Photo credit:Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
The Day After 33.0: Groundhog Day arrives, playoff atmosphere follows in Oilers win over Kings
By Zach Laing1 month ago
As the first period ended during Saturday night’s game between the Edmonton Oilers and LA Kings, fans of the hometown Monarchs jeered Stuart Skinner.
After allowing two goals against on 11 shots, they sure had a right to.
Skinner and the Oilers were the ones who had the last laugh, as he turned aside the next 17 shots he faced in regulation and overtime, as well as stopping two shooters in the shootout in Edmonton’s raucous 3-2 win.
And for the Oilers? This one felt like Groundhog Day.
“Every time we’re in this building, it feels like the exact same game. Just rinse and repeat,” said Connor McDavid, who scored in regulation and the shootout, adding an assist in his 600th NHL game. It’s the same game over and over again, and we know that. It’s a grind.”
THE DAY AFTER IS PRESENTED BY BETWAY
A grind indeed, and one where the Oilers had to do exactly that to work their way back into the game — one which had all the hallmarks of a playoff matchup in the dead of winter.
The Kings, much like they do, came out ready to start and got the early jump in the game. They peppered the Oilers early, with Skinner having to make Dominik Hasek-esque saves to keep it a scoreless game. But two goals in the final five minutes, scored by Kevin Fiala and Adrian Kempe off long, heavy shots, gave LA the lead, and their fans the upper hand.
Subsequent to the first where the Kings dominated 75 percent of the five-on-five shot share and a staggering 95.6 percent of the expected goal share, the Oilers flipped the script in the second, controlling 65.22 and 63.15 percent of those stats, respectively.
A goal he’s scored numerous times in his career, one which might become a signature shot, McDavid got the Oilers on the board 5:35 into that second frame on the power play, with a goalline shot up and over the shoulder of Cam Talbot. 10 minutes later, he fed Leon Draisatil in front to tie the game.
“They’re a great team, and I thought we did a good job of just hanging in there,” McDavid said. “We didn’t like our first period and we just talked about hanging in the game, just sticking around, and I thought we did that all night.”
Edmonton stuck with it in the third period, controlling a stunning 91.43 percent of the 5v5 expected goal share in the third period, even accounting for score and venue. While shootout’s are never the fun way to secure a win, goals from McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and a laser from Derek Ryan sealed the Kings’ fate.
“I don’t know these players very much in the shootout,” admitted Oilers head coach Kris Knoblauch, saying he leaned on assistant coach Glen Gulutzan, goaltending coach Dustin Schwartz, and Skinner himself for advice on who to fill his shootout card with. “These guys know these guys a lot more, have seen them in practice, have had time doing shootouts. It was nice to see.
“We were debating on that last spot, but he obviously made us look pretty smart on that decision.”
McDavid was onto something when he spoke about Groundhog Day.
Since the start of the 2022-23 season prior to last night’s game, these two sides have played 10 games at Crypto.com Arena. Five of those games saw the Kings lead after one period, and one game saw the two sides tied. Of those six, the Oilers were able to come back and win three. In the four games the Oilers led after one, however, they went 4-0.
In total, the 10 games have seen the Oilers hold a 7-3 record outscoring the Kings 38-30.
The Oilers continue their three-game California swing tonight, squaring off against the Anaheim Ducks, a team nine points below Edmonton in the standings, but heading in a much different direction. After a strong start to their season, going 7-4 in their first 11 that included a six-game win streak, the Ducks have fallen from grace, going 6-18 since with eight and five-game losing streaks mixed in.
Much like how the Oilers got to the San Jose Sharks early, draining their morale early last Thursday, they can do the same tonight against the floundering Ducks.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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