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Knoblauch declines to name Game 5 starter after Pickard earns win


Edmonton Oilers head coach Kris Knoblauch declined to name his Game 5 starter after Calvin Pickard made 19 saves in his first career playoff start Tuesday, backstopping the Oilers to a 3-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks in Game 4.

Pickard, 32, was named the starter earlier in the day after replacing Stuart Skinner for the third period of Sunday's 4-3 loss in Game 3. He was lightly tested Sunday in his NHL playoff debut, stopping all three shots he faced, and kept his shutout streak through two periods in Game 4, stopping the first 13 shots he faced. 

The Canucks erased Edmonton's 2-0 lead with two goals on eight shots in the third period, but Oilers defenceman Evan Bouchard provided the game-winner with just 39 seconds left to avoid overtime.

“I don't know if it’s quite sunk in,” Pickard said. “And it’s a big win for us.

“Obviously making my (NHL) debut 10 years ago and really not getting playoff action really much at either level, it’s an exciting opportunity for me.

“The guys have been great in front of me and now, it’s the best of three.”

Knoblauch praised Pickard, stating "it looked like a guy who’d played 100 playoff games" in the net, but did not commit to sticking with him in Game 5.

Pickard appeared in 23 games during the regular season with the Oilers, posting a 12-7-1 record with a 2.45 GAA and a .909 save percentage. He began the season in the AHL, but moved up to the Oilers after the team waived Jack Campbell amid his struggles early in the year.

Skinner had previously started every game of the playoffs for the Oilers this spring, allowing 21 goals on 188 shots through his first seven starts for a 2.96 goals-against average and an .888 save percentage. He posted a shutout in Game 4 of the team's first-round series against the Los Angeles Kings, but has struggled in the second round, allowing 12 goals on 58 shots against the Canucks. He allowed four goals on 15 shots in Game 3 before being replaced by Pickard. 

“You never know if you’ll get to (start) a playoff game,” Pickard said. “You always believe that you will. You’re hoping.

“And then, now that it’s here, it’s exciting.”

Game 5 is set for Thursday in Vancouver, with the Oilers holding a chance to take a lead for the first time in the series.