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Photo credit:Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Robin Brownlee
11 months ago
I’ve been wrong a time or 10 over all the years I’ve been watching and writing about hockey, but seldom as spectacularly and totally so as Sunday after the Los Angeles Kings jumped out to a 3-0 lead over the Edmonton Oilers in the first period.
“They’ve got to put Jack Campbell in,” my wife said during intermission after Stuart Skinner was beaten three times on 11 shots. “No chance,” I said. “That would be the worst thing they could do. Skinner is the guy. No way you pull him for Campbell.” So, out comes Campbell to start the second period. “Well, that’s it then,” I sneered.
Twenty-seven saves by Campbell and an overtime goal by Zach Hyman later, we’d watched one of the greatest and most unlikely comebacks in the history of the franchise in a 5-4 overtime win that has the teams back in Edmonton for Game 5 Tuesday with the series even at 2-2. A roller-coaster ride it was.
Having witnessed Kelly Buchberger’s OT winner against the Dallas Stars back on April 20 in 1997 in a playoff game the Oilers trailed 3-0, I can’t say I’ve never seen anything like it. That was the same series the Oilers stunned the Stars in seven games on Todd Marchant’s OT winner. Still, this was a kick in the pants.
What we didn’t have back then was social media like Twitter and a written record of how the emotions of fans swung a full 360 from despair to jubilation hand-in-hand and play-by-play with what was happening out on the ice as the Oilers refused to fold. Wasn’t that something?
Apr 23, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Jack Campbell (36) defends the goal against the Los Angeles Kings during the second period in game four of the first round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Crypto.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

THAT WAS SOMETHING

Leon Draisaitl was a horse again with two goals. Evan Bouchard scored the 1-0 goal and added two assists. Evander Kane shook off an injury that’s obviously nagging him to pull the Oilers even 4-4 with three minutes left in regulation. But it was Campbell who set the stage for Hyman in OT, making a pad save on Viktor Arvidsson in alone to keep the Oilers within a goal at 4-3 with six minutes to go.
“It just speaks volumes,” said Campbell, who hadn’t been in the crease since April 1. “I think we’ve been battling hard like that all year and faced some adversity. They came out hot in the first, but nobody got down. We came out and just worked hard all night and got a big goal against a good team in overtime.
“Guys were saying the right things like they always are. We’ve got great leaders in here. Not just one single guy. It’s so many guys and pretty much everybody. Each guy stepped up at certain times throughout the year and no different tonight.”
Coach Jay Woodcroft thought about pulling Skinner after Anze Kopitar made it 3-0, but opted to wait. “The only debate I had was when I was going to do it,” he said. “Were we going to try and get to the end of the period or were we going to do it after that third goal? We decided to wait until we could get into the room. Once we did that, we kind of took off from there.”
The rest we know. Then came Kane and Hyman, who took a stretch pass from Bouchard and sifted it past Joonas Korpisalo, and the celebration was on. I’m guessing those of you who were high-fiving last night will be raising the roof at Rogers Place tomorrow, as you should.

THE BOTTOM LINE

What we’ve got today is a best-of-three series in a city that is energized. Instead of all the armchair experts telling us everything that’s wrong with the team and what needs to be done next, as they did after the first period last night, we’ve got a debate about whether Campbell or Skinner should get the next start. My best guess is it’ll be Skinner, but what do I know? 

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