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Oilers underwhelm in 6-3 loss to Ducks

Anaheim Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf trips Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins during Game 3 at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Sunday, April 30, 2017. (Perry Nelson/USA Today Sports)

It’s probably not a surprise that the Oilers would have a letdown. They had won four successive playoff games since having a stinker in Game 4 of the first round in San Jose.

They were underwhelming early again on Sunday night at Rogers Place, falling into a 3-0 disadvantage to the Ducks in the first period before dropping a 6-3 decision that relieves pressure on Anaheim.

The Ducks were in danger of falling behind 3-0 in the second-round series, but can even it by winning Game 4 in Edmonton on Wednesday night. Game 5 will be back at the Honda Center on Friday.

The Oilers didn’t go down without a fight, scoring three straight times to tie it in the second period – the last goal a wicked wrist shot by Connor McDavid. A second before Edmonton’s young captain took the shot, he reversed direction suddenly to shed his defender.

Chris Wagner answered less than a minute later, firing from a bad angle on one side of the net. It trickled past Cam Talbot, the first easy one the Oilers goalie has allowed in nine postseason games.

The Ducks added two more in the third period to pull away – Jakob Silfverberg’s second goal of the night and one by Ryan Kesler.

From early on, it looked as though the Ducks were finally solving Talbot, who had 39 saves in Friday night’s 2-1 victory and had stopped 75 of 79 shots in the first two games.

It took Anaheim only 25 seconds to take the lead on a breakaway by Rickard Rakell. Silfverberg put the Ducks up 2-0 five minutes later on only their second shot.

When Ryan Getzlaf added a third goal with 9:19 left before the first intermission, the game was threatening to get out of hand. Then Patrick Maroon deflected a deflection by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins with 39 seconds left to start the Oilers on the way to a comeback.

Anton Slepyshev was credited with a goal when a puck bounced off defenceman Shea Theodore in a scrum in front of the net to cut the lead to 3-2 in the second.

It didn’t seem likely that Anaheim would put itself in a deep hole, and it didn’t. The losses in Games 1 and 2 had been the Ducks’ first in succession in regulation time since Oct. 13-15.

Silfverberg now has four goals in the series’ first three games.

Two of the three candidates for the Vézina Trophy – Montreal’s Carey Price and Sergei Bobrovsky of Columbus – are on teams already eliminated from postseason. The third – Braden Holtby of Washington – was pulled in the second period on Saturday after allowing three goals on nine shots by the Penguins.

Talbot, who led the NHL in games and saves during the regular season and tied for the most wins, stopped 75 of 79 shots in the first two games against the Ducks. On Friday night in Anaheim, he had 39 saves as the Oilers escaped with a 2-1 victory. They were outshot 40-23.

“We stole one in Game 2 we ultimately didn’t deserve to win,” Edmonton’s young captain, Connor McDavid, said Sunday morning. “You don’t want to rely on a goaltender so much, and a few lucky posts.”

Talbot spent two seasons with the Rangers as the backup to Swedish star Henrik Lundqvist before being acquired by the Oilers in June, 2015, for three draft picks.

“I learned from the best in New York and knew what I had to do when I got this opportunity,” said Talbot, who had back-to-back shutouts in the first round against San Jose. “I think I had a pretty good game on Friday.

“There are some things we need to clean up, but coming back to our building up 2-0 is a huge confidence boost for us. We are going to do everything we can not to give the Ducks any life.”

Anaheim swept the Flames in four in the first round, and had not lost in regulation time since March 10 before running into the Oilers. Continuing on a postseason theme, Edmonton had winning goals from unexpected sources – Adam Larsson and Patrick Maroon – in each of the first two games. Their leading scorer with three goals in the playoffs is Mark Letestu, a third-line centre.

About a thousand Edmonton fans made the 2,800-kilometre trip to Anaheim to take in the first two games. They raised a ruckus in Honda Center, and chanted in bars and restaurants as they celebrated two somewhat unexpected victories around the arena late into the night.

The series returned to Edmonton and the Oilers players received a wild welcome back on Sunday. Nearly everyone dressed in orange, and the clamour raised was ear-splitting. The whole city is swept up in the excitement, including Don Iveson, the Edmonton mayor.

He was five years old when he accompanied his dad to the Oilers’ first Stanley Cup parade in 1984. He was nine when he saw his first game live – the night of Oct. 25, 1998, when Wayne Gretzky returned to Edmonton for the first time following his trade to Los Angeles.

“I got to see the Oilers win, but I had really conflicted emotions,” Iveson, 37, says. “Now Gretzky is back and everything is the way it should be. The battle lines are clear.”

Iveson is in his 15th day of growing a playoff beard. He decided to grow one as a means of coping with the Oilers’ loss to San Jose in the first game of their first playoff series since 2006.

The mayor had one when the team went on its last previous postseason run, but had to shave it off. He got married on June 17, 2006, the day the Oilers defeated Carolina to extend the Stanley Cup finals to seven games.

“I am hoping to look like a mountain man but some time in June this year,” Iveson said. “I have some added testosterone as a result of this whole playoff experience.”

Iveson echoed Edmonton coach Todd McLellan by saying the team is playing with house money after winning the first two games at Honda Center. The Ducks had won eight straight at home before losing to Edmonton, 5-3, in Game 1.

“People in Edmonton felt during the regular season that we might have a shot at the playoffs but nobody wanted to get too excited,” Iveson said.

Now, they are going wild. The Ducks are so wary of the atmosphere they plan to stay in Kelowna, B.C., before returning for Game 4. Kelowna is about 900 kilometres from Edmonton.

“The growth potential reminds me of the last dynasty,” the mayor said. “The excitement is anticipatory for not only what might happen now, but in future years.

“It is a good time to be Edmonton mayor. We have a city undergoing an amazing downtown revitalization … and a team with all of this potential. Nobody even noticed when it snowed last week.”