The Day After +5.0: Winning in different ways key for Oilers

Edmonton Oilers L.A. Kings
Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
6 days ago
Power play, penalty kill or even strength, the Oilers are ready for whatever comes at them.
Whether they face an early deficit or need to protect a lead, they can handle it.
That’s what they proved in their first-round series against the L.A. Kings, eliminating them in Game 5 on Wednesday night 4-3. They scored early, won the special teams battle, and weathered a late storm from the Kings to do so.
It wasn’t always pretty over the course of the five games. The first two saw a combined nine goals against with more than a few weird bounces finding their way past Stuart Skinner, but in Games 3 and 4, the Oilers shut the door, allowing a single goal against, as Skinner turned aside 60 of 61 shots faced.
Then there was a last night. While the start wasn’t quite as strong as was wanted, halfway through the first period, defenceman Brett Kulak jumped up in the rush, finding Evander Kane in the offensive zone. Kane fluttered a backhand to the net that found its way past David Rittich giving the Oilers an early lead.
For the rest of the period, the Kings kept the pedal down as the Oilers weathered the storm until, with under a minute to go, a puck dumped into the Edmonton end took an odd bounce off the boards as Skinner went to play it. It would deflect right back in front of the Oilers net with an open cage, where Alex Laferriere got the easiest goal he could score.
Blake Lizotte would add another for the Kings early in the second off a sloppy line change, and the Oilers fell behind. But it’s the work the club had put in during the regular season and through the first four games of the series that played key for them.
“We’ve been talking… all year about just being a mature group, and being able to handle adversity whether there’s a bad call from a referee or an unfortunate bounce of just a bad play,” said Oilers head coach Kris Knoblauch, adding his team has “been able to stay composed.”
“I think we’ve had a lot of learning experiences through the season to prepare us for the playoffs so when something like that happens, it’s just move on, get ready for our next shift.”
That’s exactly what they did as the Kings took penalties in the second, allowing Leon Draisaitl scoring on the power play. Then he once more, along with Zach Hyman, found the back of the net again as other power plays expired. All of a sudden, the Oilers held a 4-2 lead.
The Oilers then locked down the defensive zone, limiting the Kings’ chances, and even when Adrian Kempe managed to tip a shot home with a little over two minutes left in the third period, there was no panic in Edmonton’s game.
I thought we showed really good composure giving up the one goal with two minutes to go,” said Oilers captain Connor McDavid. “That can rattle a group, and I thought our guys were even keel and got it done.”
All in all, it might just be the strongest playoff series the Oilers have played in the McDavid and Draisaitl era. Even in their Game 2 loss, when they fell behind 3-1 after the first period and 4-3 early in the third, they still found a way to force the game into overtime making it close.
And in Game 4 when the Oilers mustered up a measly 13 shots on goal, turning in an incredible defensive performance, it never felt like this series had been out of their control in any way, shape, or form.
So what has allowed them to find a way to keep composure, even in moments where they could’ve stooped to the Kings’ hacking and slashing lows? The fact they’ve been here before.
That’s where you can maybe draw on your experience,” said Draisaitl, adding the fact they’ve matured as a team being a big part of it.
“We’re not a young team here, we got lots of guys that have played in big games and have been in big situations. Those ups and downs, those momentum swings are all part of it.”
Whichever way the pendulum swung, the Oilers were ready for it. That in and of itself speaks volumes to the makeup of this club, and should be something those around the hockey world should take notice of.
Edmonton now gets a chance to catch their breath ahead of a second round that will, in all likelihood, start early next week, with the Oilers squaring up against one of the Vancouver Canucks and Nashville Predators.
In the words of Draisaitl, they “dug deep to earn that right to get a little bit of rest.”
“I think in the long run, which of course is our goal, to play for a long time, these extra days are massive. They’re critical.”

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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