Jason Smith scored the tiebreaker 2:57 into the third period as the Oilers scored five unanswered goals to rally for a 6-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Friday night, tying the Western Conference semifinal series 2-2.
“It was just a matter of time before we got some bounces,” said Michael Peca, whose goal at 12:28 of the second started Edmonton’s comeback from a 3-1 deficit. “I think we are doing a much better job getting pucks to the net and getting our forecheck going. I think they seemed a little too satisfied with their start, but one thing we have been all year is resilient.”
“We were guilty of trying to sit back and be comfortable with the lead,” Thornton said.
“I just happened to be in the right spot at the right time,” Smith said. “I only get about one breakaway a year. Most of the time I just would have gone in and shot, but he came out at me and I happened to have my head up and I got lucky.”
Game 5 in the best-of-seven series is Sunday in San Jose, with Game 6 back in Edmonton on Wednesday night.
Oilers coach Craig MacTavish says both teams made mistakes, “but we were good when we had to be.”
He added the dynamics of the series have changed.
“It gets them flying to San Jose feeling the same way that we did flying to Edmonton and realizing how important that next game is. It will be the first time in that game in San Jose we’ve had any opportunity in the series to take hold of it.”
Toskala was stellar the first three games, stopping 94 of 99 shots.
That changed in the second when Ethan Moreau’s shot hit the end boards and took a funny bounce back to Peca, who launched a desperation shot from the side of the net that managed to squeeze under Toskala’s pads.
Less than 3 minutes later, the Oilers killed off a penalty on Samsonov by lofting the puck down the ice toward Toskala, and Samsonov raced out of the penalty box after the puck. Toskala scrambled out to meet him halfway, tried to sweep the puck away but instead it bounced off Samsonov and the speedy Russian simply backhanded the puck into the empty net to tie the score.
The Sharks never recovered and in the third period their defense collapsed. After Smith’s go-ahead goal, forward Ryan Smyth raced down the left side and fired a pass through the slot for an easy tip-in by Ales Hemsky at 8:19.
“Everybody makes mistakes. It’s a new game on Sunday,” said Toskala, who was replaced by Evgeni Nabokov after Hemsky’s goal. “I have been playing good for three or four months. I will not let one mistake at the blue line destroy my confidence.”
Jarret Stoll finished the scoring on a power-play, sending a slap shot past a screened Nabokov at 14:00.
Shawn Horcoff, who got the game-winner in the third overtime of Game 3 on Wednesday night, also scored for Edmonton.
The Sharks opened the scoring less than 4 minutes into the game. A blocked shot at the Sharks blue line led to an odd-man rush that ended when Nils Ekman waltzed around a sprawling Jaroslav Spacek and passed over to Joe Thornton at the side of the net for an easy one-timer past Dwayne Roloson at 3:47.
Ekman made it 2-0 at 6:40, taking a back-handed pass from Patrick Marleau and one-timing it past Roloson low to the stickside.
The Oilers got their first goal at 12:55, when Horcoff tipped Smith’s slap shot between Toskala’s legs.
The Sharks went up 3-1 after Oilers defenseman Chris Pronger committed a rare giveaway in his own zone. Thornton jumped on it, raced past Pronger, swooped around the net and shoveled the puck to Cheechoo, who put it between Roloson’s legs.
Just over 3 minutes later, Peca started the comeback.
The Sharks were missing rookie Milan Michalek for the second straight game. The Czech winger took an open-ice hit to the head from Raffi Torres in Game 2, causing the side of his face to puff up and his left eye to close down … Smyth spent Thursday at the dentist after having three teeth knocked out of his head by Pronger’s clearing pass in Game 3. The 11-year veteran also needed eight stitches for a cut on his lip.