Oilers in shock, disbelief after sweep by Jets in first round of playoffs

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WINNIPEG — The Edmonton Oilers said they were in shock and disbelief after being swept from the Stanley Cup First Round by the Winnipeg Jets.

Kyle Connor scored at 6:52 of the third overtime to lift the Jets to a 4-3 victory in Game 4 on Monday, nearly four hours after it started and the longest game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in Jets/Atlanta Thrashers history (106:52 of action).

“Maybe a little bit [of disbelief], I guess,” Oilers captain Connor McDavid said. “It’s a weird series, it’s a weird sweep for sure. You don’t usually see them like that. But it is what it is.”

The Jets won 4-1 in Game 1 of the best-of-7 series, scoring two empty-net goals late in the third period to finish a tight game. They won the next three in overtime: Paul Stastny‘s goal gave Winnipeg a 1-0 victory in Game 2. The Jets rallied from trailing 4-1 with less than nine minutes to play to win 5-4 with Nikolaj Ehlers‘ goal in Game 3 on Sunday and 3-2 after the second period to force overtime in Game 4.

Edmonton was 26-1-2 with the lead going to the third period during the regular season, 0-4 in the playoffs.

“They wanted to sit back and play a good, solid defensive game,” McDavid said. “I thought our game was pretty solid defensively as well. Obviously, you look at the two games here in Winnipeg, we got leads and we don’t find ways to close them out. That’s just the way it is.”

Video: The crew breaks down the Jets 4-3 win

McDavid scored his first goal of the series in Game 4 and four points (one goal, three assists) in the series. He won the Art Ross Trophy as the leading scorer in the NHL for the third time with 105 points (33 goals, 72 assists) in 56 games.

“The regular season doesn’t mean much now,” he said. “The regular season doesn’t mean anything.”

Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse played 62:07 in Game 4, the third most in NHL postseason history since time-on-ice records began at the start of the 1997-98 season. Seth Jones of the Columbus Blue Jackets played 65:06 against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round on Aug. 11, 2020. Sergei Zubov of the Dallas Stars played 63:51 against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals on April 24, 2003.

Nurse, who led Edmonton by averaging 25:38 of ice time per game during the regular season, played 15:32 of the 20 minutes in the first overtime in Game 4 and said his game-high total was no burden.

“[You] just play,” he said. “Don’t think too much. Situations like that, you’ve just to go play, go out there and that’s the way it worked out, I guess. You just play and adapt. I wish that those minutes went toward a win, that we were still playing.

“We played hard. It [hurts] that we’re sitting here after four games and it’s a sweep when we took three to overtime. There’s things we could have done better here in the end.”

The Oilers had high hopes heading to the postseason. They were the No. 2 seed in the Scotia North Division after going 35-19-2, had the top two scorers in the NHL with McDavid and Leon Draisaitl (84 points; 31 goals, 53 assists) and won seven of nine regular-season games against the Jets.

McDavid said small things made a difference in the series and the Oilers don’t need a major overhaul for the future.

“I think it’s the little mistakes,” McDavid said. “It’s just the little ones. It’s not like it’s earth-shattering stuff here. We don’t need to leave here and think we’ve got to [right] the ship here. It’s little things. It’s a fine line. We talked about those lessons we’ve learned throughout the years and it’s obviously another lesson that we have to take with us moving forward.”

Coach Dave Tippett also saw a fine line separating the Oilers and Jets in the series.

“You’ve got to continue to work and get better,” Tippett said. “There are some things we can do to help us get better. Some of these lessons are hard to learn but next time you recognize situations better. There are just things that happen in a game that the only way you can figure them out is to go through them. That’s unfortunately some of the challenges we’re going through right now.”

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