Off the Top of My Head: The Oilers are moving on to Vegas
Photo credit:Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
1 month ago
When the Edmonton Oilers needed a win over the Los Angeles Kings in Game 6 of their series a year ago, Connor McDavid had his fingerprints all over a 4-2 win with a goal and two assists that got the Oilers to a seventh game. Then, as an exclamation mark, he scored the winning goal in a 2-0 victory that sent the Oilers to the Western Conference final.
It looked for awhile last night like we might be in for an encore with the 2023 edition of Game 6 against the Kings. McDavid was flying early despite speculation during the week he was hobbled by an injury. He scored the 1-0 goal and set up Leon Draisaitl’s 3-1 goal, but the real story came from further down the marquee.
That would be Kailer Yamamoto, whose first goal of the playoffs with just over three minutes remaining in regulation time was the winner in a 5-4 decision that sends the Oilers on to the next round against the Vegas Golden Knights. There was Klim Kostin, who scored two goals and added an assist for a three-point night, and Vincent Desharnais, who had two assists.
Bonus points to Yamamoto for bailing out stopper Stuart Skinner who mishandled a puck when his stick snapped on the 4-4 goal by Phillip Danault – he tapped in a gimme in what could have been a heartbreaker and big swing in the series. Instead, the Oilers move on to face the Golden Knights and Skinner, a big reason his team is here in the first place, need not toss and turn over the mistake.
FINDING A WAY
Apr 29, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner (74) defenseman Mattias Ekholm (14) and defenseman Darnell Nurse (25) celebrate the victory against the Los Angeles Kings following game six of the first round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Crypto.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
“We’re a lot more than a two-man team here,” said McDavid, who had his legs and plenty of jump right off the hop. “It was impressive tonight. Kosty with his two big goals and Yams. Up and down the line-up throughout the series, this was a resilient group.”
Even with being betrayed by his lumber, Skinner put in a solid night with 40 saves. He didn’t buckle after the bad break, which came with more than 12 minutes remaining. “Skinny giving up a tough one there and just sticking with it. That’s what the playoffs are all about,” McDavid said. “It’s a big win and we move on.”
“I think to discover is superior to being told, so sometimes you have to go through something like this in order to see what you’re made of,” coach Jay Woodcroft said of the Oilers swinging the series in Game 4 and winning three straight to seal the deal.
“I think the first round of the NHL playoffs is a unique experience. I can’t compliment the Kings enough because they played a hard series. We altered our game to try and meet this challenge and in the end we’re moving on. So, I’m proud of our group.”
Cecily Eklund is a cancer fighter, a fundraiser with the Ben Stelter Fund and the Stollery Children’s Hospital, a dedicated fan of the Oilers and besties with Evander Kane. Simply put, Eklund, a 10-year-old who was diagnosed with brain cancer four years ago, is a courageous and special little girl.
Last week we read about Cecily travelling to Los Angeles with mom Cathy and her sister for Game 3 of the Oilers-Kings series courtesy of the Stelter Fund and about an incident in which she was treated very badly by a handful of fans. Happily, fans of the Kings showed how they roll by donating thousands of dollars to Cecily’s fundraising page.
The Kings followed up at Game 5 in Edmonton Tuesday with team president Luc Robitaille and Mike Altieri, senior VP of marketing and communications, paying Cecily a visit at her donation booth in Rogers Place. Altieri went on to tell me the team invited Cecily and her family back to Los Angeles for Game 6, with all expenses covered by the Kings, so they could “enjoy a better experience.” That’s about as classy as it gets.
Cecily and her family declined the offer Thursday because she has not been feeling well, but thanked fans of the Kings and the Oilers on her Twitter account for helping flip the script on what began as a negative incident. Her message is here. The Kings auctioned off items at Saturday’s game in Cecily’s absence and will be donating the money raised to her fund.
HAVE YOUR SAY
Fans have until May 19 to make 2023 nominations for the Oilers Hall of Fame, which is open to players, coaches, trainers and executives who have been with the organization since 1972.
Aside from the 10 banner inductees to the Oilers HOF in 2022 – Al Hamilton, Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Grant Fuhr, Paul Coffey, Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson, Kevin Lowe, Glen Sather and Rod Phillips – Ryan Smyth and Lee Fogolin were voted in by the selection committee. The nomination forms for 2023 are here.
The Oilers Entertainment Group and 630 CHED renewed their broadcast partnership Thursday, meaning we’ll get three more years of Jack Michaels, Bob Stauffer, Cam Moon, Reid Wilkins, and Rob Brown. This deal pushes the Oilers-630 CHED partnership to 31 straight years.
THE PLAYOFF WATCH PARTIES
Want to join us for a playoff watch party? We’ll be at Greta for every away game during the playoffs! Book your table today.
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