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The Day After +1.0: Edmonton Oilers couldn’t have drawn up series-opening win any better

Edmonton Oilers LA Kings
Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
12 days ago
The Oilers couldn’t have drawn it up any better.
From a scorching start to a stellar finish, Connor McDavid and co. took it to the LA Kings in game one of their first-round series, walking out of Rogers Place with a 7-4 win and 1,131 hats on the ice.
That’s thanks to Zach Hyman, whose first-ever playoff hat trick — and a five-assist night from McDavid, the first since 1998 — propelled them to the win. In fact, it was the entire top line, which saw Adam Henrique flanking the aforementioned two, that was the difference maker. Because by the halfway mark of the first, Hyman and Henrique both had goals to give the Oilers a 2-0 lead, pushing the Kings to their heels early.
“I liked the way we came out,” said Henrique. “(We) played with some desperation early on, and (tried) to impose our will on them in that first period. I thought we did a good job there and that’s just something we need to be able to carry over for 60 minutes.”
The start to the game was just what the Oilers needed. They entered the game having gone a confounding 1-8 in the first game of a playoff series, the McDavid and Leon Draisaitl era. Well, make that 2-8.
First periods haven’t always been kind to the Oilers in non-game-one situations either. They often find themselves having to chase the game and work into it backwards. But this start was different. Within the first few shifts of the game, the Oilers were already laying the body, with Warren Foegele popping Drew Doughty at the Kings’ bench and Darnell Nurse taking a run at Adrian Kempe.
It brought even more life into a thunderous Rogers Place.
“Since coming here, a lot of people have talked about the atmosphere, and I think until you experience that playoff atmosphere here, it’s hard to explain and understand what it’s really like,” said Henrique, whose first-period goal snapped the longest streak for days between playoff goals at 4,333 days. “That was exciting to be a part of, and the fans were great tonight. Certainly a lot of fun playing out there.”
And as the game went on, the Oilers kept pouring it on. Hyman’s second would come early in the second, and minutes later Ryan Nugent-Hopkins would add another marker. Credit to the Kings, however, as they were able to get two of their own. Mikey Anderson would score on a deflected point shot, and a low-angle shot from Kempe would deflect in.
The Oilers’ ability to put a fork in this game came early in the third, however. With Trevor Moore in the penalty box for a dirty tripping call against Vincent Desharnais in which the Kings winger went right for the big man’s knees, Draisaitl would snipe an impossible angle shot home, just like has become such a norm for him. Hyman would score his hat trick minutes later, and the Oilers — save for two late Kings goals that came off a double deflection and a broken Edmonton stick — would cap off the 7-4 win with a Warren Foegele empty net goal.
Much was made about the Kings’ ability to play teams hard and be a sound defensive team. After all, that 1-3-1 neutral zone they run can be hellish for teams to get through, but not the Oilers. They were able to slice and dice all night, using their speed to their advantage.
And it’s not like it was how it was drawn up, either.
“I don’t really think we exploited their 1-3-1, they weren’t set up very often,” said Oilers head coach Kris Knoblauch. “I think it was more off of broken plays.
“We got our odd-man rushes not through weaving through their maze of bodies in the neutral zone, we got it through breaking up a play in the defensive zone, quick attack going the other way, rather than having a system.
“I’d like to say I designed something to do that, but it was just the players going out there and checking well, moving their feet, and being able to counter-attack.”
That’s what allowed the Oilers to largely play their own game, too.
“I thought we played a really connected game,” said McDavid. “I thought all five guys were working together, even if we had to dump it in. I thought we had good numbers on the forecheck, but ultimately, we didn’t have to dump it in all that much because we were connected coming though there, and that’s what it requires.
“They got five guys in a tight area in the neutral zone, and you don’t want to turn one over, obviously, all while trying to get the zone with possession and find a way to play down there.”
When the Oilers look to defend home ice on Wednesday night for game two of the series, they’ll likely do so with the same lineup they ran Monday night. Knoblauch said after the game he was happy with how they were able to roll, and at 5v5, the third line of Evander Kane, Ryan McLeod, and Corey Perry actually saw the most ice time by a minute and a half.
But for now, enjoy this one, Oil Country.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@thenationnetwork.com.

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