Kings @ Oilers Recap: Five Alive
The Kings faced a very fast Edmonton team in the second game of a back to back. Fortunately, they resembled the Oilers we all know and love from seasons past.
What could I say in the opening paragraph to make you the most happy? Dwight King returns to the lineup unexpectedly and scores a goal? Michael Mersch scores his first NHL goal? Dustin Brown scores a goal and has a three point game? Well, congratulations, because we're all winners thanks to the Oilers.
Despite the end result of a 5-2 victory, this was a very fun game to watch. The Edmonton Oilers are a young, fast team with a lot of offensive skill, and the Los Angeles Kings are a slower team just coming off a game the previous day. This meant a lot of zone entries for the Oilers, and a lot of shots. While the attempts were more even, the Oilers outshot the Kings every period of the game, including the scoreless first. They ended up with 44 shots in a regulation game, and the game included over 60 scoring chances between the two sides!
LA at EDM set a new season high for total event count last night - 135 at 5v5, 156 all sit https://t.co/mEeaK3ghbe pic.twitter.com/wSJ9hVBoi8— Natural Stat Trick (@NatStatTrick) December 30, 2015
So why are we talking about a Kings win rather than an Oilers win? It comes down to defense and lackluster goaltending. The Kings' first goal came early in the second period when Dwight King spotted an opening between the goalie's back and the post and pulled off a great bank shot. The second goal came when Andy Andreoff took the puck behind the net to try and create something. Rookie Mersch came down to the boards to help and came away with the puck. He headed directly to the front of the net and was able to stuff it between Cam Talbot's pads.
The Kings' third goal came as a result of a beautiful zone entry from Anze Kopitar. He entered the zone with four Oilers clustered near him and that gave him space to drop a pass to Tyler Toffoli on his wing who beat Talbot up high after he failed to come out and challenge the shot. Those three goals all happened within the span of 96 seconds and spelled the end for Talbot's night.
The Oilers did manage to respond, however. Their first goal started with a good zone exit by Darnell Nurse that allowed the Oilers to enter the zone with numbers and speed. Benoit Pouliot had room on the wing and scored a goal not all that dissimilar to Toffoli's goal just minutes prior. The Kings would reclaim their three goal lead when Dwight King's zone entry drew two defenders down low, and Brown's threat as a shooter opened a passing lane and wide open net for Trevor Lewis on the right side.
Mark Letestu brought the Oilers again within two after a nice below the net feed from Lauri Korpikoski. LA re-established their three goal lead for a third and final time when Dustin Brown was able to clean up some loose garbage in front of the net in the dying seconds of a third period power play. Despite the captain's three point night, Jonathan Quick also deserves credit after getting the nod on a back-to-back and facing 44 shots. The goals he faced were stoppable, but only allowing two on 44 shots definitely gives your team a solid chance to win.
It's easy to be happy with the team as a whole as well. All forwards saw at least ten minutes of ice time, and the second and third lines centered by Nick Shore and Trevor Lewis respectively were probably the most dangerous all night. Marian Gaborik was certainly playing with vigor, making some beautiful stick handles, great passes, and displaying some speed many would have thought was already lone gone.
The return of Dwight King was much welcomed and he put on a two point performance. He certainly looked like his old self. Michael Mersch's goal was what we've come to expect from his AHL highlights and he tied for the team lead in shots with four. The Kings head into Calgary on Thursday and could very possibly end their divisional road trip earning all possible points to pad an already sizable 11 point lead.