenceman Nicolas Hague's in Monday's first period. Hyman played a few more shifts, but appeared uncomfortable.
Winger Mattias Janmark, who hasn't played in the series since falling backward into the boards in Game 1, began skating with the team again in Las Vegas and was on the ice Tuesday.
Vegas got away with a couple of high sticks in Monday's first period, and managed to hold Edmonton's vaunted power play to just a pair of chances.
The second came late in the game when the Knights had it well in hand.
"That was our goal to stay out of the box," Cassidy said. "It's a big factor in this series.
"If we can keep it to five on five, we feel we have a very good chance to win. When we don't, we have to make sure our penalty kill is sharp, but not frequent."
Leon Draisaitl — with an NHL-leading 13 playoff goals — and NHL leading scorer Connor McDavid were both held off the scoresheet Monday.
Draisaitl had at least three golden scoring chances and rang a shot off the post in the first period.
For Oilers fans agitating for Draisaitl and McDavid to play on separate lines again "we move them around the chessboard quite often," Edmonton head coach Jay Woodcroft said.
"Sometimes if we feel that's a punch in the arm or a shot in the arm that we need, we might do that.
"Our interchanging of parts makes us a dangerous team."
To get more sustained offensive-zone time, the Oilers must manage the puck better in the neutral zone to get there, Woodcroft stated.
Game 4 of the Edmonton's opening-round series against the Los Angeles Kings was pivotal.
Down 3-0 after the first period, the Oilers won 5-4 in overtime in L.A. to level the series 2-2 and eventually take it in six games.
"We need to come out and get one at home here" Oilers defenceman Cody Ceci said. "These are big games for this homestand. We hadn't been at home for awhile.
"Kind of unfortunate to come home and play like we did last night, but we get a chance to improve on that tomorrow."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 9, 2023.
Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press