How the Oilers moved within one win of the Stanley Cup Final: 5 takeaways

DALLAS — Leon Draisaitl didn’t talk up Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in the morning before Game 5 of the Western Conference final with any sort of jealousy. Perhaps there was a smidge of envy, but his tone was more matter of fact.

“He’s just so valuable in every facet of the game,” Draisaitl said. “He touches every part of the game.

“He’s just such a smart, good hockey player. He’s a coach’s favorite player in the world.”

Edmonton Oilers coach Kris Knoblauch then joked that he’s “always got a favorite player, but it just depends on the day.”

Well, it surely was Nugent-Hopkins on Friday.

The Oilers’ longest-serving player, the guy who’s seen it all in Edmonton and played for nine coaches (10 if interim Craig MacTavish is included), came up huge. He scored the first two goals of the game — both on the power play — in a 3-1 win over the Dallas Stars.

With Nugent-Hopkins leading the way, the Oilers are now one victory away from their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Final in 18 years.

They have a chance to close out the series on Sunday on home ice.

Oilers power play finally explodes

You knew it was going to happen at some point. It just had to.

Sure, the Oilers had just six chances in the series before Game 5, but that usually means they’d have had a couple of goals by now. Instead, one of the most lethal power plays the NHL has never seen yet made any contribution in this series.

That all changed in the first period. With Stars defenseman Ryan Suter in the box for roughing Connor McDavid, Nugent-Hopkins got to the rebound of Evan Bouchard’s one-timer ahead of Stars’ Ty Dellandrea and backhanded a shot past goalie Jake Oettinger.

The goal at 14:09 of the opening frame was not only the Oilers’ first power-play goal of the series — and the first by either team — but it broke an awful 1-for-17 stretch dating to the second-round matchup against Vancouver.

Nugent-Hopkins then scored his second power-play goal of the game in the middle period when he took a pass from Draisaitl and wired a shot over Oettinger’s glove.

The back-to-back goals with the man advantage ignited the offense and paced the win.

Broberg’s first playoff goal seals the win

How things have changed for Philip Broberg.

It wasn’t even six months ago that he was the unhappiest of campers as he languished in the press boxes both in Edmonton and at road rinks. He just wanted a chance to play in the NHL — whether that was with the Oilers or elsewhere. Finally sent down to AHL Bakersfield on Dec. 7, it seemed like Broberg was on the outs in the organization.

But he played in Bakersfield — and played a lot. There were games he got close to skating half the available minutes. He quarterbacked the power play and got it back on track. He became a fixture on the penalty kill. The organization finally committed to playing him on the left side, mostly with former Stars farmhand Ben Gleason.

Broberg excelled. He had five goals and 36 points in 45 games from the December demotion onward. Everyone in the organization raved about his performance. It did him a world of good.

“Bakersfield was good for me,” he said. “I played a lot of minutes and got to work on stuff I needed to work on. I’m a better player now than I was before.”

Broberg got the tap in Game 4 and played 14:21 — the most of his 11 career NHL postseason games. He was more impactful in Game 5.

Broberg scored his first playoff goal by blasting a shot off a faceoff win behind Oettinger at 5:09 of the second. That snipe made it 3-0 Oilers and made it eight unanswered goals for the Oilers from the start with Ryan McLeod’s rebound marker in Game 4.

It’s safe to say he’s not coming out of the lineup for now.

Skinner strong again

Stuart Skinner wasn’t tested often, but he was up to the challenge when he was.

The Oilers goaltender had to make just 19 saves, but there were some of the difficult variety.

The Stars buzzed around the Oilers crease in the first period and Skinner had to be sharp on a Jamie Benn chance on the doorstep.

His best stop of the game came with just over a minute left in the second period when Wyatt Johnston was set up for a quick shot in the slot, which Skinner turned aside with ease.

He then kicked out his right pad on a Tyler Seguin chance midway through the third.

Skinner has come under fire at points in these playoffs. He allowed nine goals in the first two games of the opening-round series against Los Angeles. He lost his starting gig heading into the third period of Game 3 against Vancouver after surrendering 12 goals on 58 shots to that point. The winning goal he allowed to Jason Robertson in Game 3 had an unpleasant aroma to it.

But Skinner has had some excellent moments, too. A Johnston goal with 5:51 to go in the game cost him his second shutout, but he shut the door from there. It was still one of his best showings of the playoffs.

Plenty of blame to go around

Where did the Stars go wrong in Game 5? Just about everywhere. They failed to muster any kind of sustained offense against the Oilers, who played a terrific, defensive-minded road game. More than 35 minutes into the game, Dallas has mustered a mere six shots on goal.

And while the Oilers found their power play, the Stars remained stymied with the man advantage. Their best opportunity to make a game of it came late in the second period, trailing 3-0, when Edmonton’s Brett Kulak was called for holding. Matt Duchene won a board battle and sent a beautiful backhand pass across the slot to Joe Pavelski, who had a golden scoring chance — only to fire a shot directly into Cody Ceci’s stick.

Pavelski’s woes are emblematic of Dallas’ at large. The Stars got here on the strength of their depth, but in the playoffs, your stars have to show up eventually. And Dallas simply hasn’t gotten enough offense from some of its big names. Pavelski, in particular, has been struggling throughout the playoffs. The venerable veteran had 27 goals this season and has 74 postseason goals in his career. But he has one goal in 18 games this postseason, none in the Western Conference final. Game 5 was his 200th career playoff game, and one he’ll want to forget.

Roope Hintz, meanwhile, went five periods without a shot on goal until a meaningless one in the third period of Game 5. Duchene has just two goals, none in this series. And Thomas Harley has no goals and four assists in the postseason. Duchene said the other day that the Stars have “three No. 1 lines,” but it hasn’t looked that way frequently enough in this series. Edmonton deserves plenty of credit for handling the waves of scorers coming over the boards, but Dallas hasn’t been able to exert its offensive will beyond a period or two here or there. If some of the Stars’ stars don’t start starring soon, Dallas’ dream season will end one round short.

Even Oettinger faltered in this one. He finished with 23 saves, but he whiffed on what looked like an easy glove save on Broberg’s goal.

Tanev toughs it out

On Thursday morning, Chris Tanev was making his way through the Edmonton airport in a walking boot. On Friday evening, he was playing in Game 5 for the Stars. Tanev’s status was the series’ big question after he blocked an Evander Kane shot with the outside of his right foot, but in the end, there was little doubt he’d take the ice.

Tanev was greeted by cheers as he took the ice for warmups, and got a bigger ovation from the full crowd early in the first period. He clearly wasn’t at 100 percent, as he seemed to be favoring his right foot as he skated. But he played 19:12 (only a shade less than his usual average) and blocked four shots.

Lian Bischel, the Stars’ first-round draft pick in 2022 who has yet to play in an NHL game, took warmups before Game 5 just in case Tanev couldn’t go. That he didn’t get the traditional NHL debut solo lap made it clear that Tanev was good (enough) to go.

(Top photo of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: Glenn James / NHLI via Getty Images)

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