EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — After a disappointing overtime loss in the opener, the young Edmonton Oilers proved to be quick learners.
Connor McDavid and Zack Kassian scored short-handed goals to help the Oilers beat the San Jose Sharks 2-0 Friday night, evening their first-round series at one game apiece.
It was a dominant performance by the Oilers and particularly by Kassian, a fourth-line winger who drove the net effectively and delivered bone-jarring hits on the Sharks’ Brenden Dillon and Logan Couture. By the end of the second period, the Rogers Place fans were chanting “Kass-ee-ann! Kass-ee-ann!”
“As a group we wanted to have a good bounce-back game,” Kassian said. “It was one of those things, the puck seemed to follow me tonight. My linemates played well. We brought a lot of energy.”
McDavid credited Kassian with being the difference-maker.
“He dominated the game tonight,” McDavid said. “He was a physical presence, scored a huge goal for us. It was his show tonight.”
Cam Talbot stopped all 16 shots he faced for his first career playoff shutout and Edmonton’s first postseason win since 2006. The Oilers missed the playoffs in each of the last 10 years.
This one was a reversal of Game 1, when the Oilers were outshot 44-19 en route to a 3-2 overtime loss. Edmonton jumped out to a 2-0 lead in that game but was suffocated by a relentless San Jose forecheck after that. This time the Oilers kept the pressure, outshooting the Sharks 36-16 and outhitting them 41-21.
Martin Jones finished with 34 saves for the Sharks.
“We’re disappointed with the way it went,” Sharks forward Joe Pavelski said. “We got what we probably deserved out there.”
Game 3 is Sunday night in San Jose.
A lot was made of the Oilers playoff inexperience, with just 342 combined postseason games under their belt coming in compared to well over 1,000 games for the Sharks, the defending Western Conference champions.
McDavid said the Oilers were able to settle down after first-game jitters.
“Guys might have been nervous the first game,” the second-year star said. “I definitely felt a little bit of nerves in the first one. Guys just played comfortable (this time), played more of our style of game.”
“It was a tale of two games,” he said. “We really locked it down once we got that first goal.”
Kassian scored 42 seconds into the second when Sharks forward Joe Pavelski lost control of the puck at the Oilers blue line. He swiped at the puck with this stick, giving it to Edmonton’s Mark Letestu.
Letestu promptly passed it to a streaking Kassian, who barreled in alone and fired a wrist shot low past Jones’ blocker.
McDavid, the NHL’s regular-season scoring leader, got his first NHL playoff goal at the 10:31 mark of the third, streaking down the left side and launching a short-side wrist shot that eluded Jones.
The Sharks were 0 for 6 with the man advantage and are 1 for 12 through the first two games. San Jose’s power play was ranked 25th in the NHL in the regular season at 16.7 percent.
The Sharks’ power play has suffered from the absence of dominant center Joe Thornton. He has been day-to-day with a knee injury he suffered April 2. Thornton has been skating in practice, and Sharks coach Peter DeBoer has said he expects Thornton to return at some point in the series.
NOTES: The Oilers got a scare in the third period when Oscar Klefbom went down after blocking a shot. Oilers coach Todd McLellan said he later talked to Klefbom and the defenseman told him he was OK.