The Day After +5.0: Edmonton Oilers push LA Kings to brink of elimination with 6-3 win
Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
By Zach Laing1 month ago
It was just a matter of time before the Edmonton Oilers had a game like this.
One where they jumped out to an early lead, put the pedal down, and never let up. That’s the script that led the Oilers to a 6-3 victory over the LA Kings pushing them to the brink of elimination.
It all kicked off for the Oilers 8:08 into the game when for the first time this year, someone not named Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Zach Hyman, Tyson Barrie or Evan Bouchard scored a goal on the powerplay. Crazy, but true, as it was Evander Kane who picked his spot in the top shelf and put the puck right there.
And from there, the Oilers were off. Leon Draisaitl would add a goal a minute and a half later extending the lead and the Oilers didn’t look back. While Brett Kulak would add another goal — his first-ever playoff tally — later in the frame, the Kings made it a bit tight as Alex Iafallo and Adrian Kempe scored in the first, too.
Come the second, however, the Oilers hit the turbo button dominating all facets of the game. Nick Bjugstad would score his first of two on the night tipping home a Cody Ceci point shot, while Zach Hyman would deflect a puck in with his face — yes, you read that right — and Edmonton carried a 5-2 lead going into the third.
The rest? History.
“I thought we got out of the gate quick and asserted the way we wanted to play,” said Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft. “They punched back, they’re a good team, and we stuck with it and continued to put hard miles on their team.
“We found goals up and down our lineup, so I thought it was a well-played game.”
THE DAY AFTER IS PRESENTED BY BETWAY
That right there was the key to victory for the Oilers. Earlier in this series, after game three, I had talked about how players not named Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl needed to step up their game. Well, it turns out they listened because game four saw guys like Kane and Hyman step up not just then, but last night too, as did Nick Bjugstad with a two-goal performance in game five.
Finally, the Oilers haven’t had to solely rely on their big two to get the job done. This, meanwhile, comes as the team has loaded up the big guns on the top line.
“You just have to keep doing what [Woodcroft’s] saying in the analogy of pounding at the rock — just keep doing the right process, pounding of the rock, and then it’ll go in bunches and then other guys score,” said Hyman. “That’s kind of the way that you win in playoff hockey.”
The line blender did come out ahead of last night. McDavid and Draisaitl got Kane on their line. The second line featured Bjugstad sliding up alongside Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Kane. While the buzzsaw third line of Warren Foegele, Ryan McLeod and Derek Ryan were incredibly effective, Klim Kostin and Kailer Yamamoto served as the defacto fourth line featuring a rotating cast with them.
Simply put, some changes needed to be made. In game four, Yamamoto got lazy on his backcheck stopping skating with Gabe Vilardi on the Kings’ opening goal. It happened again, to a lesser extent, on Adrian Kempe’s goal in the first last night.
“That’s coaching — trying to make hard decisions,” said Woodcroft. “But like I said, I’m a lucky person and our staff is lucky because we have a lot of good players to choose from.
“The fingerprints are on our players. Our players were the ones that went out and executed at a very high level. They played the game with the physicality and pace that we want to play at and it was a big win for our team.”
The changes made to the lineup worked, and truth be told if I were the Oilers, I would run it back with the exact same group Saturday night for game six.
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 email@example.com.
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