Oilers 4, Kings 2
Welcome back, Connor.
For fans of the Edmonton Oilers, #97 flying around out there was a sight for a sore eyes after a two-week absence due to a quadriceps injury. Better still, he made his presence felt on the scoreboard, setting up the first and last goals for the Oilers and in between times scoring the game winner himself on another breathtaking solo effort that will join his lengthy catalog of stellar goals.
At that point the Oilers seemed home and cooled out with a 3-0 lead on snipes by their big three of Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and McDavid. The home-standing Los Angeles Kings had other ideas, striking to either side of the second intermission to narrow the gap to one. But from there the visitors righted the ship and delivered some strong hockey down the stretch before closing the deal on a well-executed four-way passing play that finished with Josh Archibald sliding home the empty-net clincher.
Edmonton was the better team on the night, outshooting the Kings 31-23 (including 12-4 in the final frame) while holding a 13-8 bulge in Grade A scoring chances.
#6 Adam Larsson, 6. Strong behind the blueline, playing solid positional hockey and moving the puck with simple, efficient plays, many of them to his partner Jones.
#15 Josh Archibald, 6. Made a lovely backhand feed to Benson for a terrific chance. Was among those Oilers PKers beaten on the sequence of pain leading to Anze Kopitar’s powerplay goal. Had a strong third period including a couple of key shifts down the stretch when his trio pinned the Kopitar line deep in LA territory. Finished the job with the empty netter, his 10th of the season, all but 1 of those in his last 24 games.
#16 Jujhar Khaira, 6. 10 quiet minutes, during which time the Kings mustered just 1 shot on net. Oilers didn’t generate a whole lot either, but Khaira’s play on the cycle combined with some good work behind his own blueline was helpful as Oilers ground down the clock.
#23 Riley Sheahan, 6. Had a couple of iffy moments handling the puck behind his own blueline, but ramped things up in the third when he matched up against Kopitar more than once and held his own. Earned an assist with his slick outlet to McDavid on the empty-netter.
#25 Darnell Nurse, 7. Logged a massive 28:10 on what in Oscar Klefbom’s absence is clearly the Oilers’ top pairing. Made a number of solid defensive stands. Moved the puck OK at times, scattergunned his passes at other times. Jumped into the rush, and tested Petersen with a couple of strong shots. Made a terrific play on the empty netter to anticipate and intercept a Kings pass along the end wall, secure the puck and make a decent outlet to McDavid who keyed the breakout. 5 shots, 4 hits. 2 blocks and the best on-ice shot differential of any Oiler.
#29 Leon Draisaitl, 8. Opened the scoring with a bar-down rocket off a McDavid feed that one time Edmonton got a powerplay for 10 seconds. Rang another shot off a post on a 2v1 break, was robbed from point blank range when he tried to deposit an RNH rebound, was denied again from the edge of the crease by a brilliant Petersen pad stop, and yet a fourth time on a backhand to forehand spinaranma shot on the powerplay. Made a number of strong rushes through the neutral zone. Took a careless high-sticking penalty late in the second that led to the Kings cutting the deficit to 3-1 before the buzzer. Posted a splendid 13/21=62% on the dot on a night every other Oiler was below the waterline.
#39 Alex Chiasson, 5. One near miss on a jam play inside the blue paint on the powerplay, otherwise quiet. Did get into a hard scrum with Derek Forbort, who didn’t seem to appreciate Chiasson’s presence in the blue paint.
#41 Mike Smith, 7. After a low-event first period, Smith had to be sharp early in the second when he faced 5 shots in the first 2 minutes. He held the fort then, allowing the Oilers to maintain their 1-0 lead which they began to build on minutes later. Beaten on a pair of lasers to the top corners, his team battened down the hatches, with Smith’s puckhandling acumen keying a few breakouts down the stretch. 23 shots, 21 saves, .913 save percentage.
#49 Tyler Benson, 5. Robbed from close range when he fired a strong one-timer off a fine Archibald feed. One ugly pass across the offensive blueline directly on to the stick of an opponent, otherwise worked the puck smartly and in the right direction.
#52 Patrick Russell, 6. Some excellent grinding and boardwork. Showed his smarts on one play when he got pushed back over the red line with the puck but slammed on the brakes, did a sharp reverse up the boards to enter the zone and start another cycle. Earned an assist for winning a puck battle just inside his own blueline before his oh-so-temporary linemate, McDavid, did the rest by turning the possession into a spectacular goal.
#56 Kailer Yamamoto, 7. Gave everyone a scare when he fell awkwardly late in the first, but returned early in the second. Earned an assist when he won a race to a puck on the side wall and chipped it back to Jones for the point shot. Twice set up Draisaitl for an excellent chance. 0 shots but a number of fine passes and won battles.
#74 Ethan Bear, 7. Played 26:58 to establish a new career high. Among his added workload was time on the first powerplay unit, even as most of this game was played at even strength. So many smart moves with the puck behind his own blueline to create time and space for himself to get it moving north. One splendid stretch pass to RNH for an odd-man rush. Is clearly the top right-shot d-man on the team in his rookie season. Made a number of defensive stops.
#82 Caleb Jones, 7. Earned an assist on Edmonton’s first goal by jumping on a loose puck in the offensive zone and feeding it to Draisaitl. Earned another one on the 2-0 tally when his quick one-timer from the point was expertly tipped home by RNH. At the other end he was susceptible at times to heavy forechecking pressure, but moved the puck slickly at other times top evade it. Was burned badly by speedy Adrian Kempe who
#83 Matt Benning, 6. Played just under 10 minutes on the third-pairing. Sawed off on the scoreboard while posting strong shot shares. Landed a booming hit on Blake Lizotte.
#84 William Lagesson, 5. He too played a shade under 10 minutes. Did get 1:35 on the PK, tops on the team, but it didn’t all go well as he was victimized on the Kopitar powerplay tally. Fired 2 shots on goal at one end and blocked 3 at the other, the best of them erasing an odd-man rush in the early going.
#89 Sam Gagner, 5. His best moment came as a decoy when he joined McDavid on an odd-man rush and occupied Drew Doughty’s attention as McD worked his magic on the other wing. But was a bit slow on the backcheck on the 3-2 goal. Played nearly 14 minutes, virtually all of it with McDavid, but was unable to generate a shot on net.
#91 Gaetan Haas, 6. Whizzed around on a marginally-effective fourth line that largely kept the puck at the good end of the ice. Drew a penalty when he was tripped by the dastardly Dustin Brown.
#93 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 8. Scored his 18th of the year on a lovely mid-air deflection that caught Calvin Petersen moving away from the near-side post to track the original shot. Was central to 4 other good scoring chances, 0 against. Diligent on the backcheck and clever with the puck. Had an important shift in which he drew the penalty that nullified Oilers’ first penalty kill and ultimately enabled the Draisaitl powerplay snipe seconds after the 4v4 ended.
#97 Connor McDavid, 9. Returned to action only to discover that NHL referees standing 10 feet away are still unable to detect a Drew Doughty slash on his hands, this one nullifying yet another McDavid breakaway. One wonders what on earth the stripes are looking at when they miss stuff like this time and again, and again, and yet again. He barked at the zebra after that one, to the usual no avail. Made good a couple of shifts later on another solo rush when he convinced everyone in the rink he was going to pass it to Gagner but instead took it to his own backhand side to make the deposit. Made a slick return pass to Draisaitl on the 1-0. Made two important handles on the final goal, the second of them springing Archibald for the breakaway.
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