Kings rally late to take Game 1 against Oilers in overtime

The Sporting Tribune's Derek Lee recaps the Kings' Game 1 win over the Oilers.

Connor McDavid deked and dangled his way through the Kings’ defense before getting a shot off on Joonas Korpisalo. The Finnish netminder stood tall but McDavid drew his second penalty in the span of 31 seconds. In a way, it was a microcosm of the Kings’ performance through two periods on Monday night against the Oilers.

Both fourth lines had scoring chances early on in the game, with Rasmus Kupari barely missing high on Stuart Skinner. Warren Foegele slammed home a rebound but ran Korpisalo into the net in the process, negating the goal.

Edmonton struck early with a goal just seven minutes into the first period, courtesy of Leon Draisaitl, who became the third-fastest player to reach 60 playoff points––he reached the feat in 38 games. Only Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux reached the 60-point mark in a shorter period.

McDavid’s two penalties drawn in a short span gave the Oilers a 5-on-3 advantage and they didn’t waste any time. Evan Bouchard’s wrist shot beat Korpisalo––who might have been screened by Sean Durzi––up high on the glove side and pushed Edmonton’s lead to 2-0.

McDavid and Draisaitl, the two Oilers’ star forwards, showcased their skills all night and proved to be a challenge for Anze Kopitar and Phillip Danault, who were tasked with attempting to slow down the two high-octane players.

Draisaitl, in particular, showed his dominance with a pair of goals. Both came at even strength and both came off of loose puck recoveries. The first was a centering pass from Mattias Janmark that caromed off the skate of Matt Roy and fell right to Draisaitl. He didn’t waste any time in settling the puck before ripping it short side on Korpisalo. The second came after a mad scramble in front of the net, with Draisaitl eventually locating the puck and firing over a flailing Korpisalo.

Apr 17, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers centre Leon Draisaitl (29) celebrates a goal during the first period against the Los Angeles Kings in game one of the first round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t all bad for the Kings, but it did feel like they took a while to get into the game. They were heavily outhit in the first period and weren’t able to establish their cycle game very much. A lot of their game was predicated on perimeter play and allowed the Oilers to easily block several shots from the outside.

The differential might have been more if not for Korpisalo and Adrian Kempe. The latter had two of the Kings’ goals, the first a wicked backhander after a terrific defensive play by Vlad Gavrikov on the other end. The second was a well-placed shot over the blocker of Stuart Skinner after Quinton Byfield knocked the puck over to Kempe following a faceoff. The assist was Byfield’s first career playoff point.

A late power play in the third after Bouchard high sticked Trevor Moore gave Los Angeles a chance to even things up, with head coach Todd McClellan pulling Korpisalo to give the Kings a 6-on-4 advantage. The Kings, no strangers to dramatics, evened the score with 16.7 remaining in the third. Phillip Danualt’s one-timer squeaked through Skinner and Kopitar was Johnny-on-the-spot to tap home.

The late concession seemed to re-motivate Edmonton heading into overtime, as they came out with a burst of energy in the extra frame. The fourth line of Warren Foegele, Ryan McLeod and Derek Ryan created another good chance and Ryan looked to have the possible game-winner with his deflection of McLeod’s high slot shot. However, he deflected it with a high stick, negating the potential winner.

Korpisalo continued to stand tall following the disallowed goal. Racking up huge save totals in the playoffs is nothing new to him either. After all, he stopped 85 shots for the Columbus Blue Jackets against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 of their 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs matchup, an affair which took five overtime periods to conclude.

A power play after Vincent Desharnais tripped up Blake Lizotte proved to be exactly what the Kings needed. Kopitar and Viktor Arvidsson connected on a tic-tac-toe passing play to set up Alex Iafallo in the slot, who made no mistake and gave the Kings a 1-0 series lead.

The Kings came back not once but twice from two-goal deficits and really put their heads down and went to work when they needed to most. Sure, McDavid and Draisaitl had their way early on, but the Kings did well in holding their own and limiting the damage as best as they could.

The Oilers will surely come into Game 2 with something to prove after faltering late. They’ll need to make sure their effort from Game 1 is matched but extends all the way through until the final whistle. For the Kings, it’s a big morale boost to get the first win in the series. They were up late in the series between these two teams in last year’s playoffs but eventually lost in seven games to Edmonton.

LA will want to make sure they keep the advantage and don’t let up this time around. A lot of that will depend on how much scoring they get, regardless if Kevin Fiala and Gabe Vilardi return from injury.

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