The Edmonton Oilers returned to Northern California in a completely different state of mind than when they left. The Oilers departed San Jose down 2-0 in their Western Conference Semifinal series, having scored just two goals. They returned with the series evened 2-2 thanks to a pair of comeback victories and nine goals scored in two games in Edmonton.
All of the momentum was with the Oilers, who returned for Game 5 at HP Pavilion 15 years ago tonight. An Oilers victory would put them just one game away from their first Conference Final appearance since 1992.
The Oilers got off on the right foot on this night. Fernando Pisani, one of the heroes in Edmonton’s series victory over the Detroit Red Wings, had been awfully quiet against the Sharks. That changed in Game 5.
Jaroslav Spacek stepped into a rolling puck at the blueline, blasting a one-timer towards goal. Pisani got a piece of it, changing the puck’s direction and fooling Vessa Toskala to open the scoring at 8:29 of the first period. Edmonton took that lead into the first intermission.
The Sharks were able to draw even early in the middle frame. Marcel Goc won an offensive zone faceoff to the near wall, where Christian Ehrhoff quickly arrived to gain possession. Ehrhoff dropped a pass back to Scott Thornton, who was covering at the point. Thornton put a shot into traffic that Dwayne Roloson never saw, tying the game 1-1 at 4:30 of the second period.
Edmonton needed just 2:01 to regain the lead. On the powerplay, Ales Hemsky fed Chris Pronger at the blueline. Instead of stepping into a shot, Pronger fired a wrist-shot that Toskala denied. He couldn’t find the rebound, however. Ryan Smyth did, and banged home his third of the playoffs at 6:31 to give Edmonton back the lead 2-1.
That was the score heading into the third period, which for the second game in a row featured some fireworks.
The Sharks started the period on the powerplay, but it had a disastrous outcome to start. Toskala and Patrick Marleau were too lackadaisical behind the net while settling the puck down, allowing Smyth to apply pressure on the kill. The pressure forced a turnover, giving Smyth the puck. Smyth quickly sent the puck to Shawn Horcoff, who was wide open in the slot. Horcoff quickly fired home his 4th of the playoffs just 12 seconds in. The shorthanded goal gave the Oilers a 3-1 lead.
The insurance proved important seconds later. The Sharks got the goal right back at the 44 second mark, as Ehrhoff’s point shot beat Roloson on the powerplay.
San Jose struck again just under two minutes later to earn the tie. With all kinds of pressure in the Edmonton zone, Kyle McLaren fired a shot that was blocked by Ethan Moreau. The loose puck was collected by Jonathan Cheechoo, who let a long-range shot go that beat Roloson at 2:30 to tie the game 3-3.
The scoring barrage didn’t stop there. The Oilers got a two-on-one, with Horcoff and Pisani coming in on Sharks’ defender Josh Gorges, just minutes later. Horcoff slid the pass across to Pisani, who one-timed home his second of the game and 7th of the playoffs at 4:03 to put the Oilers ahead 4-3.
That turned out to be enough on this night for Edmonton.
With the Sharks in penalty trouble late, the Oilers tacked on two more goals for good measure. First, it was Jarret Stoll with his second one-timer on the powerplay in as many games. His goal made it 5-3 at 13:40 of the third period. Then, Smyth collected his second of the night and 4th of the playoffs at 16:11 as he tapped home a centering pass from Horcoff on a two-skater advantage.
For the second straight game, the Oilers offense erupted in the third period and propelled them to a 6-3 win over the Sharks. With their third straight win under their belt, the Oilers were now ahead in the series 3-2, and could cement their second straight series victory at home on May 17th,
Finally, Edmonton was in full command of this series. A trip to the Conference Final was one win away.