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Oilers beat Canucks 3-2 in Game 7 to advance to Western Conference final

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — The Edmonton Oilers are showing they have more scoring options than just Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had a goal and an assist as Edmonton scored three times in the second period and held on to beat the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 in Game 7 on Monday night to advance to the Western Conference final.

Zach Hyman and Cody Ceci also scored, and Evan Bouchard had two assists for the Oilers. Stuart Skinner finished with 15 saves.

“It takes every single guy in here,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “Definitely proud to get the job done with this group.”

Draisaitl leads all players in the playoffs with 24 points, McDavid has 21. and Bouchard leads all defensemen with 20 points. The Canucks held McDavid off the scoresheet for the third time in seven games, and limited Draisaitl to just one assist.

Edmonton, back in the conference finals for the second time in three years, will next face Dallas with Game 1 of that series on Thursday night.

Conor Garland and Filip Hronek scored in the third period for Vancouver, and Arturs Silovs had 26 saves.

After learning leading goal-scorer Brock Boeser was sidelined due to a reported blood-clotting issue, the Canucks were forced to juggle their forward lines on Monday. Sam Lafferty and Ilya Mikheyev drew in for Game 7 after a two-game absence, while Vasily Podkolzin was scratched.

Coaching in his first Stanley Cup playoffs, the Oilers’ Kris Knoblauch singled out Nugent-Hopkins and the bottom-six forwards for successfully killing off a four-minute penalty called on Ryan McLeod late in the first period.

“We played, I thought, really well,” Knoblauch said of his team’s first-period effort, when Edmonton outshot Vancouver 13-2. “That could be a turning point in the game, but our penalty kill, like it has been for almost all the playoffs, has been really solid.”

Silovs was the story of the first period, stopping all 13 shots he faced.

Ceci opened the scoring on his team’s first shot of the second period, with a slap shot from the right point that beat Silovs high to the glove side at 1:16. The Oilers then went on their first power play, and Hyman scored his playoff-leading 11th goal by tipping Bouchard’s point shot to Silovs’ stick side at 5:20.

Nugent-Hopkins extended the lead to 3-0 with a sharp-angle shot with 4:38 left. It was Edmonton’s first power-play goal in three games.

The Canucks looked hard-pressed to create any dangerous scoring chances for the first 52 minutes, before an unassisted slot shot by Garland with 8:23 left in the third gave life to the team and its fans. Hronek got Vancouver to within one with 4:36 left to play, and the Canucks kept the pressure dialed up until the final buzzer.

“For the most part, I thought we played really well,” said Draisaitl, who famously declared 2023-24 to be a ‘Cup or Bust’ season after the Oilers were eliminated from the second round of the 2023 playoffs. “Would we like to keep it a little less stressful? Yes, probably.”

Vancouver was 0 for 3 on the power play, while Edmonton was 1 for 2. The Oilers went 20 for 23 on the penalty kill in the series.

After giving up one goal on 15 shots in his return to the net for Edmonton’s Game 6 win, Skinner faced just 17 shots in Game 7, and only five in the third period.

But that didn’t make it an easy night.

“They were able to make plays, but just weren’t able to get shots on net,” Skinner said. “I was working really hard, believe it or not. But I just didn’t get a ton of shots, which is a credit to the guys in front.”

The Oilers improved to 8-4 all time in Game 7s, while the Canucks fell to 6-7.

The Canucks were making their first playoff appearance in front of fans since 2015. Despite losing Vezina Trophy nominee Thatcher Demko to injury after the first game of the first round, the Canucks advanced for the first time since the 2020 playoff bubble.

After the game, Vancouver coach Rick Tocchet emphasized the strides that his group has taken since he stepped behind the bench in January 2023.

“They put respect back to that jersey and into this city,” he said. “Fans have got something to be proud of.”

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AP NHL: https://www.apnews.com/hub/NHL

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