CALGARY — Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl dominated Alberta’s first playoff battle in 31 years.
It matched Edmonton’s dynamic duo combining to finish it.
McDavid scored a goal with a nifty draisaitl setup in overtime at 5:03 a.m. Thursday as the Oilers beat the Calgary Flames 5-4 and won their second-round series 4-1.
“Hard to put into words what that meant to me,” McDavid said. “The guys did a great job holding out all night. It definitely wasn’t our best performance, but we persevered. We got great performances from a bunch of different guys.
“I’m just glad to be a part of a night where I may not have done my best.”
Edmonton’s captain shot his seventh goal of the postseason, past Jacob Markstrom and off the post, to spark a wild cheer as the Oilers advanced to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2006.
McDavid snapped Edmonton’s first-round run against the Los Angeles Kings with the Oilers 3-2 down and raised the bar against Calgary.
“He’s everything to us,” said Draisaitl. “He’s our leader, he’s our go-to person, he’s the guy everyone looks up to when you need him. He’s done it all season, he’s done it his whole career. He’s been great for us. At some point you’ll run out of words.”
“I was just trying to get my legs moving,” McDavid said of the winner. “They didn’t move that well all night – just trying to focus on skating, coming on the precheck and getting the puck to Leo.
“Usually something good happens when the puck goes to Leo.”
That was certainly the case in a series where Draisaitl finished with 17 points (two goals, 15 assists) in five games while battling a lower body injury believed to have been sustained late in the opening round.
“He was amazing,” McDavid said of his linemate. “Dominated from start to finish.”
McDavid, who had two goals and 10 assists against Calgary, and Draisaitl both have 26 points in 12 postseason games this spring — the sixth and seventh times in NHL history that a player has reached that level.
“Leon’s performance has gone a bit under the radar with what Connor has done,” said Jay Woodcroft, the Oilers’ interim head coach, who replaced the fired Dave Tippett on Feb. 10 and now brings Edmonton eight Stanley Cup wins. “He’s the best passer in the National Hockey League – the best passer in the world. And the number of games he makes for our team is incredible. To achieve what he’s going through, he’s an absolute warrior.
“When I walked into that room (in) February, I felt optimistic about our players because I saw a sincere desire to win. Not just a desire to win, but I saw people willing to pay the price to win.”
Zach Hyman, with one goal and two assists, Darnell Nurse, Jesse Puljujarvi and Evan Bouchard also scored for the Oilers. Mike Smith made 32 saves.
Draisaitl added four assists – his fifth straight contest with more than three points to build on the NHL playoff record he set in Game 4.
The Oilers will face either the Colorado Avalanche or the St. Louis Blues in the third round. Colorado leads that series 3-2 with Game 6 scheduled for Friday in St. Louis.
Mikael Backlund with a goal and an assist, Johnny Gaudreau, Calle Jarnkrok and Andrew Mangiapane responded for Calgary. Blake Coleman contributed two assists while Markstrom made 30 saves.
The Flames won a wild Game 1 with a 9-6 score but could never really find another level after leading the Pacific Division in the regular season.
“The series was Game 2, Game 4, Game 5…they were all tied in the third half,” said Calgary head coach Darryl Sutter.
“Edmonton scored the big goal.”
Coleman, who won the trophy with the Tampa Bay Lightning for the last two seasons, appeared to tie for a 4-4 with just under six minutes left after Backlund put the puck hard into Edmonton’s net. But the goal was waved off after video review after it was ruled the winger kicked the puck over Smith’s goal line while struggling with Oilers defenseman Cody Ceci.
“I don’t think I understand the rule,” said Coleman. “My understanding is that you can direct the puck, but you just can’t kick it. I didn’t feel like I kicked him.
“Unfortunately that was such a big part of the game and happened to affect the flow.”
With his team trailing 1-0 after a tentative first half, Woodcroft replaced Evander Kane early in the second with Hyman up front alongside Draisaitl and McDavid and it almost paid off on a couple of good occasions.
But the Flames, who beat the Oilers by seven points in the regular season, went 2-0 up at 5:41 when Backlund scored his fifth goal from a deviation.
The Oilers got on the board at 7:40 after Draisaitl found Nurse in position to fire his second past a shielded mark stream.
Edmonton equalized just 2:26 later with a 3-on-1 onslaught when the Calgary keeper, shaky for most of the series, was only able to get part of Hyman’s shot before Puljujarvi swept home his second , as the Oilers erased another multi-goal deficit on the road.
The offensive floodgates then really opened up over a wild stretch that saw four pucks find the back of the net in 71 seconds.
Hyman scored his sixth goal of the series and eighth of the postseason on a power play at 14:57 before Gaudreau leveled again at 3-3 with his third at 15:12.
Jarnkrok then scored his first goal as a member of the Flames since coming 4-3 in a trade with the Seattle Kraken at 15:28.
But the Oilers responded again at 4:08 p.m. when Bouchard’s blast beat Markstrom for his second as the teams set an NHL record for the fastest four goals in playoff history — 22 seconds faster than the previous mark set by the Philadelphia Flyers and the Toronto Maple Leafs was drafted in 1976.
“It was crazy,” said Draisaitl. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
After a tepid start for both teams in a nervous Scotiabank Saddledome, the Flames took a 10:13 lead when Mangiapane took a great pass from Coleman to bury his third.
The winger’s first point of the series gave his team their first lead since the end of the second period of Game 2 – a stretch of exactly 155 minutes – that started a three-straight loss streak to see Calgary on the brink of elimination .
And after a wild second half and McDavid’s heroics, the Oilers are now entering the third round for the first time in a generation.
“To do that against your arch-rival and shut him up in his building the way we did it is going to please us,” Woodcroft said. “We will rest and recover.
“Whoever comes from that other series is going to be a really good opponent.”