ANAHEIM — Maybe it seems too simplistic to turn it into Goalie Wars, to put every outcome of every series on the pads of the guys in the net.
But maybe it’s too complicated to turn it into anything else.
The Ducks had Edmonton’s Cam Talbot surrounded in the third period and much of the second Friday night, bottled up in his private Alamo.
He did not come out with his hands up.
Instead he bobbed and weaved and swallowed up all but one of Anaheim’s 40 shots on goal, with a little help from post and crossbar. He did not cough up rebounds. He did not lose his footing. He won for the 50th time this season, counting playoffs, and the Oilers took this 2-1 game and turned into a 2-0 series lead, going to Edmonton for Games 3 and 4.
“Based on my years of watching the playoffs, your goaltender often turns out to be one of your top two or three players,” said Todd McLellan, the Oilers coach. “Goaltending is like pitching. If you don’t have it, good luck. The guy with the big pads was our hero tonight.”
Then there was John Gibson, the Ducks goalie who stopped 21 of 23 shots of his own. But playoff hockey is a zero-sum game for a goalie, and Edmonton exceeded zero on its first shot of the game, when Andrej Sekera powered a shot from near the blue line, a place that isn’t supposed to be a launching point anymore.
Connor McDavid had started that sequence by taking the puck to the goal line. He was in Gibson’s area, but really the shot should have been seen, and stopped. Instead Sekera got it through the short side and it was 1-0, 65 seconds in.
A crowd that is fighting off too many tough playoff memories in this building began to feel the agony of defeatism.
“It took them out of it, for a while,” McLellan said.
“It’s tough coming from behind all the time,” Ryan Getzlaf said.
Gibson’s insolence survived the defeat.
“The puck went in the net,” he said, with a shrug and a smirk. “It happens.”
Well, it didn’t happen as much on the other end. Edmonton’s other goal was a power-play number by Patrick Maroon, who couldn’t be budged by the smaller Brandon Montour as he camped in front of Gibson and took a pass from Jordan Eberle.
The puck bounced off Gibson’s stick and past him, after Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had kept the play alive at the blue line.
That was pretty much it for Oiler highlights, aside from the wondrous snapshots that McDavid gives those who watch him exclusively.
At one point he bounced the puck off his stick blade twice as he was moving up ice. He slalomed his way through Ducks defensemen and once had the puck all alone, within handshake range of Gibson. He took a little too long to think about it, though, and the Ducks recovered in time.
But McDavid, barely 20, is a defensive presence, too. He plucked the puck off Corey Perry’s stick while the Ducks were in the midst of a power play. He backchecks and he applies pressure. The disquieting thing for the Ducks is that McDavid really hasn’t broken out…