Oilers Must Overcome History to Rally From 2-0 Deficit Against Avalanche

The Edmonton Oilers have started the 2022 NHL Western Conference Final best-of-seven series against the Colorado Avalanche with back-to-back losses, the latest being a 4-0 drubbing in Game 2 at Ball Arena in Denver on Thursday (June 2). As the series shifts to Rogers Place for the next two games, Game 3 on Saturday (June 4) and Game 4 on Sunday (June 6), the Oilers find themselves in a 2-0 hole, needing to win four of the next five against the west’s top seed to continue their drive to the Stanley Cup.

Related: 3 Key Roster Changes Needed to Get Oilers Back In Series w/ Avalanche

The odds are not in Edmonton’s favour. In NHL history, teams have trailed 2-0 in a best-of-seven postseason series on 393 occasions and have come back to win only 53 of them (13.5 percent of the time). Teams that fell behind 2-0 after playing Games 1 and 2 on the road have come back to win 33 of 288 times (11.5 percent).

This is the 10th time since joining the NHL in 1979 that Edmonton has dropped the first two games of a best-of-seven NHL series. On the previous nine occasions, the Oilers rallied to win the series just once, so there is a chance. Here’s a look back at Edmonton’s history trailing 2-0.

Oilers Have Been Swept Five Times

In their very first Stanley Cup playoff series, in 1980, the Oilers fell behind 2-0 on their way to being swept 3-0 by the Philadelphia Flyers in the best-of-five series.  

That was the first of five times Edmonton has lost an NHL postseason series without winning a single game. The other instances all came in best-of-seven series: against the New York Islanders in the 1983 Stanley Cup Final, against the Chicago Blackhawks in the 1992 Campbell Conference championship, against the Dallas Stars in the opening round of the 1999 Playoffs, and last year against the Winnipeg Jets.

Oilers Must Avoid Falling Behind 3-0

It goes without saying the Oilers desperately need to win Game 3. Only four teams that trailed 3-0 have come back to win a Stanley Cup Playoffs series: the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1942, the Islanders in 1975, Philadelphia in 2010, and the Los Angeles Kings in 2014.

Connor McDavid Edmonton Oilers Nathan MacKinnon Colorado Avalanche
Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

But in the case of captain Connor McDavid and the 2022 Oilers, a Game 3 loss doesn’t just mean they likely won’t win the series, it means they likely won’t win a game. Edmonton has lost all four Game 4s when behind in the series 3-0. At least the last two times, the team put up an exhaustive fight, playing two of the three longest games in franchise history. The longest was in 1999, when Edmonton lost Game 4, 3-2, to Dallas, with the winning goal coming at 17:34 of the third overtime. Last year in Winnipeg, Edmonton played its third longest game, conceding he series-winning goal at 6:52 of the third overtime in Game 4.

Oilers Can Bounce Back

So, what about the five times Edmonton has picked itself up off the canvas to win the Game 3 after dropping the first two contests? While all but once the series comeback ultimately fizzles out, the individual game victories have been quite stirring.

Ryan Smyth
Ryan Smyth, former Edmonton Oiler (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Take for example, Edmonton’s 4-3 win in Game 3 of the 1997 second round against Colorado. The Oilers were minutes away from a 3-0 deficit, trailing 3-2 late before Kelly Buchberger tied it up at 13:57 of the third and Ryan Smyth scored 2:18 later, sending Edmonton Coliseum into a frenzy.

In 2000, the Oilers came into Game 3 at Skyreach Center having lost nine straight times in the playoffs spanning three series between 1998 and 2000, and finally hit back, surging out to a 4-0 lead just moments into the second period, and skating away with a 5-2 triumph on the strength of captain Doug Weight’s hat trick.

However, in those two series, the Oilers would eventually bow out in five games. Edmonton’s two greatest performances after being down 2-0 both came in 2006, when the Oilers very nearly won the Stanley Cup.

Oilers’ Run in 2006 Gives Reason to Believe

The hope Oil Country needs can be found in Edmonton’s 2006 Western Conference Semi-Final series against the San Jose Sharks. After dropping the first two games on the road, Edmonton trailed Game 3 with just minutes to play in regulation, when Raffi Torres tallied at 13:13 to tie the score 2-2. The Oilers then survived two overtime periods before Edmonton forward Shawn Horcoff scored the winning goal at 2:24 of the third overtime in what is the fourth longest game in the Oilers’ NHL history.

Shawn Horcoff Oilers
Shawn Horcoff, former Edmonton Oiler (Jerome Davis/Icon SMI)

Riding momentum from that victory, the Oilers won three straight games, outscoring the Sharks a combined 14-6 in that span, to take the series 4-2. Edmonton’s second-best rally from 2-0 came just two rounds later, in the 2006 Stanley Cup Final against the Carolina Hurricanes. Edmonton took Game 3, lost Game 4, then won Games 5 and 6 to force a seventh and deciding game, which the ‘Canes won before their home fans at the RBC Center.

Flash forward 16 years, and Edmonton would love to see another 2-0 comeback preceding a championship series appearance. For inspiration, the Oilers need to look no further than the Eastern Conference Final, where the New York Rangers lead the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-0.

That’s the same Rangers club that just two weeks ago trailed Carolina 2-0 in the Eastern Conference Semi-Final, before coming back to take the series in seven games. Now the Rangers are two wins from the Stanley Cup Final. Edmonton would like to be in the same position after Game 4 on Monday.

Sign up for our regular 'Oilers Newsletter' for all the latest.