ANAHEIM, Calif. â€” Adam Larsson doesn’t think much of his shot, at least that’s the way teammate Mark Letestu tells it.
The shocked crowd at Honda Center would probably disagree with that assessment.
Larsson scored his second goal with 4:40 remaining, Letestu had two power-play goals and the Edmonton Oilers defeated the Anaheim Ducks 5-3 in Game 1 of the second round on Wednesday night.
“He doesn’t have a very good shot. Tonight it found a way to get in,” Letestu said.
There wasn’t much to Larsson’s second goal, a centring pass from behind the net struck Ducks defenceman Josh Manson’s skate and went in.
However, it was critical in turning back the momentum for Edmonton, which had squandered a 3-1 lead when Jakob Silfverberg and Patrick Eaves scored 1:20 apart midway through the third period.
Letestu said coach Todd McLellan’s unsuccessful challenge for goaltender interference and a subsequent television time out were helpful to setting aside the shock of those goals.
“We were in it,” Letestu said. “We were comfortable at 1-1. There’s no difference at 3-3. It felt like we were right back where we started. We just needed to get pushing. Lars gets a lucky goal, it was a nice way to push back.”
Cam Talbot made 33 saves for the Oilers, and Leon Draisaitl added an empty-netter with 1:05 to play to go along with three assists to hand the Ducks their first loss in regulation since March 10, going 18 games between such defeats.
Ryan Getzlaf had a power-play goal and John Gibson made 27 saves for Anaheim.
Game 2 is Friday night in Anaheim.
The series opened in contentious fashion, starting with the anticipated matchup of Connor McDavid and noted agitator Ryan Kesler. McDavid drew the game’s first power play when he was tripped up by Kesler following an uncalled high-sticking, only for Draisaitl to give away the advantage with a slash.
With the Ducks seemingly determined to keep McDavid in check, limiting him to just two shots in 20:53 of ice time, it was up to the likes of Larsson and Letestu to step up.
Letestu got nearly identical goals from nearly identical spots on the ice, positioning himself to Gibson’s right to capitalize on rebounds. Letestu cleaned up Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ shot during 55 seconds of 5-on-3 play to tie up the game at 1 in the second, then pounced on Draisaitl’s rebound to put the Oilers ahead 2-1 in the third.
“That’s kind of just my area on the power play,” Letestu said. “It’s just my job to get it on net and hopefully get it by the goalie. Just right spot, right time.”
The same could be said of Larsson’s first goal, where Draisaitl found him for a wicked shot.
That’s the advantage of having the Ducks focus so much on McDavid or Draisaitl, Larsson said, and it’s a matchup the supporting cast will have to take advantage of in games to come.
“When you have players like Leon and Connor, those guys, you have to get on the rush if you want to have your opportunities,” Larsson said. “They are going to find you at some point and that’s what they did tonight. I had so much time I had time to pick my corner there.”
For the Ducks, they found themselves in a role-reversal from their first-round series against the Calgary Flames. Several Ducks said they played well enough to win only for a bad bounce to go against them.
“I thought it was tight all three periods,” Eaves said. “It was a bounce away. It could have gone either way. That’s what happens sometimes.”
Notes: Forward Iiro Pakarinen and defenceman Eric Gryba were the only players among the Oilers’ 10 scratches that played in the first round. â€¦ Ducks D Sami Vatanen (upper body) did not go through pre-game warmups or play despite coach Randy Carlyle previously saying he would be “available.” Vatanen missed the final three games of the Ducks’ sweep of the Flames.
Dan Greenspan, The Canadian Press