A lone Vegas Golden Knights fan could be heard as Edmonton’s Rogers Place descended into silence Sunday.
“Skinn-errrr, Skinn-errrr,” was the one-man chant.
Edmonton Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner was the target from somewhere in the upper bowl.
Perhaps it was a disgruntled Oilers fan.
Skinner was replaced by Jack Campbell before the third period of Sunday’s 5-2 loss to the Golden Knights.
Vegas took the best-of-seven playoff series four games to two to advance to the Western Conference final.
The Oilers trailed 4-2 when Skinner was pulled for the third time in the series.
The 24-year-old from Edmonton allowed four goals on 17 shots with the first scored just 24 seconds after the opening faceoff.
“I needed to be better,” Skinner said. “I got pulled countless times. It’s hard to take this one on the chin, for sure.”
It wasn’t quite “countless,” even if felt that way to Skinner and some Oilers fans, but he was hooked four times in his 12 playoff starts.
He was pulled in the second period of Game 5. Skinner didn’t make it through the second period of Game 3.
In the first round, he gave up three early goals to the Los Angeles Kings before Campbell took over and helped the Oilers to a Game 4 overtime victory.
With every hook, the questions became louder and more persistent.
Should Campbell, the man on the $25-million, five-year deal, take over? Should the experienced vet take over from the rookie Skinner?
Campbell had a disappointing debut season for the Oilers with a pedestrian .888 save percentage, but he was strong in every relief performance.
Campbell finished with a stellar .961 save percentage in the playoffs, albeit from a small sample size.
Skinner posted an .883 playoff save percentage, which was five points worse than Campbell’s regular-season mark that cost him the starting job.
The Oilers’ fan base certainly wanted Skinner to succeed. He’s an Edmonton kid who was going to be, at best, the backup, but ascended to starter.
Edmonton signed him to a three-year contract extension worth $7.8 million in December.
Skinner was nominated for the Calder Trophy awarded to the NHL’s top rookie.
After each of the four playoff games he didn’t finish, Skinner was back in net for the next game, including Sunday’s loss.
“It’s always good when you’re put back into the net,” said Skinner. “You’ve got a chance for redemption, a chance to bounce back.
“I thought I did a great job on bouncing back in every game, and then tonight just obviously wasn’t my night.”
Edmonton head coach Jay Woodcroft stood behind his goaltending choices after Sunday’s loss.
“I think we’ve beat this up the last two days in terms of the questions,” Woodcroft said. “In the end, we win as a team and we don’t win as a team.”
Skinner misplaying the puck led to the Knights’ goal 24 seconds into Sunday’s game, however.
He cleared the puck along the boards into the path of two Vegas forecheckers. The puck ended up in the net behind him.
Golden Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault scored a hat trick in the second period.
The first came on a loose puck Skinner couldn’t quite track.
The second was a rebound that popped up in the air off the goalie’s shoulder and then landed in the crease for Marchessault to convert.
“I worked really hard to get into position. I got a lot of depth,” Skinner said. “He made a nice shot, I made the save, it went right up.
“I thought it was going to go into the netting. I feel that’s kind of how it normally goes. I was looking up to kind of make sure, and it bounced right on the goal line.”
Marchessault’s third was a wrist shot that beat Skinner cleanly.
Off-season questions about the Oilers will include if playoff pressure was too much for the rookie goalie.
Should Woodcroft have trusted Campbell to take over, despite the shaky regular season?
Despite getting the hook in Game 5, Skinner said he felt good going into Sunday.
“I felt confident,” he said. “No matter what, I felt good. I know how to play the game. I’ve done it for many years, and I’ve been able to rebound from a lot of goals against in my lifetime.
“If you think about it this year, there’s one shutout I’ve got, so every game I’m letting in a goal, right? I’ve had lots of practice rebounding from goals against.”
But there was no rebounding from Sunday night when the Oilers were eliminated from Stanley Cup contention this year.
“This is obviously part of the book that one day we’re all going to write,” said Skinner. “This is a chapter where it stings and it sucks and it’s painful.”