Cam Talbot plays ‘hero’ in Oilers Game 2 win vs. Ducks

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ANAHEIM, Calif. – After the beat the 2-1 in Game 2 of their second-round playoff series, captain Connor McDavid was asked if he thought goaltender stole the game.

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Over the 60 minutes of action at Honda Center, Talbot was under siege stopping 39 of 40 shots on goal. The Oilers on the other hand just mustered 23 shots on goal and scored twice.

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“We did enough to win the game. I think we can take a positive from that. Should we have won the game? Maybe not, but we did just enough and he was great for us,” he said. “We can take that and maybe feel like we stole one. I’m not too sure but, you know, we’ll take it and run.”

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None of Talbot’s stops were especially flashy and there were a few times where the goalpost saved him. But ultimately he kept Anaheim from putting the puck behind him on every shot, except ’s second period tally, to help give Edmonton a 2-0 series advantage going home.

“The one wearing the big pads was our hero tonight and had a tremendous game,” Oilers coach Todd McLellan said.

In his second full year as Edmonton’s starter, the 29-year-old Talbot was one of the more underrated pieces on the Oilers during their 2016-17 campaign. During the regular season the former backup held a 2.39 goal-against average and .919 save percentage while going 42-22-8 in 73 games. Meanwhile a lot of the talk centered around McDavid – the NHL’s leading scorer – and forward . Talbot didn’t make the NHL All-Star Game and wasn’t announced as a finalist for the Vezina Trophy.

Still, Oilers players knew his importance and understood they wouldn’t be two wins away from making the Western Conference Final without Talbot.

“He was excellent tonight,” said Edmonton forward . “Like I have been telling everyone all year, he has probably been our best player all year. He made some key saves tonight.”

Added McDavid, “He’s just a rock back there for us. Everyone has so much confidence in him. You’ve seen his play throughout the whole season and even if he has an off night you can always expect him to bounce back and be terrific. I think that speaks to his character and the kind of guy he is. He’s a goalie that we love playing for.”

Talbot found his rhythm in the first period when he stopped opportunities by and and from that point on, the Ducks struggled to figure him out.

“I felt good off the start. I mean I made some big saves early to kind of get you in the game and we got a big goal early which really helped too,” Talbot said. “We started the game the way we wanted to start it and down the stretch we bent but we didn’t break and that’s the sign of a good team.”

In the third period, Talbot got lucky when a deflection by Ducks forward went off the goalpost, then shortly after a shot hit iron.

Overall, the Ducks attempted 85 shots to the Oilers’ 48 and held a territorial advantage for a majority of the game.

“They get some big bodies in front of the net with sticks. Their D are going to make some of those shots,” Talbot said. “I just have to do everything I can to find those sightlines. They got a couple of good screens on me there and luckily we didn’t get burned on them.”

Though Talbot’s workload was a big question for the Oilers heading into the playoffs, the team insists he is fine. If Edmonton wins the Stanley Cup, Talbot will be the first goaltender since Martin Brodeur jersey in 2003 to do so with playing more than 70 regular season games.

“There was a lot written and talked about, ‘Is Talbs tired? Are you playing him too much?’ It was like pulling hair to keep him out of the crease or to give him an off day,” McLellan said. “He loves to put the pads on and get out there and play and wholesale jersey I think part of his desire and ability to keep going rubs off on the rest of the guys as well so he’s our go-to-guy. He has earned every minute of it and he craves more.”

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Read MoreThe way Talbot stole the game gave a teaching moment to the Oilers. They know they weren’t their best and that Talbot was the reason why they won. Ultimately they don’t want to be in a situation again where they have rely on him in such a fashion.

“We weren’t the same team as we were in the first game, but they weren’t either. They pushed us hard and they did a lot of good things tonight. We know moving forward we are going to have to be a lot better, but that’s OK,” McLellan said. “We have an opportunity to park this one and try and fix some things. While all that’s going on, the goaltender stood on his head. Based on all my years of watching the playoffs and being involved in them, often your goaltender ends up being one of your top two or three players when it’s all said and done and Talbs was No. 1 tonight.”