EDMONTON, Alberta (AP)—Three games in four nights—including one decided in triple overtime—171 hard on-ice collisions, broken teeth, a mashed knee and a face puffed up like a bloody balloon.
With Game 4 set for Edmonton on Friday night, the question now remains which team will have the strength and endurance to survive the rough best-of-seven series.
“It works into our favor because we feel we’re better equipped for a long battle,” Edmonton forward Ethan Moreau said after the Oilers’ optional practice Thursday. “But it’s taxing. It takes its toll on your body.”
The Oilers needed 42 minutes, 24 seconds of overtime Wednesday to defeat the Sharks 3-2 and cut their series deficit to 2-1. The Sharks, with seven rookies in their lineup, won the first two games at home by identical 2-1 scores.
Oilers forward Georges Laraque, who was kicked out Wednesday halfway through the game for slamming Jonathan Cheechoo’s head against the boards, said despite the tally in games no one has the advantage.
“The Sharks are deep and they’re really a good team,” he said. “They’re fast. They’re as fast as us, with size.
“Every game is a draining battle.”
Scheduling conflicts at the arena in San Jose forced the series to begin on back-to-back nights Sunday and Monday before Wednesday’s Game 3, which took more than four hours to complete.
“When you throw in six periods, well five and then some … it’s really four games in four nights in terms of energy,” Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. “When you factor in playoff intensity and the speed and the collisions that have been going on, that’s almost like playing five games in four nights, so fatigue does become a factor.”
The injuries are mounting.
In the second period Wednesday, Oilers forward Ryan Smyth was hit in the face by Chris Pronger’s rising clearing pass and had three teeth knocked out. Smyth left a trail of blood as he skated back to the bench but returned soon after and helped set up Shawn Horcoff’s overtime winner.
The Sharks were without rookie sensation winger Milan Michalek. The 21-year-old Czech assisted on three of the four San Jose goals in the first two games and paid the price when Oilers forward Raffi Torres lined him up in the neutral zone in Game 2 and leveled a semi-legal hit to his head.
Michalek came back to play in that game but the side of his face puffed up, and one eye was closed. He was scratched from Game 3, but Wilson said Thursday he’s hopeful to have him in the lineup on Friday.
The Oilers have lost speedy forward Radek Dvorak for the rest of the series. He sprained a knee ligament when Patrick Rissmiller rammed him into the boards in the series opener.