The Edmonton Oilers (2-2) were back home on Tuesday night for Game 5 of the Western Conference quarterfinals against the Los Angeles Kings (2-2). Edmonton laid an egg last time out, getting outworked, outshot, and outscored en route to an 0-4 shutout loss and a 2-2 series tie. LA was the better team from the opening face-off and Edmonton couldn’t claw their way back, losing a game in which Mike Smith had 40+ saves. You hate to see it. Tonight, Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft changed a few things around, welcoming Derek Ryan back from a brief injury hiatus and swapping a few players in the top 9. Kailer Yamamoto drew in at 1RW, with Ryan McLeod taking his spot on L2 and Jesse Puljujarvi sliding down to, theoretically, give Ryan Nugent-Hopkins some even strength help on L3. Mike Smith and Jonathan Quick got the starts, as per.
Keeping with what has become somewhat of a theme throughout this series, the Oilers started sluggishly in this one. Tonight, it took Los Angeles less than 5 minutes to make them pay for it. Troy Stecher walked into one from the top of the right dot and beat Smith blocker side. 0-1.
The Oilers were probably fortunate it took LA even that long to score as, on the game’s first shift, Phillip Danault’s line manufactured a wonderful one-time chance for him between the hashmarks but all he could do was fan on it.
Edmonton could find little in terms of a response and were on the back foot for most of the first period. Zach Hyman did manage to draw a penalty around the halfway mark but the ensuing PP was horrendous. Sure, Leon Draisaitl hit the post from his office, but otherwise LA was able to keep the premium chances at a minimum and force a few faceoffs in the Oilers’ zone. Ugly.
The period followed that script from start to finish. Edmonton offered very little throughout. Maybe Woodcroft should have kept the series’ best line together and played them like the elite-results-line they are instead of mixing it up. SOGs were 16-5 LA, with LA accounting for roughly 75% of the expected goals in the first period.
Off the opening faceoff, Danault caught Evander Kane in the mouth with either a cross-check or a butt-end (I think it was incidental, but still) and Kane responded by punching him right in the mush. This led to a scrum and, when the dust settled, Kane took two minors and LA’s Trevor Moore took one of his own.
The Kings couldn’t extend their lead on the man advantage and the Oilers would make them regret that almost immediately after the successful PK. Zack Kassian, in the box to serve one of Kane’s two minors, joined the play and got in on the forecheck. He worked the puck back to Brett Kulak, whose shot hit a King tangled up with McDavid in front. McDavid reacted first, collecting and wrapping around the net before dishing to Kassian at the corner of the blue paint to tap in from close range with Quick still looking for his jockstrap. 1-1. LFG.
Edmonton found some wind after the equalizer and started to take over, but LA was able to handle the push and get their noses in front once again. LA weathered a bit of a storm from the 1L — now with more JP as both Yamamoto and McLeod saw their TOI dip in P2 — but then caught Jesse Puljujarvi and Kane both at the end of a long shift. This led to a spell of OZ pressure before Duncan Keith appeared to have things under control. Appeared.
He heard footsteps as he was walking out from behind the goal line and threw it into trouble. LA transitioned quickly and punished him for it, with Adrian Kempe beating Smith along the ice to put the visitors back in front. 1-2.
About four minutes later, the Kings got another one. This time, Brett Kulak served up the spicy meatball that Zach Hyman couldn’t collect. Dustin Brown turned him over immediately and, with Smith down early to challenge the shot, Brown opted to pass instead to former Oiler Andreas Athanasiou for an easy one. 1-3.
Whatever momentum Edmonton got from Kassian’s equalizer was long gone. The rest of the period was relatively low event until Kane and Kassian took penalties on the same play with 2 minutes left. Kane both elbowed and kneed Blake Lizotte, which Sean Durzi didn’t like. He and Kane scuffled and Kassian snuck up behind him and cross-checked him. Our heroes.
Edmonton, in what was a must-win game, had 14 SOGs after 40 minutes. Grim.
Smith had to be sharp in the first minute as Evan Bouchard blew a tire at the OZ blue line which led to a Kings odd-man rush. Fortunately, he was equal to both the initial shot and the dangerous rebound and the Oilers lived to fight another day.
A shift or so later, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was high sticked by Lizotte in the DZ, and the Oilers were back on the PP. Off the initial faceoff, the puck dribbled into the low slot. McDavid acted first, waited out Quick, and roofed the backhand to send Rogers Place into ecstasy. 2-3. LFG.
The good vibes lasted for a shift or two before McDavid was called for tripping Dustin Brown after the Kings tried to push back rather than simply weather the storm. The Oilers did well through most of McDavid’s minor before Ryan McLeod turned Matt Roy over at the blue line and was in a foot race for a shorthanded breakaway. Unfortunately, while battling with Roy for position, he high sticked him and opened him up. Double minor and a brief 3v5. Uh oh.
LA made that golden opportunity count. Adrian Kempe faked the shot and sent a pass to Danault to Smith’s left. He deflected it underneath Smith’s left armpit and put LA in front by 2 once again. 2-4.
At that point, it felt extremely over, and it felt like exactly what Edmonton deserved given the last 5.5+ periods. Frankly, at least to me, it was beginning to feel like the season was over. It was grim. But, remember, I don’t know shit.
Shortly after, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl found themselves out at the end of the McLeod penalty to kill the last few seconds. They were doing that well enough, but they found some hope. McDavid collected the puck inside the Oilers blue line and was off to the races with Brett Kulak and Draisaitl trailing. McDavid’s pass to Kulak forced Quick to make a move, before sitting up for Draisaitl in the low slot with nothing but net to shoot at. He made no mistake and buried it to bring Edmonton to within 1. 3-4. LFG.
The Oilers continued to push but couldn’t find another. That is, until Danault took a penalty for hauling down Kane, who was selling out to get a stick on the puck and tap it back to the point. The Oilers PP hopped over the boards and proceeded to operate, with a lovely bit of flinging it around the zone culminating with a vintage Leon Draisaitl one-timer from his corner office. You know the one. With the view. 4-4. Ecstasy at Rogers Place. Mayhem. Disbelief. LFG.
Edmonton tried to ride its momentum to a regulation win but couldn’t find one. LA tried to do the same on at least one occasion but couldn’t get anything over the line either, and so we headed to sudden death overtime.
72 seconds in, Adrian Kempe beat Duncan Keith wide before beating Mike Smith, too. 4-5.
I was team Woodcroft forever. Might even be a founding member. What I saw tonight leaves me wanting his resignation. Jesse Puljujarvi — 4th on the team at 57.92% xGF% after 2 periods — didn’t touch the ice at all in the third period or OT. Unless he’s dealing with many — and I do mean many — broken legs, it’s completely inexcusable. Josh Archibald took shifts — at even strength — in the third period. But JP didn’t. Give me a fucking break.
Look man.— Copper & Blue (@CopperandBlue) May 11, 2022
Woodcroft and Co deserved to lose tonight. Horrendous performance.
The #Oilers had no business getting to OT but Connor McDavid took over in a way you simply don't see. Ever. Even with McDavid going FULL McDavid, they couldn't win.
Game 6 with the season (and hopefully Ken Holland’s ass) on the line goes Thursday night at 8PM MST in Los Angeles.