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Oilers dominate special teams to eliminate Kings in 5 games


The Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings played a tight-checking series at even strength. But the special teams matchup was lopsided – and that’s why it ended in five games.

“That was a difference in this series,” Oilers head coach Kris Knoblauch said.

Leon Draisaitl scored twice, Evan Bouchard had three assists, and the Oilers defeated the Kings 4-3 Wednesday to win the first-round matchup.

The red-hot Oilers power play went 1-for-5 on the night but scored twice just after time had expired on a penalty. Edmonton finished 9-for-20 with the man-advantage in the five games.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles was 0-for-1 on Wednesday, going scoreless on 12 power plays in the series.

“It’s pretty simple to write this one,” Kings interim head coach Jim Hiller said. “You saw one team execute, and one team not, on special teams.”

Zach Hyman – with his seventh of the post-season – and Evander Kane also scored for Edmonton. The Oilers’ only loss of the series was a 5-4 overtime decision in Game 2.

Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins pitched in with two assists each as Edmonton’s offence broke out at Rogers Place. McDavid extended his points total to a playoff-leading 12 (one goal, 11 assists). Stuart Skinner made 18 saves.

Edmonton eliminated Los Angeles in the opening round for the third year in a row after coming out on top in six games in 2023 and seven in 2022.

“Disappointing, for the third year in a row. It sucks right now,” Kings captain Anze Kopitar said. “Special teams hurt us a lot this series.

“There were parts of the games that were good, we were dictating the game, but you gotta do it more often, and every game, to win the series.”

Adrian Kempe, Alex Laferriere and Blake Lizotte replied for Los Angeles. David Rittich stopped 22 shots.

The Oilers move on to the second round, where they’ll face the winner of a matchup between the Vancouver Canucks and Nashville Predators. Vancouver leads their series 3-2 heading into Game 6 on Friday in Nashville.

Down 2-1 in the second period, the Oilers scored three unanswered goals to take a 4-2 lead.

Draisaitl opened his account with a power-play goal at 7:44 from McDavid.

Rittich appeared to rob Draisaitl with a desperation glove save, but fans cheered as if it were a goal upon seeing the replay and officials ruled the puck crossed the line after video review.

“I couldn’t see it at all,” McDavid said. “I saw (Draisaitl) maybe point it (was a goal), then I saw the bench kind of react.

“It was big.”

McDavid and Draisaitl connected again just after a penalty expired at 12:21 for the German forward’s fifth of the playoffs.

“When he’s got his feet moving, when he’s playing hard on both sides of the puck, there’s not many guys better than him in the whole world,” McDavid said. “He always seems to bring that game this time of year.”

The undisciplined Kings put Edmonton up a man again near the end of the frame. This time, Hyman tapped home a puck on the goal line moments after Kings forward Pierre-Luc Dubois stepped out of the box.

“Whether they’re penalties or not, the bottom line is we gotta get the job done on the penalty kill,” Kings captain Anze Kopitar said. “We didn’t do it throughout the five games.”

Kempe deflected a shot past Skinner with 2:18 left to trim the deficit to one.

The Kings pressured for an equalizer in the final two minutes until Phillip Danault hooked Draisaitl with 19.7 seconds left to put Edmonton on the power play – and out came the handshakes.

Fans cheered to the their top of their lungs and chanted “Let’s Go Oilers” to provide a raucous atmosphere before puck drop, but Los Angeles stymied Edmonton early.

The Kings limited the Oilers to a paltry 13 shots in Sunday’s 1-0 loss and had the same game plan working early, holding Edmonton to one shot through 10 minutes of the game.

Kane, however, opened the scoring on Edmonton’s second shot of the night at 10:17.

Los Angeles replied with 28 seconds left in the first when the puck caromed around the boards and bounced in front of the net to Laferriere.

Lizotte then scored 3:08 into the second to quiet Rogers Place before Edmonton replied with an onslaught.

“I didn’t like our first half of the game, I felt we were a little bit slow,” McDavid said. “But I thought we had a great response. We found ways to draw penalties.

“We found a way to capitalize on it and then we found a way to close it out.”

It’s the first time the Oilers have advanced from the first round in three straight years since 1990 to 1992.

The Oilers fell 4-2 in the second round to the eventual Stanley Cup-champion Vegas Golden Knights last year.

They’re focused on getting beyond a first-round victory this time around.

“It was a good sign of what’s to come,” defenceman Darnell Nurse said. “But there’s still so much hockey that we’re hoping to play here throughout the rest of the spring.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 1, 2024.

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