Last year for Game Five in Edmonton, the LA Kings and Oilers went back and forth to lead the game to an overtime match. Adrian Kempe sealed that game just 72 seconds in. It was the only overtime game in last year’s series. This year we have seen three overtime games in the first four games, two going the way for the Kings and one for the Oilers in stunning fashion. This game five looked like it was going to be another tight-checking, classic Kings-Oilers game (being that they’ve faced each other more than any other opponent going back to last series).
Oilers Strike First, According to Plan
Following the previous game four, where Jay Woodcroft loaded up Draisaitl and McDavid to avoid a series deficit of 3-1, he followed a similar tactic. He loaded up the dynamic duo with Evander Kane, something he did in game four on Kings’ icings. Playing with the lead against a team running a 1-3-1 to stall offense is a safe bet to come out on top.
While the line itself didn’t cash first, they drew an early powerplay with McDavid slicing through the neutral zone and exposing the Kings inability to take the body/hold the blueline in the shape of Carl Grundstrom and Rasmus Kupari. The Fourth line was victimized again on a hook. Not a successful game plan for the Kings. The Oilers Powerplay went to work. However, the Second unit of the juggernaut Oilers powerplay gained the early lead. Evander Kane used time and space to rip a shot home, top cheese.
Following the goal, their dubbed “Super Line” by ESPN went to work against the Kings, and Draisaitl, while diving forward, ripped a shot home for a 2-0 lead. Byfield being the one lost in coverage.
Kings Show Fight
After Byfield lost coverage, he was quickly swapped with Iafallo on the third line. It immediately paid dividends, with Iafallo putting back a rebound on a nifty play from Kopitar and Kempe, 2-1. Unfortunately, Byfield was lost in coverage in the following plays, not having played center since the early parts of the season, and Korpisalo was beaten back door, 3-1 Oilers. Interesting move by McLellan here.
The top line answered back with a highlight reel play by Adrian Kempe to power move to the front of the net, roofing a shot in tight. At this point of the game, with the back-and-forth score: it was anyones for the taking going into the second period. The Kings, with superior depth players, were going to overcome, right?
Danault Line Hyperbole
With the Oilers loading up on the top line, their second line had Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on the wing with Nick Bjugstad. While they were dominated territorially by the combination of 12-24-33, they were the ones that struck for a 4-2 lead, capitalizing on a rare Arvidsson turnover. Bjugstad on his stick a re-direct that ended up standing as the game-winner. Korpisalo was pulled for the first time this series, and the Oilers would go on to score a power play goal off of Hyman’s face, 5-2. Hyman would also get credited with another goal going off Mikey Anderson’s skate to go up 6-2. Also: I understand the historical precedence of the Oilers powerplay, but a 42% PK does not remotely cut it. If the Kings stop half of the Oilers powerplays this series and float towards an average PK rate near 80%, they are awaiting the winners of Vegas-Winnipeg.
While the Kings did get a nice, feel-good goal to make it 6-3 from Quinton Byfield’s first career playoff goal from an excellent feed from Gabriel Vilardi, it was too late. And even Todd McLellan mentioned in his post-game presser that after the fourth goal/second period, it was over. It seems that the 1-3-1 has all been snuffed out by Edmonton, and when they get hemmed in on the 1-3-1, they particularly get burned during long change periods.
The Calm Before the Storm
The Kings and Oilers do not play Game Six until Saturday, largely due to the basketball playoff commitment for the Lakers (highly benefits the Kings). By that time, it’ll be two full practice days and the long-awaited full health roster for the Kings. For the first time this postseason, the Kings will have their full roster to try to claw their way back to Edmonton. Blaze Lizotte has been practicing in a non-contact red jersey two days in a row prior to game five. With his return, they get back a much-missed player who injects immediate life into the bottom six.
The only way they get back into this/win this series is the pure depth they have over the Oilers. Byfield and Vilardi, while natural centers have not played center for most of the season. While doing an admirable job in the interim, the team needs a savvier center in the bottom six. Having Lizotte back could be the driving force to bring the series back to Edmonton.
Iafallo – Kopitar – Kempe
Moore – Danault – Arvidsson
Fiala – Lizotte – Vilardi
Byfield – Kupari – Grundstrom
The opportunity to bring this one to a game seven is there. The Kings played an excellent game in game four at home, outside of the second period. Korpisalo certainly wanted the Kane and Hyman goals back. The Kings will move on from game five, just like Edmonton did last year when the Kings won in overtime. Look for a renewed and energized team playing in front of the crowd at the Crypt. Game seven is entirely possible.