“Never a question”: Oilers expected big performance from banged-up Draisaitl

The Edmonton Oilers will head home with their series tied at one apiece after a 4-3 overtime victory versus the Vancouver Canucks tonight.

Evan Bouchard was the hero in this one, as he threw a puck in the direction of the Canucks net, which wound up redirecting off Ian Cole’s stick past Arturs Silovs.

Perhaps the biggest story of the game, however, was the play of Leon Draisaitl. The 28-year-old entered this contest as a game-time decision after suffering an injury in Game 2, but was able to come up big, finishing with a goal and three assists.

“It was never a question,” McDavid said in regards to Draisaitl suiting up. “You guys know him.

“He’s a great player. He’s an amazing player. One of the best players in the world. The best player in the world on a lot of nights, and tonight was one of those nights. He was great.”

Playing hurt in the playoffs is nothing new for Draisaitl, who suffered a high-ankle sprain during the 2022 postseason, but continued to produce points.

“Maybe [Draisaitl’s] going to be mad at me for saying this, but you look at Connor, his biggest asset is his speed and his control with the puck at that speed,” Mattias Ekholm said. “Leon’s a completely different player. He plays at a lower pace, he can get the whole game to slow down. In that case, maybe that works in his advantage.”

Ekholm also had some huge praise for the overtime hero, Bouchard, who he has played alongside all season.

“I’ve said this a million times, I don’t think the moment ever gets to big for him,” Ekholm said. “I think he’s always just himself. [Whether] it’s game 66 in February or overtime game in the second round of a must-win game. He’s the same guy, he plays with the same poise. Just crazy to see his development since I’ve got here. It’s been great to have him as a partner.”

Despite coming out on top, the Oilers never held the lead in this one, and appeared to be in major trouble after Nikita Zadorov beat Stuart Skinner on a sharp-angled shot late in the second period to give the Canucks a 3-2 lead.

The Oilers fought back, however as Connor McDavid was able to get in alone roughly five minutes into the third and made no mistake. He wound up finishing the night with a goal and three helpers.

“Those guys played really well,” head coach Kris Knoblauch said on McDavid and Draisaitl. “Anyone watching them recognizes what an impact they had on the game. Especially talking about Leon, we didn’t even know if he was going to play until after the warmup. We really didn’t know.”

This was a huge win for the Oilers, who would have been in some serious trouble going back home in a 0-2 hole. Instead, they find themselves knotted up heading into Game 3, which will take place on Sunday at Rogers Place, with puck drop set for 7:30 pm MT.