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Stuart Skinner is ‘great’ in return as Oilers force Game 7

After a week on the bench, Stuart Skinner returned to the net to help the Edmonton Oilers force a Game 7 in their second round series against the Vancouver Canucks.

Last appearing in Game 3 after struggling to start the series, Skinner made 14 saves in the Oilers’ 5-1 Game 6 win at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta.

Game 7 will be played Monday at Rogers Arena in Vancouver while the winner will face the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference final starting Thursday at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.

“I think by doing what we did tonight, I think we showed a lot of desperation,” Skinner said on the ESPN broadcast. “Guys were blocking shots everywhere. I thought both teams played really well. You have to give Vancouver a lot of credit, but you know Vancouver is going to come out really strong, especially in their barn. I think we’re going to have to match that and bring some more.”

Averaging 3.80 goals per game during the playoffs while boasting one of the strongest defensive structures when it comes to limiting shots on goal and scoring chances is the formula the Oilers have used to advance to a Western Conference Finals game.

However, understanding how the Oilers could fit their defensive structure into Skinner’s most cohesive version was one of the challenges they were trying to solve in a series in which the first five games were decided by one goal.

Especially when the Oilers held the Canucks to 19.3 shots per game over the first three games to find themselves in the series with Skinner posting a 4.63 goals-against average and a .790 save percentage until in game 3.

On Saturday, the connection between the Oilers’ defensive structure and Skinner finally clicked.

The Oilers, who had limited their teams to 24.91 scoring chances per 60, limited the Canucks to 18 scoring chances in 5-on-5 play. They also limited the Canucks to just seven high-danger scoring chances and allowed none in the second period.

Combining that defensive consistency with Skinner allowing just one goal on 15 shots adds up to a night that saw the Oilers trail for five goals. It was the third time in the playoffs and the first time in the second round that the Oilers had scored more than five goals.

Oilers captain Connor McDavid, who finished with three points, told Sportsnet after the game that while Skinner didn’t face many shots, he did “a great job” handling what McDavid considered dangerous opportunities.

“We never had any doubts,” McDavid said. “He’s a fighter. He’s always been a fighter. Our team always responds and he’s no different. He responded well and gave us a great performance.”

His role in the Oilers’ Game 6 victory is the latest development in what has been another eventful season for the second-year goaltender.

A year ago, Skinner was a rookie who became the number one goalie for his hometown team. He helped the Oilers reach the second round, but they were eliminated in six games by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights.

Skinner was pulled for the final three games of the series, leading to an offseason filled with questions. Much like the Oilers themselves, Skinner had a rough start to the season, but found consistency once the club fired coach Jay Woodcroft and hired Kris Knoblauch.

During this period, Skinner cemented his place as the team’s number one goalkeeper – which is what made his performances over the first three games so shocking. This led to him being pulled to start the third period in the Oilers’ Game 3 loss, with Knoblauch turning to Calvin Pickard in Games 4 and 5.

Pickard stopped 19 shots in the Oilers’ Game 4 win while allowing three goals on 35 shots in their 3-2 Game 5 loss to the Canucks.

Knoblauch said after Game 3 that Skinner would return to the lineup at some point, and that time was Saturday.

Now he and the Oilers are just one win away from the conference finals.

“I think obviously, first of all, I think Calvin was amazing when he was nominated,” Skinner said. “He definitely got the job done and kept us going. Amazing teammate. For me, I was able to rest a little bit, work on my game and feel good again. I was able to go out and do what I I had to do. “

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News Source : www.espn.com

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