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Wayne Gretzky implores Oilers, Avalanche to play better defence

·2-min read

The Colorado Avalanche held off the Edmonton Oilers 8-6 on Tuesday in a hectic Game 1 of the Western Conference Final. The Avs and Oilers combined for the second-most goals ever in a conference final game with 14 tallies, and the game also featured 83 shots.

During the second intermission of the contest — as Colorado led 7-4 and all four goalies had entered the game — Wayne Gretzky and the NHL on TNT panel discussed the fast-paced tilt. The Great One couldn’t resist commenting with candour on the teams’ defence — or lack thereof.

Wayne Gretzky hasn't been impressed with the defence from the Oilers and Avalanche. (Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)
Wayne Gretzky hasn't been impressed with the defence from the Oilers and Avalanche. (Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)

On the panel alongside Rick Tocchet, Anson Carter, Paul Bissonnette and host Liam McHugh, Gretzky called out both the Oilers and the Avalanche, saying the teams will need to play better on the back end to make a successful Stanley Cup run.

"I wish I could've played this kind of playoff hockey in my day," Gretzky said. “I was the most offensive player that maybe ever lived, but you gotta play defence, man, that's how you win Stanley Cups."

The score only increased in the third period, but the Avalanche held off the Oilers’ comeback attempt. Darcy Kuemper made 13 saves for the Avalanche before suffering an upper-body injury. Backup Pavel Francouz finished with 18 stops. Mike Smith allowed six goals on 25 shots before Mikko Koskinen took over in the Edmonton crease, making 20 saves the rest of the way.

The Oilers are no stranger to dropping the first game of a series in a barn burner. Edmonton lost Game 1 of its second-round matchup against the Calgary Flames 9-6, but won the series in five games.

Since he retired in 1999 as the NHL’s all-time leading scorer, Gretzky has gotten more comfortable criticizing the game he knows best on live television, and his comments on Tuesday resonated with fans. Here’s hoping that the message will get to the Avalanche and the Oilers for Game 2 on Thursday.

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