The Edmonton Oilers tied the series with the Vegas Golden Knights which will be remembered as a third-period gang war on ice in Game 4. The series now heads back to Vegas tied 2-2 and the Oilers have the momentum — something that hasn’t seemed to matter so far in this series.
Edmonton won the game 4-1 and in decisive fashion, but it won’t be the goals by Nick Bjugstad, Evan Bouchard, Mattias Ekholm, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins that people remember. It will be the nastiness as the game got out of reach for Vegas and the physical message-sending by both teams in a series that is creating the genesis of a very longstanding rivalry.
Oilers Got the Early and Strong Start
The team that comes out with the best jump in each game seems to win. While the Oilers have scored first in every game in the series, the ice has often been titled one way, and over four games, each team has taken the early energy twice. In Game 4, it was the Oilers.
Likely soured by an ugly defeat in Game 3 where the team might have played some of its worst playoff hockey yet, the Oilers had something to prove. They were on a mission early and took the body as often as possible, trying to wear down the Golden Knights’ best players and get an early lead. The gameplan worked extremely well and Vegas was never in this.
Edmonton failed to generate any real power play chances in Game 3, but they scored in eight seconds on a power play in the first period of Game 4 and that seemed to really tilt things in the Oilers’ favor. It was pedal to the medal the rest of the way, even as things got feisty.
Stuart Skinner Had a Rebound Game
The Oilers went back to Stuart Skinner as the starter even though he didn’t look great in Game 3 and it would have been justified to give Jack Campbell a look. But, as he did in the series against the Los Angeles Kings, when Skinner was given an opportunity to make good, he absolutely did.
This was one of Skinner’s best performances in the playoffs yet. He was eager to right a wrong and he made some key stops early, especially one on Mark Stone when it was 2-0 Oilers. Not only did Stone not score to get Vegas back into the game, but moments later, Ekholm blasted a shot past Adin Hill to put Edmonton up 3-0. That was the dagger the Oilers needed. Skinner’s bid for a shutout was ruined by a great play from Nicolas Roy, but Skinner made 25 saves on 26 shots, good for a .962 save percentage.
The Game Got Nasty and Suspensions Are Coming
Alex Pietrangelo got a five-minute major and a game misconduct after a nasty slash on Leon Draisaitl. It seemed clear that Pietrangelo was retaliating for being targeted by the Oilers throughout the game and being taken into the boards by Evander Kane earlier in the third period. The Oilers will certainly be sending in the tape and the NHL will look at the play for supplemental discipline.
Connor McDavid was asked about the Pietrangelo play and noted he’d like to see a suspension come out of it. “It was about as intent to injure as it gets,” said the Oilers’ captain. He was furious and went right after Pietrangelo, seemingly ready to fight, but more likely trying to send a message that attempts to hurt his friend and teammate wouldn’t be tolerated.
Meanwhile, in the final moments of the game, and as things got really nasty between the two teams, Darnell Nurse was issued an instigator penalty for going after Nic Hauge, resulting in a fight between the two. Because the rules state that an instigator penalty in the final five minutes of a game equates to an automatic suspension, Nurse will likely be sitting out Game 5 unless the NHL looks at the penalty and deems the instigator call should be overturned.
This could leave both teams without key defensemen for Game 5, but Oilers fans will likely be upset if the two players are given matching suspensions. One play was quite dirty and the other was a technicality.
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