The Oilers' surprising season took another improbable turn on Thursday night when they came back from a two-goal deficit to beat the San Jose Sharks, 4-3, in overtime.
Rogers Place erupted as David Desharnais scored the winner with 1:45 remaining in the first extra period. The victory gives the Oilers a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series, their first appearance in postseason in nearly 11 years. Game 6 will be played in Silicon Valley on Saturday night. If a seventh game is required, it will be played in Edmonton on Monday.
The Oilers took a 1-0 lead in the first period on Patrick Maroon's first goal of the playoffs, but trailed 3-1 with 2:46 remaining. Defenceman Oscar Klefbom blasted a puck from the blue line past San Jose goalie Martin Jones to give Edmonton the equalizer. Desharnais, the little centre the Oilers acquired from Montreal at the trade deadline, set up the goal with a crisp pass to Klefbom.
The dramatic victory came on the heels of a 7-0 loss in Game 4 at the SAP Center. It was the Oilers' worst defeat of the year. Edmonton, which went from 29th overall in the NHL to second this season in the Pacific Division, has not lost twice in a row since Feb. 24 and 26.
"It was a bounce-back game," Desharnais said. "We stuck with it."
The overtime game was the second of the series and the second so far at Rogers Place. The Sharks won Game 1, 3-2, also rallying from a two-goal deficit.
San Jose goalie Martin Jones was spectacular in overtime, stopping eight shots over the first 10 minutes. Several times he stopped what appeared to be certain goals with sprawling saves. Fernando Pisani, the last Oiler to score an overtime goal in Game 5 in 2006, watched in a sellout crowd.
Jones finished with 44 saves, while Oilers netminder Cam Talbot had 27. Edmonton outshot the Sharks 48-30.
More than 10,000 people poured into Edmonton's downtown arena to watch the two road games.
On Thursday afternoon, several thousand people gathered outside city hall for an Oilers' rally. Pushing strollers and with children hoisted on their shoulders, they banged drums and held home-made signs. "Game Five, Come Alive," one read. "We Believe," read another.
Skylene Gladue was there, wearing a tutu and orange and blue leggings and a Connor McDavid sweater. She had Oilers decals affixed to each cheek, a giant Styrofoam finger on one hand and clutched an orange pompom with the other.
"The team asked people to show their pride, so I had to come all decked out," Gladue, 33 and from Edmonton, said. "I'd put on more if I could.
"One of my earliest memories is sitting on my father's lap as a two-year-old as he watched the Oilers," she said.
One fellow stood with an inflatable shark slung over his shoulder. Others waved flags attached to hockey sticks. They cheered when a video was shown of the Oilers' first Stanley Cup parade in 1984. They won four in five years and five in seven, but since then, none.
"There is something about Edmonton," Mayor Don Iveson said, addressing the crowd. A number of former players stood behind him, Kevin Lowe and Dave Semenko included. "No matter how cold it is, no matter the price of oil, no matter what is happening on the ice, we never give up."
On the streets, cars flew Oilers' pennants. A truck belonging to a firm called The Gentleman Plumbers was being driven around with a Stanley Cup attached to its grill. A Ferrari, freshly painted in team colours, barrelled past Rogers Place.
The Oilers knew going in that they had to be better than they were during Tuesday's disastrous Game 4 loss. In that game, Edmonton was called for eight penalties, including a 15-minute game misconduct issued to Leon Draisaitl.
The 21-year-old forward only accrued 20 minutes in penalties in 82 regular-season games, but became so frustrated that he speared San Jose's Chris Tierney in the groin.
"It was a stupid play," Draisaitl, who was fined $2,569.44 for the infraction, said. That is the league maximum under the collective bargaining agreement. "The last thing I want to do is hurt somebody."
Oilers coach Todd McLellan agreed the incident was dumb, but said it was out of character.
"That doesn't represent who he is," McLellan said. "I don't think you can paint him with that brush."
Draisaitl's offensive production, rather than his temperament, has been more a concern. He finished eighth in the league in scoring with 77 points, but was scoreless in the series' first four games. He finally got on the score sheet when he assisted on a power-play goal by Mark Letestu with 1:27 remaining in the second period. That cut the Sharks lead to 3-2.
McDavid, who had a goal and an assist in the series' first two games but had been scoreless since then, also was credited with an assist on the same play. In 132 games now in his NHL career, he has never gone more than two games without a point.
After failing to score through four games, Maroon had been dropped from the first to the second line. He gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead with 14:32 left in the first period when he tucked a puck past Jones.
The Oilers came out throwing their bodies around like they had while winning Game 2. Fans erupted as Milan Lucic decked Sharks players on consecutive shifts. Refs had to escort Maroon back to the bench once through a phalanx of agitated opponents after he laid a hard hit in the corner on Brent Burns.
Time and again, fans in Rogers Pace chanted "Five Hole" as a taunt to San Jose goalie Martin Jones. To that point, all five Edmonton goals in the series had gone between Jones' skates.
The Oilers were working hard early on, and got a bit unlucky. Darnell Nurse hit the inside of each goalpost with shots, Jordan Eberle also clanked a shot off the outside of one another time. Six minutes into the game, the Oilers had an 11-5 advantage in shots.
Then, the momentum began to change. Mikkel Boedker evened the scored 9:48 before intermission following a crisp pass from Chris Tierney. Patrick Marleau then put the Sharks up, 2-1, netting a rebound off a shot by Joe Thornton with 4:08 remaining in the first. David Schlemko then scored San Jose's third unanswered goal with 11:22 left in the second and it looked like the game was about to get out of control.
Still struggling to score, McDavid levelled Marcus Sorensen with his shoulder five minutes later, and the crushing hit seemed to give the Oilers new energy. The crowd began chanting, "MVP."
Now the Oilers stand one victory away from advancing to the second round. Their surprising season has taken another turn for the better.