The Edmonton Oilers are clear-cut favorites in a series where the LA Kings, while threatening a Pacific, and Western Conference title, lost steam and traction when losing four key players to injuries. The Oilers, meanwhile, maintained their steam and traction, holding the best record in the NHL since Jan 1st. The Mattias Ekholm trade, Stuart Skinner largely influenced the dominant consistency down the stretch. They were going into Game 1 last night 14-0-1 in their last fifteen. The Kings are not going to get much love.
Oilers Pounce and Bully Early On
The Oilers had jump and vigor to their game early on. Mcdavid was flying, and Draisaitl was equally effective. The Kings got bullied in the first period, bodies flying, and plenty of after-whistle shenanigans favoring the Oils. It continued with the Oils striking first.
Draisaitl took advantage of being in the right place at the right time, slapping in a bouncing puck off Matt Roy’s skate. The building was rocking, and the Kings needed a break. However, Drew Doughty was caught being too pretty and was played well by McDavid. McDavid was trying to break away on a clear cut 2 on 1. Drew held and hooked; fortunately, Mikey Anderson cleaned up a dangerous play-turned-penalty. While on the powerplay, McDavid showed us again why he’s the best in the game. He broke through the Kings penalty kill, weaving through defender after defender, coming in alone to be stopped by Joonas Korpisalo. He drew another penalty, a 5 on 3 for a historical power play. Evan Bouchard. He is something special for the Oilers, and he walked in a roofed a wrist shot to put the game up 2-0.
While the Oilers have Bonafide Superstars, the Kings do too
The second line came to play. While the Oils dominated possession and looked to run over the Kings, the NICE line shut down Connor McDavid and consistently held offensive zone time to get the Kings back into this one. The top line fed off this, and what better time for your 41-goal scorer to shine than in the playoffs, game one, to set the tone for the rest of the series.
Kempe added another once the Oils struck back on a herculean type of effort by Draisaitl off an offensive zone draw to go back up by two goals. Much like Draisaitl, Kempe scored off a faceoff and humanized Stuart Skinner again, who went into the third period only giving up 1 goal vs. the Kings in 8 periods of play. The Swedish forward gave the Kings life and had a feisty night with Evander Kane. I’ll give Kempe the nod over Kane thus far, and the scoresheet prevailed over Kane’s body checks.
The Kings drew a penalty late in the third and went to work with two extra men. Kings captain Anze Kopitar tied this one up with 16 seconds to go on the 6 on 4. Give credit to Viktor Arvidsson, who had one of the nastiest backhand sauce passes to Phil Danault for a one-timer cleaned up by the captain.
The Kings scored a 4 on 4 goal, a goal with the goalie scored (while on the powerplay, yes), and won the game on a tic tac goal on the powerplay in Overtime. The Kings have worked hard on that bumper play goal all year and remain effective without Fiala and Vilardi. They went out there and executed. Who would’ve thought the Kings would win a special team battle against the vaunted Edmonton Oilers? Last year they were worked in all facets of special teams.
In the peak moment of the game, the Kings capitalized with special teams when getting outshot 11-4 in Overtime. There was a high stick no-goal wave off and stuck the course. They were gritty, and they took care of business when called upon.
This one stings for Edmonton, the Kings stole this from them and will continue to point to a play that caused the overtime powerplay for the Kings:
Say what you want, Oilers player swung his stick into an area that got him in trouble. That’s the game. Oils weren’t too pleased with the call, obviously. The pressure is all on them, you can’t go to LA down 2-0. The Oils are also healthy, and what the Kings are seeing from them is likely what they’ll see all series long. Expect Jay Woodcroft to load up McDavid and Draisaitl, yes, but until then, there isn’t much of a scouting report they don’t already know. The Kings are the ones with the potential aces up their proverbial sleeves.
The Kings could not feel better right now, and even better: they are most likely expecting guys back. If they can get back Vilardi, look out. If they can get back Fiala? Each win gives the Kings’ injured players more time. The split on the road is achieved already, with an opportunity to push it further. More to come.
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