EDMONTON, Alberta — The orange-clad crowd chanted his name again in a teasing manner.
The game was still in question at that point.
What do you know? Adin Hill got the last laugh.
The goalie couldn’t have been better Sunday night, and for it the Golden Knights are off to the Stanley Cup semifinals for the fourth time in six years.
There was a traditional handshake line to prove it.
The Knights came into Rogers Place and eliminated the Oilers 5-2 in Game 6 of this best-of-seven series.
Hill, a backup to begin the series until Laurent Brossoit was injured in Game 3, made 39 straight saves to close out the game and series.
“He was a wall,” Knights coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Give him credit. Any time your goalie makes saves like that, you always look like you defend well.”
‘He was incredible’
Hill missed nearly two months of the season with an injury. He was shaky to begin things Sunday — Edmonton scored on its first two shots — but found something after that. No saves were bigger than the four he made on the Oilers’ first power play to keep such firepower at bay with the Knights leading 3-2 in the second period.
“(Hill) was incredible,” Knights defenseman Nic Hague said. “We knew we were going to need a few big saves. They weren’t going away and definitely had a push. And when we broke down, Hill came up with a handful and kept (the puck) out. That made us feel good and confident that we could close that game out.”
They talked about desperation a lot. About expecting an arena’s worth of it from the Oilers. About having to match it. About playing as if they were the ones chasing a series.
The Knights certainly followed course. They were so good on so many levels. Hill. Jack Eichel again playing a terrific 200-foot game. Jonathan Marchessault with a hat trick. William Karlsson being terrific enough that the Oilers purposely kept Connor McDavid away from him.
Think about it: All five goals from the Knights were scored by the original misfits — three from Marchessault and one each from Karlsson and Reilly Smith.
Pressure. It was Edmonton coach Jay Woodcroft who (wrongly) suggested it was more on the Knights to close things out rather than his team to win and remain alive. You would have never known it watching Cassidy’s team play.
“Pressure is maybe your local firefighters to keep the community safe and get home alive,” Cassidy said. “I don’t think this is pressure. It’s a great opportunity.”
One they made the most of.
They just played better. They were the better team for a majority of the series, particularly at five-on-five. They were much better again Sunday.
Marchessault hadn’t scored in these playoffs before getting two goals in a Game 3 win. It was before that when Cassidy said he wasn’t overly concerned about such a drought, that the resume suggested things would change soon.
Did they ever.
DeBoer on deck?
Marchessault’s three second-period goals gave the Knights a 4-2 advantage after 40 minutes. He was in the right place at the right time twice in close and then sniped his third in a four-on-four. Went to the net. Hung around it. Was rewarded for it.
“It’s hard to close teams out with the desperation, and they’ll have it,” Marchessault said before the game. “It just gets to another level. We have to bring our best. In our minds, we haven’t played our best game yet. We don’t want to put ourselves in a position for a (Game 7). We worked too hard to be in this position, so we just need to get the job done.”
They worked hard and were the better team over six games. Their prize is a trip to the semifinals against the winner of Monday’s game between Dallas and Seattle.
Could it work out any more perfectly than the Stars advancing and being coached by Pete DeBoer, fired by the Knights after last season. Could there be a more compelling storyline at this point?
I’m guessing the Knights will be ready for whoever opposes them.
They did their job, and it was a collective effort, but none more important than the guy in net. Adin Hill, on a night when several of his teammates came through, shined brightest.
Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.