Connor McDavid knows his Edmonton Oilers have their Battle of Alberta opponent on the ropes, so the captain expects his side to step up accordingly.
Because if the Calgary Flames are going to put it all out there, so too should the Oilers.
“We’re desperate to close this series out,” McDavid said. “That’s how we match it. We want to come out and have a strong performance and play our best game of the series and close the series out.
“That’s obviously our focus.”
Edmonton has won three straight games to take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 series, outscoring the Flames by a 14-7 margin since losing an up-and-down, record-setting Battle of Alberta tilt in Game 1.
It’s put them in a position to advance to the Western Conference Final for the first time since playing for the Stanley Cup in 2006.
It’s also got the Flames on the verge of elimination.
The Flames have never rallied from a 3-1 series deficit in franchise history.
The Oilers have closed out 14 of 15 such scenarios where they’ve taken a 3-1 series edge.
“We’ve got to win a game. Plain and simple,” Flames forward Milan Lucic said Tuesday. “Our backs are against the wall. In the corner, up against the ropes. It’s up to us to see what we’re made of and go out there and play our game for 60-plus minutes, if that’s what it takes, to give ourselves a chance to stay alive.”
Edmonton has been outscored 5-2 in first periods at the Saddledome in this series, including falling back 3-0 in Game 1 and 2-0 in Game 2.
The Oilers took a 4-0 lead in Game 3 and held a 3-0 edge in Game 4. Both games were placed at Rogers Place in Edmonton.
“Just experiencing that twice now, I think it just gives us a little bit more comfort of what to expect out there,” McDavid said. “Obviously we haven’t had two good starts in this building, and starts are key. For our group, I think coming out and managing that 10-minute game and getting ourselves into the game early is important.”
Home ice will only add to Calgary’s chances.
“Better starts, better first periods, set ourselves up for the rest of the game,” Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk said. “We know that our fans are going to bring it tonight. We love playing in front of them, and we’ve been a great team all year at home. Hopefully we can use that to our advantage.”
Should Edmonton weather the storm early, they could be in line to face one of the Colorado Avalanche or St. Louis Blues in the West Final. Colorado leads that best-of-7 series 3-2.
But first, the Flames.
“Obviously, they’re a great team over there, and they’ve got a lot of heart,” McDavid said.
“I’d expect them to come out and have a real solid game.”