The game was framed as a chance to recover from a disastrous outing against San Jose, which featured a 6-1 first period for the Sharks in the lid lifter at Rexall. The game against LA featured everything–addled calls from the zebra’s, screw jobs from the zebra’s, astouding stupidity and breathtaking brilliance.
Mike Johnson told the audience that attention to detail, taking care of the defense and a "full 60 minutes" were key for the Oilers. Take care of those things and the result will take care of itself. The Los Angeles Kings were touted as a team with size who could hit everything that moved–big, heavy and mean. Oiler fans will recognize these Coles notes, they’ve been around forever and were certainly a part of the pre-game chatter that night.
They came early and often, and most were unusual on the night of January 24, 2013. The NHL always has their wonky penalties early in a season, but this night they were bringing out the back pages of the rulebook to penalize the copper and orange:
- 7:09 1st period Ladislav Smid (smothering puck) This became the newest crazy rule in the game, where refs were asked to make a decision about whether the player slapped the puck or smothered it from several miles away. Incredible.
- 9:54 1st period Ladislav Smid (instigator: face shield) This is designed to protect players from injury, and I agree with it. However, on a night where everything was called, this was a pretty cheap one. He received a double minor on the play (2 penalties for instigator).
- 3:54 2nd period Teemu Hartikainen (faceoff violation). Yeah, well. I hate this rule.
GOALS CALLED OFF
With about 4 minutes left in the first period, the Oilers scored (Yakupov) but it was disallowed because the ref lost sight of it. The puck was clear as day, but the officials were having a bad night and since I’m going to rip them for another goal called off I’ll pass on this one.
Late in the third period, the Oilers got a powerplay and were making things happen. The puck was moving around the LAK zone smartly, and despite some effective work from the Kings, Edmonton was putting together effective 5×4 play. With 1:16 to play Taylor Hall entered offensive zone with the puck just out of his reach, gained possession and seconds later RNH potted a goal to tie the game 1-1. Jonathan Quick protested the call, but the official pointed to the net, signifying it was a good goal.
EXCEPT Sam Gagner was tied up with Jonathan Quick and the officials called the goal off. There was NO way Gagner could have released from the pile, and calling the goal off was absolutely the wrong call. Remember, this was after a noxious loss to San Jose and the young Oilers–trying to make amends for the SJS game–were absolutely pissed when the goal was disallowed.
The fans? Well. One of the great things about being an Oiler fan is we’re good at, how do I say this, expressing ourselves. With beer, with Boston Pizza boxes, with a chant that goes "BULL-XXXX" and a shower of boos.
All deserved. What a crummy, crummy job of officiating on this night.
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?
Nail happened! With just 4.7 seconds left, the young Russian from their hinterland bonded with a city halfway across the world, and a love affair was born. Yak City. Celly. Don Cherry may not have liked it, but Oiler fans absolutely exploded when this happened:
Music! And a night to remember.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
In an instant, Edmonton became Yak City and adrenaline filled fans screamed from Rexall, their homes, in cars and on the LRT. It was magic.
We’re going to have more ‘Nights with Nail’ but I’ll never forget this one. Early in the game he looked dangerous, but all of the penalties and silliness of the game meant there was very little consistency for either team. A late, late goal (4.7 seconds) tied it and they won it in overtime.
Rexall that night was 2006 spring. I pray to baby Jesus we have many more nights like that one this winter.