McDavid bailed out after penalty, nets 2OT winner

DALLAS — Even though Connor McDavid scored another winning goal, the Edmonton Oilers provided another reminder that they have more than just their superstar captain.

Trusting every facet of their lineup, the Oilers overcame a four-minute penalty by McDavid in the first overtime and pulled out another one-goal victory Thursday night, beating the Dallas Stars 3-2 in double overtime in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals at American Airlines Center.

It was the Oilers’ sixth one-goal win this postseason, and it came with plenty of drama.

After the Oilers blew a two-goal lead to allow the Stars to force overtime, McDavid took a four-minute penalty just seconds into the first overtime. But Edmonton again held firm, killing its 20th consecutive penalty to keep the game alive.

McDavid, who had a chance to end the contest in the first overtime but was stopped by Jake Oettinger’s stick, gave the Oilers the win in the second extra period, handing the Stars their seventh consecutive Game 1 loss.

McDavid’s goal was just his third of this postseason, though he has 23 points in 13 games.

“It was long. Really long. Really, really long,” McDavid said of his four-minute penalty. “Miserable. I hated every second of it. But the guys did an amazing job. The penalty kill has just been amazing.”

A pair of second-period goals from Leon Draisaitl and Zach Hyman gave the Oilers a 2-0 lead less than five minutes into the frame before Tyler Seguin cut the deficit to 2-1 more than a minute later. Seguin tied the score with 3:23 left in regulation.

Just 17 seconds into the first overtime, McDavid was assessed a four-minute double minor for high-sticking Matt Duchene. Replays showed that Duchene was struck in the face, causing his mouth to be bloodied.

McDavid disputed the penalty with the officials before going to the penalty box.

“My thing was, I don’t know what I’m supposed to do,” McDavid said. “I am going for it, trying to play the puck. It feels like he’s holding my stick, and I didn’t really feel the high stick at all.”

Enter the Oilers’ penalty kill.

It’s a unit that entered Game 1 having successfully defended its past 15 short-handed sequences, and it was already 3-for-3 before McDavid’s double minor.

What allowed the Oilers to blank the Stars during those four minutes was their ability to follow the puck without ceding any open space.

“He mentioned to me that it was the longest four minutes of his life,” Oilers forward Derek Ryan said of McDavid. “It’s definitely nice to see him get out of there. He’s a rock for our team, obviously. Everyone knows it. He does it all. Before I came here, I don’t think I realized how great of a leader he is and great of a person he is to everyone in that room.”

McDavid almost ended the game in the first overtime, when he was alone at the crease and tried angling the puck around a sprawling Oettinger. But Oettinger used every bit of his 6-foot-6 frame plus his stick to make a save.

Then, just 32 seconds into double overtime, Oilers defenseman Evan Bouchard played a quick cross-ice pass that found McDavid’s stick and got past Oettinger for the winning goal.

It was the ninth one-goal game the Oilers have played this postseason.

“We’ve talked about this through the season with how mature and responsible they are with how they handle adversity no matter what happens,” Oilers coach Kris Knoblauch said. “Whether it’s a bad call by the official, a bad break, a bad play, whatever it is, we just move on and get ready for the next shift.”

While the Oilers won their second series opener of these playoffs, the Stars continued their Game 1 futility, something they have experienced in the postseason for the past few years. The last time the Stars won Game 1 of a playoff series came when they took the opening game of the Stanley Cup final in 2020 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“In a perfect world we’d like to win Game 1,” Stars coach Peter DeBoer said. “We’d like to win every series in four straight too, but it doesn’t happen. The main thing is you’ve got to find a way to survive and move on. We’ve got to park this game. We’ve been in this situation before. We’re the best road team in the league. I’m not concerned about that. We need to find another level in home games and the wins take care of themselves.”

Even with their Game 1 challenges, however, the Stars have won four of their past five series. That includes the first round, when they lost the first two games to the defending Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights before winning the series in seven.

“The great thing about playoffs is that we were coming to Game 2 no matter what happened tonight,” Ryan said. “You have to have a short memory, and you have to turn the page, learn, adapt and grow and make the changes you need to make to be successful.”

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