Edmonton Oilers’ 2017 playoff run ends with 2-1 loss to Ducks in Game 7 of Western Conference semifinal

The Edmonton Oilers were taught a harsh lesson, one the Anaheim Ducks had learned too many times in recent years. Finish off a playoff series when you get the chance, or you will almost certainly regret not doing so.

Nick Ritchie scored the winning goal 3:21 into the third period as the Ducks defeated the Oilers 2-1 in Game 7 on Wednesday night to win their second-round series.

Anaheim will host the Nashville Predators in Game 1 of the Western Conference final on Friday.

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    Andrew Cogliano also scored and John Gibson made 23 saves for the Ducks, who had lost five consecutive Game 7s. That misery had been compounded by the fact that Anaheim held 3-2 series leads in each of the last four years, only to squander them every time and lose Game 7 at home.

    READ MORE: Sports psychologists think youthful Oilers are ready for pressure of Game 7

    This time, however, they passed any regret on to the young Oilers, who were left thinking about the three-goal lead they gave away in the final 3:16 of regulation of Game 5 among the critical turning points.

    “Disappointing, especially it shouldn’t have even got to a Game 7 so, you know, it sucks to lose that one,” Oilers forward Milan Lucic said.

    “Got to find a way to get over it.”

    The Ducks hadn’t led at home in regulation since Mark Letestu tied up Game 1 at 1-1 by scoring 6:22 into the first, but Ritchie changed that early in the third by firing a wrist shot under Cam Talbot’s right arm.

    Talbot made 28 saves for Edmonton before being pulled with 2:06 remaining.

    Drake Caggiula had put the Oilers out in front early with his third goal in the last four games, challenged defenceman Shea Theodore as he took the puck out from behind the Ducks’ net. Caggiula’s stick struck the puck to put it over Gibson’s right leg and trickling in 3:31 into the first period.

    While Caggiula’s opportunistic score had Anaheim playing from behind inside the opening 6:19 for the fourth year in a row, the Oilers could not come up with a second goal in the first 20 minutes to bring back memories of previous home-ice flameouts at Honda Center. The Ducks were inches away from tying the game late in the period, as the officials correctly saw that the puck barely crossed over the blue line to go offsides before Cam Fowler retrieved it and fired a shot past Talbot.’

    View photos from Game 7 between the Oilers and the Ducks below:

    Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid leaves the ice after the Oilers’ 2-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks in Game 7 of a second-round NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series in Anaheim, Calif., Wednesday, May 10, 2017.

    (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Edmonton Oilers centre Leon Draisaitl reacts after the team’s 2-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks in Game 7 of a second-round NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series in Anaheim, Calif., Wednesday, May 10, 2017.

    (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Edmonton Oilers defenseman Oscar Klefbom reacts after the team’s 2-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks in Game 7 of a second-round NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series in Anaheim, Calif., Wednesday, May 10, 2017.

    (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Edmonton Oilers centre Connor McDavid reacts after the Oilers’ 2-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks in Game 7 of a second-round NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series in Anaheim, Calif., Wednesday, May 10, 2017.

    (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Edmonton Oilers left wing Patrick Maroon, middle watches during final second of the Oilers’ 2-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks in Game 7 of a second-round NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series in Anaheim, Calif., Wednesday, May 10, 2017.

    (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    The Anaheim Ducks celebrate a 2-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers in Game 7 of a second-round NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series in Anaheim, Calif., Wednesday, May 10, 2017.

    (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Edmonton Oilers goalie Cam Talbot, left, blocks a shot by Anaheim Ducks left wing Nick Ritchie during the second period in Game 7 of a second-round NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series in Anaheim, Calif., Wednesday, May 10, 2017.

    (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Anaheim Ducks left wing Nick Ritchie celebrates after scoring during the third period in Game 7 of a second-round NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series against the Edmonton Oilers in Anaheim, Calif., Wednesday, May 10, 2017.

    (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson, left, blocks a shot by Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid during the second period in Game 7 of a second-round NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series in Anaheim, Calif., Wednesday, May 10, 2017.

    (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Anaheim Ducks centre Andrew Cogliano celebrates after scoring during the second period in Game 7 of a second-round NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series against the Edmonton Oilers in Anaheim, Calif., Wednesday, May 10, 2017.

    (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Anaheim Ducks centre Andrew Cogliano, left, celebrates after scoring past Edmonton Oilers goalie Cam Talbot during the second period in Game 7 of a second-round NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series in Anaheim, Calif., Wednesday, May 10, 2017.

    (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Anaheim Ducks centre Andrew Cogliano, right, scores past Edmonton Oilers goalie Cam Talbot during the second period in Game 7 of a second-round NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series in Anaheim, Calif., Wednesday, May 10, 2017.

    (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Edmonton Oilers centre Drake Caggiula, second from left, celebrates with Patrick Maroon, left, and Connor McDavid after scoring past Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson, right, during the first period in Game 7 of a second-round NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series in Anaheim, Calif., Wednesday, May 10, 2017.

    (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Staying within striking distance gave Anaheim the confidence to respond. The Ducks finally succeeded in tying the game up 8:55 into the second. Talbot got turned around as Ryan Kesler was attacking the crease before ending up face down on the ice and in no position to stop Cogliano’s soft backhand swat of a loose puck.

    “We held tight there,” Ritchie said. “We were down 1-0 for a little bit, and we didn’t panic. We actually started to play better once they scored.”

    Cogliano’s first goal of the playoffs energized the home team and fans, forcing Kris Russell to block Antoine Vermette’s shot from sailing into an open net less than 30 seconds later. The Ducks kept the pressure on, with Ritchie and Rickard Rakell each getting great looks. Edmonton only seemed to recover in the closing minute, creating two chances before returning to the dressing room.

    The response was too little too late, Caggiula said.

    “We couldn’t really recover in the second, but we came back in the third with a good push,” Caggiula said.

    “We just came up short.”

    It should prove to be a valuable experience for the Oilers. They now understand how a team built on speed in the regular season must bring physicality in the playoffs and how any letdown can give an opponent new life. Connor McDavid hoped no one in the dressing room would forget what happened in the series and how it felt.

    “Obviously it’s going to take some time to get over it. But I think there are a lot of positives we can take from this year,” McDavid said. “We won’t have to answer that experience question anymore, which is nice. Come next season we’ll find ourselves in a similar spot and be able to look back on this and feel that disappointment and know what that’s like.”

    Still, even pushing the five-time defending division champion Ducks to a Game 7 was a victory as far as Talbot was concerned.

    READ MORE: Edmonton Oilers to play first Game 7 in over a decade

    “I don’t think anyone gave us a shot that we’d be here right now, one period away from the conference finals, when we started this season,” Talbot said. “Proud to be a part of this group right now and looking forward to the future of this team.”

    The Ducks acknowledged that the young Oilers led by McDavid and Leon Draisaitl should be a force in the Pacific Division for years to come. It will simply be a question of how quickly Edmonton learns the lessons of this series.

    “They’re going to be a good team for a long time,” Cogliano said.

    “(McDavid) and Draisaitl are as good as you’re going to get. They’re always going to get their looks, but I like to think we clamped down tonight when it really mattered.”

    Oilers head coach Todd McLellan echoed the disappointment of his team before pointing to how well they had performed against two of the most experienced and tested teams in the Western Conference.

    “We basically got a college degree in a month when it comes to the playoffs,” McLellan said.

    Watch below: Some videos from Global News’ coverage of the Edmonton Oilers’ 2017 playoff series against the Anaheim Ducks.

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    01:30

    Oilers versus Ducks: The countdown is on to puck drop

01:46

Edmonton hockey fans cheer on Oilers in Anaheim

02:58

Oilers/Ducks to face off in Game 7 in Anaheim

01:52

Edmonton Oilers prepare for Game 7 against Ducks: ‘This is what you dream of growing up’

01:33

Edmonton Oilers and their fans await Game 7 adventures in Anaheim

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Oilers playoff run creating memorable moments for fans

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Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid on airport fan picture: ‘That picture was a little bit weird’

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Video of excited young Edmonton Oilers fan goes viral

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Oilers’ playoff run costing Edmonton police $400K in overtime

00:38

Edmonton Oilers prepare for Game 7 against Anaheim Ducks

01:26

Oilers fans celebrate after team clobbers Ducks in Game 6

12:21

Oilers speak to reporters after trouncing the Ducks in Game 6

03:27

Ducks coach Randy Carlyle speaks to reporters after losing 7-1 to Oilers in Game 6

01:45

Fans fired up as Oilers overwhelm Ducks in 1st period of Game 6

10:27

Ducks coach Randy Carlyle talks about Game 5 win over Oilers

09:49

Oilers react to double OT loss in Game 5, controversial Ducks goal