One Gets Away
Photo credit:Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports
7 months ago
There was no shortage of storylines going into Monday’s series opener between the red-hot Edmonton Oilers and the Los Angeles Kings at Rogers Place and it didn’t take long for several others to present themselves after the puck dropped.
Early on, a clearly revved up Connor McDavid looked like he might make the Kings pay for pre-game comments captain Drew Doughty made about getting back at him for a hit on teammate Mikey Anderson, but no. McDavid was flying early and he drew penalties on Doughty for hooking and Anderson for holding that led to Edmonton’s 2-0 goal on a power play, but while he finished with five shots, he was held off the scoresheet.
There was Evan Bouchard, who scored that 2-0 goal, rattled another puck off the pipe and was in a groove. His confidence and the scope of his game seems to be growing by the minute alongside Mattias Ekholm. And then there was rookie stopper Stuart Skinner, who showed why he’s forced himself into Calder Trophy consideration in the first 40 minutes with some stellar work and 17 saves. But no and no.
In the end, the Oilers, who won nine straight games to finish the regular season, blew third-period leads of 2-0 and 3-1. They gave up the 3-3 goal by Anze Kopitar on a power play with 17 ticks left in regulation time and sent their fans home near midnight after a stunning a 4-3 OT loss on a power-play goal by Alex Iafallo.
The Oilers, picked by many to win this series in five games, weren’t disciplined enough to close the deal. What they have to do now is collect themselves and chase down the Kings like they did last spring in seven games after losing the series opener by the same 4-3 score. Blaming the officiating, throwing stuff on the ice and raising hell in the fan area outside is a loser’s lament and won’t make any difference. There’s your storyline.
WHAT THEY SAID
Apr 17, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Los Angeles Kings right wing Viktor Arvidsson (33) takes a shot on Edmonton Oilers goalie Stuart Skinner (74) during the first period in game one of the first round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports
“It’s frustrating. Got to be more mature than that,” said Leon Draisaitl, who opened the scoring and got his second to put the Oilers up 3-1. “It’s a 3-1 game with eight minutes left or whatever. We’ve got to lock that down. We have to be more mature.
“They made some good plays, scored a couple goals, but we can definitely be a little smarter and more mature . . . we played some good hockey for the most part. Take the negative and learn from it. We’ve got to regroup and get ready for the next one.”
The next one is Wednesday and there’s some work to do on the details. They put the Kings on the power play six times, and while there’s always room to moan and groan about borderline calls — there were some in this game, notably a tripping call on Vincent Desharnais in overtime – that won’t get you a do-over.
“We had the game in our hands. We just let it slip away,” said Desharnais, called for tripping up Blake Lizotte as he was falling to set the table for Iafallo’s winner. “We took too many penalties, and they just bury you at some point.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
“I didn’t think we played particularly well in the third period,” understated coach Jay Woodcroft. “There were moments in that period where we’d like to have them back. We can be better in those situations . . . anytime you’re asking yourself to kill six penalties in a playoff game, it’s not ideal. It taxes too many people and it’s asking a lot of that special teams unit.”
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