Darnell Nurse overcomes rough start as Oilers pull even with Stars

Edmonton Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse faced intense scrutiny heading into Game 4 of the Western Conference finals due to his lackluster performance against the Dallas Stars. Unfortunately, the start of the game only added to his troubles.

Within the first 5:29 of the game, Nurse was on the ice for two Stars goals, one of which was an unfortunate deflection off his posterior that resulted in a goal for the opposition.

However, Nurse did not let these setbacks get to him. Instead of sulking or buckling under the pressure, he stepped up his game and delivered an outstanding performance for the remainder of the Oilers’ 5-2 victory, which evened the series.

His resilience and determination in the face of adversity became a source of inspiration for his teammates. Oilers coach Kris Knoblauch praised Nurse, stating that it was his best game in the series, and possibly even in the entire playoffs.

Nurse’s ability to bounce back and perform at such a high level demonstrates his mental strength and resilience, qualities that are invaluable in the high-pressure world of professional sports.
Entering Game 4, Nurse faced a barrage of criticism. Among the Oilers players, he had the highest number of goals allowed at 5-on-5 (4 goals). His performance in terms of shot attempts and scoring chances at even strength was below par. Additionally, Nurse’s presence on the ice coincided with a low save percentage of .852 for goaltender Skinner.

Although plus/minus is not a comprehensive measure of a player’s performance, Nurse had the lowest rating of minus-12 in the playoffs so far.

Following Game 3, there were discussions about whether Nurse should be benched and how the Oilers should address the perceived issue with his performance, both in the short and long term.

During the morning skate on Wednesday, Nurse provided brief responses to the media before abruptly ending his availability after a minute. His teammates, including Connor McDavid, were asked about the criticism directed towards Nurse.

“He always gives his all, and he has been doing so for a long time,” McDavid stated prior to Game 4. “I expect him to have an outstanding performance tonight.”
His overall performance was impressive. Despite a rough start, Nurse managed to recover and contribute to Ryan McLeod’s goal in the first period, reducing the lead to 2-1. Throughout the game, he played for a total of 19 minutes and 19 seconds and recorded the highest number of hits with 12, effectively utilizing his physicality without crossing any boundaries. It is worth noting that he received no penalty minutes in this game, despite having minor penalties in the previous two games.

Oilers forward Connor Brown spoke highly of Nurse, mentioning the criticism he faced earlier in the day. Despite the challenging start, Nurse settled in and delivered an outstanding performance, leading the team to victory. This showcases his character and resilience.

Leon Draisaitl, a key player for the Oilers who scored his 10th goal of the playoffs, expressed his lack of concern regarding Nurse’s performance in the postseason.
“He gives it his all on the ice,” Draisaitl praised. “Perhaps his confidence hasn’t been as high as we’re used to seeing, but that’s perfectly normal. He’s human, after all. Tonight was a big step forward for him, and I thought he was exceptional.”

The upcoming Game 5 is scheduled for Friday night in Dallas.

Although Nurse played a key role in strengthening the Edmonton defense, Dallas now faces a new concern in their defensive lineup. Stars defenseman Chris Tanev blocked a shot from Evander Kane with his right foot, resulting in a lower-body injury that forced him out of the game with 7:38 remaining in the second period.

Tanev has been an integral part of the Stars’ top four defensemen, averaging 23:26 of ice time. He leads all players in the postseason with 68 blocked shots. Coach Pete DeBoer expressed his hopes for Tanev’s health in Game 5, saying “fingers crossed” that he will be able to play.