Oilers @ Kings Recap: Nick of Time
The Oilers played their second game against the Kings down two key players: one to illness and another to a long term injury. They still proved to have enough speed and persistence late to give the Kings trouble.
Connor McDavid's Staples Center debut will have to wait, as he is out recovering from a broken clavicle. The Edmonton Oilers have also been ravaged by a flu bug that hasn't taken out their top center, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. The Oilers, a team stocked with young talent, still proved to have skill and speed enough to give the Kings fits as the game wore on.
This game got off to a roaring start for the Los Angeles Kings. They were in the OIler territory early with a strong forecheck, with Tanner Pearson being particularly tireless in his pursuit of the puck. He managed to win a puck battle behind the net and scoot a puck to Marian Gaborik, who had inside position on young defender Darnell Nurse. Gaborik squeaked it between the post and Cam Talbot's left pad and the Kings took the lead just over a minute into the game.
The opening goal set the tone for the period as the Kings were able to assert their position in the offensive zone for most of the period. The Kings were on a particularly strong push late in the period when a flubbed blue line pass gave Marian Gaborik an open lane to the net. Gaborik used his acceleration to beat the defender to the puck and used his body position to the get the initial shot off. The rebound ricocheted to Pearson, and he spun to face the net while protecting the puck with his body. He whipped the puck from one knee and the shot was simply too fast for Talbot to catch up with.
The score was 2-0 and the shot margin was 14 to 7 after a first period with pace that we usually don't see from the Kings. They tried to match the speed of the Oilers and were generally effective in doing so in a period that saw no penalties. Jonathan Quick also had a highlight-worthy moment when his flexibility and glove denied a quality chance at the left post.
The Kings again set the tone in the 2nd period, but not in a good way. Two early penalties by Dustin Brown and Alec Martinez gave the Oilers near consecutive chances on the power play. Fortunately for the Kings, their penalty kill has been rather good as of late, and they were able to kill the two penalties. However, at least one of the penalties was the result of offensive zone time for the Oilers, and the second draw was immediately following their first goal. The line featuring Taylor Hall was particularly effective in the second, and his strong work open up space coming into the zone and allowed him to find Leon Draisaitl for the Oilers' first.
The Kings struck back just three minutes later, and the Kings' offensive powerhouse second line reared its head again. Both Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli were doing good work along the boards despite the tight spacing of Oilers defenders on them. The stacked pressure allowed Milan Lucic to drift backward to the center of the ice where Toffoli was able to place a perfect pass. Lucic wasted no time placing a snap shot five-hole on Talbot, restoring the Kings' two goal lead after a stretch where they had getting outplayed.
That only covers the first half of an eventful second. The Oilers continued to generate chances at a high pace, and with about six minutes to go in the period, found themselves on an extended forecheck against the Kings' bottom line and bottom pairing. Teddy Purcell skated out to the blue line with the puck and fired a snap shot that Quick probably should have had, despite all of the traffic in front. The Oilers' deficit was again reduced to one goal, and their momentum was only impeded in the closing minutes of the period by taking a too many men penalty.
The Kings have had great power play success lately, but that largely failed to show on their man advantage. They struggled to keep the puck in and get any chances toward the net. Going into the third, the Kings were the benefactors of both hooking and slashing calls, but faced many of the same troubles they did on the first penalty. There were some shots on goal, but there were no extended periods of pressure as we've become accustomed to over the last handful of games.
Drew Doughty committed the third and final penalty by the Kings, a trip on Draisaitl near the midway point of the third. The Kings penalty kill was again strong and the Oilers never really looked any more potent than the good work they had been doing at evens. Things would finally get serious when Taylor Hall scored the equalizer just inside the five minute mark after slipping his defender and getting the puck in tight on Quick.
The Oilers were again pressuring the Kings when Anton Lander took an offensive zone penalty against Dustin Brown. The man advantage was again lackluster for the Kings, but it did allow for some relieving of the pressure that the Oilers had built up. As the Kings mustered one last entry just as the penalty expired, the puck found its way to Tanner Pearson along the boards, who fired a shot on Talbot. Nick Shore beat his man to the puck in the high slot and turned to fire a shot slightly reminiscent of Pearson's tally in the first. Milan Lucic parked in front of the net, as he has done a lot lately, and the screen was enough to allow Shore's shot to find the back of the net.
Nick Shore, who we've been increasingly fond off as the season goes on, scored his first goal since getting the Kings' first of the season on opening night against the Sharks. The goal proved to be enough, as the Kings weathered the Oilers' six man attack without allowing anything too dangerous. The Kings never threatened the open net, but it was enough to close out the game.
With the win, the Kings got a little breathing room atop the division and padded their ROW count, something we'll need to watch if the Kings plan on squeaking into the playoffs again. In general, it was a game where the Kings managed to capitalize on their good chances, which was fortunate because there were probably a few goals that Quick would like back.
Another couple of positives would be the Jeff Carter line and Drew Doughty. After the first line's good work in the first, the Carter line did its part by winning most of its matchups against the Taylor Hall line, and they pinned the puck in the offensive zone a few times on the penalty kill as well. Doughty was very effective against the Hall line as well, which is refreshing after a tough couple of games for that pair.
The Kings now head off on a five game road trip against a variety of opponents. Realistically speaking, the Kings should expect and hope to win at least three of those games, which will hopefully solidify their positioning atop the division.