Down This Road Before
Photo credit:© Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
7 months ago
Of course, blowing 2-0 and 3-1 leads in Monday’s 4-3 OT loss to the Los Angeles to open their best-of-seven series isn’t ideal for the Edmonton Oilers, but they’ve been down this road before. They navigated it just fine against this same Kings team a year ago on the way to the Western Conference final.
The Oilers lost the first game of their first-round series to the Kings last May 2 by the same 4-3 score but looked sharper than Tom Gazzola’s perm in bouncing back to spank them good and plenty, 6-0 in Game 2 and 8-2 in Game 3. Yes, that was then, and this is now, but we’re not talking about ancient history involving completely different rosters.
It took the Oilers seven games to beat the Kings a year ago, so while Monday’s game should have been a win Jay Woodcroft’s team put in the bank for a series lead, there is no palpable panic – at least not among the Oilers’ players. Of course, there’s always a tiny segment of fans for whom it’s never too early to lose one’s poop, but perspective matters. It’s not as if Monday was like being a fan in Toronto and waiting for the Maple Leafs to swallow their tongues yet again in another playoff slip and fall.
The reality is the Oilers were solid for the first 40 minutes on Monday but took too many penalties and lost it late on special teams – a power-play goal by Anze Kopitar with 17 seconds to go in regulation and another by Alex Iafallo 9:19 into OT. The Oilers sound confident they can put that in the rear-view mirror and play like the team that won nine straight games to end the season and that many people picked to dispatch the Kings in five games. We’ll see soon enough.
WHAT THEY SAID
Apr 17, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goalie Stuart Skinner (74) reacts to a goal as the Los Angeles Kings right wing Viktor Arvidsson (33) celebrates their overtime win during the overtime period in game one of the first round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place. Los Angeles Kings won the game 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports
“We were 15-seconds away from winning, so obviously we put ourselves in a good spot,” said Connor McDavid, who drew two penalties in the first period but was held in check and off the scoresheet. “We’d like to close that one out, obviously, but we didn’t. Now time to move on and get ready for the next one.”
A year ago, the Kings got the 4-3 goal from Philip Danault with just over five minutes remaining after Oilers stopper Mike Smith had his clearing attempt picked off by Iafallo. After a scramble, Sean Durzi’s point shot deflected in off Danault. Monday, a tough but legit tripping call to a falling Vincent Desharnais on Blake Lizotte set the table for Iafallo.
“That’s playoff hockey, isn’t it?” Woodcroft said after the team took an optional skate on Tuesday. “I think the one word I would use to describe our team is that we’re a resilient group, and for us, things happen.
“That game yesterday, we felt really good about a lot of that game yesterday, but in the end, we didn’t come away with the tick on the board. We used today to get better, we felt good about today, and we’re getting ready for tomorrow.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
“The past doesn’t predict the future here,” McDavid said of tonight’s rematch. “I liked what we did last year in Game 2. I thought we’ve played well in Game 2’s historically, but I don’t think that means a whole lot come puck drop Wednesday. It’s a big one for us and I would like to see some urgency.”
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