It's not if you score first, or even last, but how many that matters. The Edmonton Oilers have learned that lesson the hard way, having scored first in the series a couple times, even going up two or more, to be on the losing side of when the night was over. Drake Caggiula opened up scoring on a strange play in game 7 against the Anaheim Ducks at the Honda Center. Ducks defenseman, Shea Theodore, made a play only a rookie would (which he is) by attempting to skate in front of his net while an opposing player was lurking around. Caggiula knocked the puck past a surprised John Gibson three and a half minutes into the game, giving the Oilers the lead. Unfortunately for Edmonton, they wouldn't be able to build off that league. In fact, the Ducks seem to wake up after that, though they were held off the score sheet in the first period.
Former Oiler, Andrew Cogliano, scored his first goal in 18 games, putting home a loose puck, just a mere second before Oilers' d-man, Darnell Nurse, arrived on the scene. The goal really set the game into high speed, with both teams going back and forth at times and coming close to getting the next one.
With all the firepower on the Ducks, it would be Nick Ritchie who would play hero. At 3:21 of the 3rd period, the left winger, who hails from Orangeville, Ontario, playing for the team in Orange County, sniped a wrist shot past Cam Talbot. It would be enough to power the Ducks to the Western Conference Finals for the 2nd time in 3 years.
It was a good run for the young Oilers and undoubtedly, the start of a great period of success. They have one of the best players in Connoer McDavid, who didn't have the huge breakout playoff that people were expecting of him, though he still put up decent numbers (13 GP 5G 4A). Then, there is Leon Draisaitl. If you didn't know who the big centre was before, you probably know who he is now after he had himself a big series that including a 4 point game in game 1 and a hat-trick and 5 points total in the 7-1 blowout win in game 6. He finished the playoffs with 6 goals and 10 assists.
Yet, it will be a bitter pill to swallow as they head back home to clean out their lockers in a couple of days. After all, their game 6 blowout of the Ducks should have been the night the Oilers and Ducks walked the hand shake line with the Oilers moving on, right? That would have been the case had goaltender interference been called on the Ducks game tying goal in game 5, where Talbot had his leg held down by that sneaky Ryan Kesler. The Oilers lost that game in double overtime to set up the must win in game 6.
For the Ducks, the win meant erasing the crush of having lost 4 straight game 7s at home. If it weren't for the choking Capitals, more people would be talking about that particular statistic. Instead, that will be forgotten...for now. The Ducks move onto to play the Nashville Predators, where they will need another strong performance from their captain, Ryan Getzlaf. He was a man beast in games 3 and 4 when his team needed him the most.
Game 1 goes Friday night in Anaheim.