SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP)—The Shark Tank is always a hostile place for visitors, and it got even more foreboding when a bunch of San Jose fans booed the Canadian national anthem before Game 5.
The Edmonton Oilers have heard it all before—and after their latest gritty win, the eighth-seeded underdogs are one win away from the Western Conference finals.
Fernando Pisani broke a tie with his second goal early in the third period, and Ryan Smyth had two goals and two assists in the Oilers’ 6-3 victory over the Sharks on Sunday night, putting Edmonton up 3-2 in the second-round playoff series.
Nothing has shaken the Oilers while they eliminated the Detroit Red Wings and pushed the Sharks to the brink after dropping the first two games of this series. But Edmonton’s us-against-the-world energy undoubtedly got a boost shortly before the opening faceoff, when many fans loudly booed “O Canada,” insulting the Oilers and the 10 Canadians wearing teal uniforms.
“I didn’t think too much of that,” Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said. “I’m sure our fans won’t do that to the U.S. anthem.”
Sharks officials thought their crowd was responding to a handful of Canadian fans that apparently could be heard booing the American anthem on the San Jose television feed before Game 4.
The Oilers didn’t care—and in Game 6 on Wednesday night, they’ll try to make sure the Shark Tank is silent until next fall.
“Everybody has their own opinion on it, but it’s your country, your flag,” Smyth said. “You can do what you want. Other than that, no comment.”
The Oilers did all their talking on the ice—and when they were done, the Sharks were in disarray. Edmonton was quicker and smarter throughout, even keeping its cool when San Jose rallied to tie it at 3-all early in the third period.
And with their third straight victory following fifth-seeded San Jose’s back-to-back home wins last week, the Oilers headed home with a chance to make the conference finals for the first time since 1992. Edmonton lost the first two games of the series, but won a triple-overtime thriller and rallied from a two-goal deficit in Game 4 to tie the series at home.
The Anaheim Mighty Ducks are waiting for the winner—and plans for the first all-California conference final are in big jeopardy.
“Everybody believes in that locker room,” defenseman Chris Pronger said. “That’s the first step for us. Everybody is buying into the system. Even when we were down 0-2, we just felt we could win two home games and be right here.”
The Oilers jumped to a 3-1 lead with three goals on their first eight shots, including Shawn Horcoff’s short-handed score just 12 seconds into the third period. San Jose rallied to tie it with quick goals from Christian Ehrhoff and Jonathan Cheechoo, but Pisani scored on a 2-on-1 break with Shawn Horcoff with about 15:57 to play.
Jarret Stoll and Smyth added power-play goals in the final minutes. Horcoff had a goal and two assists for Edmonton.
Scott Thornton also scored for the Sharks, who have been just as streaky in the playoffs as in the regular season: They had won six straight postseason games before losing the last three, including this embarrassing effort in their first loss in five home playoff games.
“We definitely hurt ourselves,” said Joe Thornton, who had an assist. “We made too many mistakes. We’re just not shooting the puck when we have the chance. … It’s very simple. We lose, we’re out. We’re not ready to go home yet. We have to pull our socks up and get back to it.”
Edmonton managed just seven shots in the first two periods of Game 5, but scored on two of them. Dwayne Roloson, the veteran trade-deadline pickup who finished with 21 saves, was outstanding behind a penalty-killing unit that held San Jose scoreless on seven power-play opportunities in the first two periods.
Vesa Toskala made just 12 saves on 18 shots for the Sharks, who earned 2-1 victories in the first two games of this series. San Jose had lost in regulation at home just twice since shortly before the Olympic break in early February.
“We’ve made it obviously pretty hard on ourselves,” Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. “You can’t blame Tosk. We gave up 2-on-1’s, a giveaway, a deflection … very easily correctable mistakes, and we have to hold each other accountable to do things right. We’ve got to work a heck of a lot harder.”
Smyth scored a power-play goal on a rebound in the second period, and generated Edmonton’s short-handed goal in the opening minute of the third by stripping the puck from Patrick Marleau and feeding Horcoff, the hero of Edmonton’s triple-overtime win in Game 3.
Ehrhoff and Cheechoo scored goals 107 seconds apart to breathe life into San Jose—but Pisani and Horcoff capitalized on San Jose’s defensive mistake for an easy goal 2 1/2 minutes later.
Pisani, who had 18 goals in the regular season, scored one goal in six games in his only previous NHL playoff experience, with the Oilers in 2003. … Sharks RW Milan Michalek returned to the lineup after missing the two games in Edmonton with an apparent eye injury.