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There was never a world where he wouldn’t be heard from.
Not with a trip to the Western Conference final on the line.
In the final moment of what he described as a "bad" night, Connor McDavid delivered his best and most memorable moment of his historic and still-blossoming NHL career, lifting the Edmonton Oilers into the third round of the Stanley Cup playoffs — and over the Calgary Flames in the Battle of Alberta — with an overtime winner in Game 5.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) May 27, 2022
McDavid’s walk-off strike capped a wild and controversial 5-4 victory for the Oilers over the Flames in the first playoff meeting between the Albertan rivals in more than 30 years.
Even with the heroics from the captain, Leon Draisaitl was the most dominant force on this night, collecting another four assists — including a primary helper on McDavid’s winner to count a ludicrous 17 points in five games.
Two superstars rising to the occasion, however, wasn't enough for the Oilers to win the game in the manner that they did.
A key and controversial call from the league offices late in the third period reversed a potential outcome in favour of extending the series when Blake Coleman appeared to score a go-ahead goal on a drive into Mike Smith's crease.
Coleman carried his momentum through the puck and deposited it into the back of the net with the blade of his skate. It was far from a textbook kicking motion, but after a critical review it was ruled that Coleman had propelled the puck across the goal line using an illegal motion with his skate.
This is the angle for the Coleman goal reversal that is most convincing, in my view. But was it a distinct kicking motion? That will be debated for a long time, depending on how overtime goes. pic.twitter.com/kpHIhKYvjR
— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) May 27, 2022
It was an impossible call at the time, and the result was cruel. There was no question that Coleman’s skate put it over the line, and that he set up his blade to make contact with the puck. But to call it a “distinct kicking motion” is a massive stretch, and the puck appeared to be heading into the back of the net regardless.
Coleman’s disallowed goal broke a deadlock created by a feverish run of goals in the second period.
Seven were celebrated in the middle frame, including the fastest four goals scored in succession in Stanley Cup playoffs history over the span of 71 seconds.
Only in the Battle of Alberta.
There were two lead changes within that scoring surge, including the fifth in as many games for Edmonton's Zach Hyman, who scored in all five games in the series — a first for a franchise which has featured the likes of Gretzky, Messier and Kurri.
What was lost in that feverish stretch, at least momentarily, was that the game changed dramatically in Edmonton’s favour.
Calgary had its way early on, limiting the Oilers — and McDavid specifically — to very little offensively. Edmonton had just six shots in the opening period and were losing the possession battle handily with the Flames dominating in the faceoff circle and forcing the Oilers to defend.
But when the game did break free from its shackles, the Oilers started to build more and more within. Shoddy defensive coverage prevented them from taking complete control, but the condition seemed to remain in the Oilers favour until McDavid’s moment in overtime.
We will remember the goal — and the celebration — from the game's greatest talent, and if any hand is on the Conn Smythe Trophy this early, it’s McDavid’s. But there is a valid argument for Draisaitl being the single-most dominant force in the series.
As mentioned, he racked up 17 points in the five games and matched Mario Lemieux for the third-most points ever scored in a single postseason series. He finished two points off Rick Middleton’s record of 19 points in a seven-game series in 1983.
But what was most impressive about Draisaitl’s performance, which featured a minimum three points in each game, is that the former Hart Trophy winner is clearly hobbled.
Like a men's or women's league player refusing to pick their skates off the ice because they are that much better than the part-timers they are playing with, Draisaitl dominated the series, perhaps more clearly than his lineman and captain, with skill, smarts and elite distribution of the puck — adapting his game while nursing a high-ankle sprain.
In addition to scoring twice himself, Draisaitl finished the series with assists on 15 of the Oilers’ 25 goals.
“I think he’s the best passer in the world,” Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft said after the game.
The Oilers have not finished writing the story of their season, which featured ups, downs, a coaching change and controversial personnel decisions.
And it may not be wrapped up following the conclusion of their next series versus either the Colorado Avalanche or St. Louis Blues in a clash which will decide who advances to the Stanley Cup Final.
But to overcome the Flames in the second round, the Oilers have taken a massive and critical step forward after many seasons spent in the doldrums despite having two of the best players on the planet on their side.
The Oilers are, finally, meeting the expectations that the hockey world is right to have placed on them.
And soon, they may exceed them.
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