Larsson leads Oilers past Ducks 5-3 in wild series opener
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) For the first 45 minutes of their second-round series opener, the Edmonton Oilers showed they can match the Anaheim Ducks in a tight-checking, low-scoring grind of a playoff hockey game.
When things got wild and frantic in the final minutes, the upstart Oilers showed they can hang with the best in the West in that sort of game, too.
Defenseman Adam Larsson scored his second goal of the third period with 4:40 to play, and the Oilers blew a two-goal lead before beating the Ducks 5-3 on Wednesday night.
Mark Letestu scored two power-play goals and Cam Talbot made 33 saves as Edmonton seized home-ice advantage from the Ducks with a four-goal final period. Two of those goals came from Larsson, the stay-at-home blueliner who scored only four goals in the Oilers' first 85 games this season.
''It's really nice to see him get rewarded and get a couple of goals,'' Letestu said of Larsson, acquired by Edmonton in the trade of former No. 1 draft pick Taylor Hall to New Jersey. ''That's not normally what he does for us.''
Leon Draisaitl had two third-period assists and an empty-net goal for the Oilers, who don't appear to be feeling an ounce of intimidation in their first playoff appearance since 2006. Connor McDavid's club followed its ousting of the defending conference champion San Jose Sharks by sending the five-time division champion Ducks to their first loss of the playoffs.
''At times, our maturity has been underestimated,'' Letestu said. ''This group has been through a lot this year, and it's starting to show.''
Game 2 is Friday night in Anaheim.
The most shocking development in the opener was the star turn by Larsson, who improbably poured in two goals in 7 1/2 minutes. After skating freely into the slot and converting a pass from Draisaitl with 11:57 left, he added the winner seven minutes later when he skated behind the net and cleverly threw it in front. The puck banked off Anaheim defenseman Josh Manson's skate and pinballed underneath John Gibson, who stopped 27 shots.
''You can see on the bench, we didn't panic'' after Anaheim tied it, Larsson said. ''We kept it going. We learned a lot during the last series, and we carried it over to this series.''
Jakob Silfverberg scored the tying goal with 9:13 to play, but the Ducks lost in regulation for the first time in 19 games since March 10.
Patrick Eaves and Ryan Getzlaf also scored for Anaheim, which had won eight straight games. The Ducks didn't give up a third-period goal during their entire first-round sweep of Calgary before getting shredded by the Oilers.
''It's a good test,'' said Getzlaf, who has seven points in five playoff games. ''We've dealt with it properly in the last little while here, and we expect nothing less out of our group. We're going to come to work tomorrow and be ready for the next one.''
A sold-out Honda Center could barely keep up when a tense 1-1 game morphed into a free-for-all as each team scored two goals apiece in a 4:24 span midway through the third.
''I think the first two periods were more of a checking game,'' Draisaitl said. ''And then both teams had a few breakdowns, and I think both teams capitalized on them.''
Letestu scored his second power-play goal with 13:37 to play before Larsson put the Oilers up 3-1. The Ducks promptly sprung to life and attacked the net, with Eaves flipping home a rebound 85 seconds before Silfverberg tied it with his own rebound goal.
''We're going to learn from it,'' Silfverberg said. ''We know we're not going to win every series 4-0. We know that now.''
The Ducks had the past week off after sweeping the Flames, but both teams came out with a mid-series physical approach in the scoreless first period. All-Star center Ryan Kesler immediately gave McDavid a taste of what's ahead when he skated alongside the Edmonton captain in the neutral zone, randomly whacking McDavid with his stick while the puck was nowhere close.
All-Star defenseman Cam Fowler returned to the Ducks' lineup after missing six games over the previous three weeks due to an unpenalized knee-on-knee hit by Calgary captain Mark Giordano.
NOTES: Lindholm returned after leaving the Ducks' last game early with an injury, but D Sami Vatanen sat out his fourth straight game with an upper-body injury, depriving Anaheim of its Finnish puck-moving specialist. ... D Oscar Klefbom was in Edmonton's lineup after missing the third period of the final game in the first round. ... Anaheim D Kevin Bieksa got hurt early in the game and was on and off the ice from there. He has a lower-body injury, coach Randy Carlyle said. ... Canadian NHL franchises improved to 4-20 in the playoffs against the Ducks since 2006, when Edmonton beat Anaheim in the Western Conference finals.