Well that was something, wasn’t it?
An up and down, back and forth game from start to finish saw the Oilers and Kings trade leads up until late in the third period when the Oilers would take it for good. Edmonton moved to 2-0-0 in this young season while the Kings dropped their opener to fall 0-1-0. Yours truly was at this one and let me tell you something, that was a fun piece of consumable entertainment. And the result? Chef’s kiss. Bellissimo.
The Oilers started this one hot with Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Zack Kassian on the front foot from the opening faceoff. Less than a minute in, McDavid threw the puck to the danger zone in front of Jonathan Quick, and a couple of bounces later it slid into the back of the net, last touched by an LA King. 1-0.
It wouldn’t take the Kings long to answer, however, as Mike Smith was up to his old tricks venturing way out of his cage to try and beat a forechecker to a loose puck. Needless to say, he didn’t, and the Kings tapped into a wide open cage to tie it 1-1 before the five minute mark.
Another Mike Smith classic a few minutes later led to another Kings tap in and the visitors took the lead for the first time, but it wouldn’t take the home side long to answer through James Neal. Arguably Ken Holland’s most significant acquisition this summer, Neal was in the right place in front of the net to bang home a rebound on the power play to level it at 2-2.
That wouldn’t be all for the first period, however, as Dustin Brown created some havoc on the rush and cleared a path for a streaking Anze Kopitar to pick up the loose puck behind him and beat Smith through the five hole to give the Kings the lead back. And that’s how it would end after 20 minutes, with the Kings ahead 3-2 despite the Oilers outshooting them 10-8.
Full disclosure, I was just returning to my seat as Kassian scored, so I missed everything leading up to it. Bring cash to the game, don’t be a rube like me and stand in one of those lines at intermission, you might miss something.
Conversely, my timing was impeccable. Connor McDavid did Drew Doughty dirty in the left corner before finding Draisaitl in the left slot. The Good Doctor then fired a laser beam through the crease to a waiting Zack Kassian who redirected home for his second of the season to tie the game at 3-3.
The Oilers continued to push throughout the middle frame but couldn’t solve Jonathan Quick, though come period’s end the Oilers had firmly asserted themselves as the better side despite a few mistakes here and there. Mike Smith appeared to settle in a little bit as well but in fairness to his team, the Oilers flexed a little in the second, with the bulk of the action in the latter half being played toward the Kings’ goal.
But ultimately, neither side could draw blood and the period ended with the score still tied at 3-3, and the Oilers still in front on the shot clock.
It’s a good thing most people had already bought their 50/50s come second intermission as I was able to rip around the upper concourse and find a couple sellers (as you do, for luck) before the intermission ended. And good thing, too, because the third period was crazy town. Like that band, Crazy Town.
The Kings came out of the break with impetus and took it to the Oilers for a couple of minutes before finally seeing that pressure tell. Less than four minutes into the final frame, Michael Amadio saw a deflected Kyle Clifford shot bounce right to himthat he managed to bat past Smith to give the Kings the lead 4-3.
But tonight’s Oilers wouldn’t be denied. Roughly a minute later, heady play by Gaetan Haas to hammer the puck forward on an OZ draw allowed him to corral the loose puck and direct it to the crease, where Joakim Nygard waiting. He managed to stuff it past Quick for his first NHL goal (and Haas’ first NHL point) and the game was again tied 4-4.
And then the Oilers found some penalty trouble. Ethan Bear got the gate for holding Amadio before Edmonton received their third bench minor this season for too many men. The 5 on 3 would yield nothing, but the Kings managed to sneak in a power play goal via Drew Doughty before the bench minor expired. 5-4 them.
Remember Tomas Jurco? The pleasant surprise from training camp who had to miss out on game one through a minor medical issue? Well, he drew in tonight for the ill Josh Archibald and introduced himself to the home crowd with aplomb. After gathering on the left side, he absolutely humiliated Matt Roy with a little how’s-your-father deke to create a 2-on-1 situation before finding a trailing Darnell Nurse to slot one past Quick and tie the game. It really was brilliant, and if you haven’t seen it yet, you should. If nothing else, it always warms the cockles to see a son meet his father for the first time, even if you could argue that what Jurco did to him would qualify for abuse in most jurisdictions.
About three minutes later, the Oilers found themselves on the power play again and once again it was James Neal playing Jimmy on the Spot to shove home a loose puck and give the Oilers the lead 6-5.
And this time, it stuck. A few nervy moments — in part because Neal whiffed on an empty net odd-man rush and took a tripping penalty — were brushed aside by a resilient group who refused to quit on this night and managed to earn all two points (with no extras given to their divisional opponents) in a game that required six goals and contributions throughout the lineup to do it. And their goalie spotted their opponents at least two free ones and let in another two he’d probably like back. Can’t hate that.
So far, so good. Dave Tippett seems to be doing his best to get the most out of an obviously incomplete group, and he’s got 2 wins and 4 points to show for it. Mike Smith is almost certainly going to give me an aneurysm, but for the most part he’s been good enough at the most critical points of each of the last two games, and has at least helped the Oilers see two leads turn into wins. His deftness when playing the puck is, by my eye, incredibly overblown, and when the worst case scenario is giving another NHL team two actually free goals, it makes me think he should probably attempt to do it less. It will be interesting to see whether Tippett gives him carte blanche back there, or whether he reigns in Smith’s outrageousness even a little bit.
Connor McDavid looks 100 emoji, and that’s a relief to us all.
Leon Draisaitl has started this year as if he’s been shot out of a cannon, and when he’s flying out there at this level he almost always looks like he’s among the very best players on the ice.
James Neal has proven himself more useful in two games than Milan Lucic has in two years. Still not sure how Ken Holland pulled that one off. I feel like he found Treliving’s phone unlocked one day and the camera roll was full of Naruto cosplay. I mean, how else can you explain it? No team owes the Oilers anything, but for the Flames to extend them that olive branch?! It’s inexplicable. An unsolved mystery indeed.
*All numbers 5v5 and courtesy Natural Stat Trick.
CF%: 36-40 47.37%
FF%: 26-29 47.27%
SCF%: 18-18 50%
HDCF%: 10-9 52.63%
Shots: 21-23 47.73%
Golazos: 3-4 42.86%
The Oilers (2-0-0) head east for a four-game road trip beginning on Tuesday night against the New York Islanders (0-1-0).