If you hadn’t noticed, let me point something out to you: in English, verbs have become nouns. Case in point: “to ask” is something one does. That’s what verbs are—actions. But “an ask” is now somehow a noun—that is, a thing. And that’s what LA tried to respond to on Tuesday—the “ask” that they somehow take game five in Edmonton to go up 3-2 in their playoff series.
But think about that—the Kings knew absolutely that they had to win a game in Edmonton. They could take game five, or they could take an eventual game seven. To do the latter, they’d have to get there, though, and that wouldn’t have been assured had Edmonton won game five at home.
That’s all off, because with a quick strike in overtime, Adrian Kempe made it possible for LA to finish the series in six games, with game six back home in Los Angeles on Thursday.
How’d that happen? Not without some drama, including a relatively late comeback by the Oilers to tie the game and push it beyond the first sixty minutes.
Period one, the Kings got a second post-season goal from Troy Stecher, the only scoring of the period. The Kings largely dominated the first twenty minutes, and Jonathan Quick was good in their net, though relatively untested. One very persistent backcheck by Arthur Kaliyev knocked the puck away from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to keep the game 1-0.
The best Edmonton try of the period was a Draisaitl chance one-timer where Quick came flying across the crease in the splits. A good test of Mike Smith in the Edmonton net came on Trevor Moore’s backhand shot shorthanded.
Period two saw Edmonton tie the game when Zack Kassian put one home, but all the work was done by McDavid. Off a scramble in front of the net, he took it around the cage and flicked it out to Kassian, who put it in. The Oilers maintained momentum, Warren Foegele making a rush on the left side. Quick responded with a save.
The Oilers didn’t relinquish the puck much over the course of the early part of period two. With seven minutes gone, they seemed much more aggressive and in control to my eye. With eight gone, Nugent-Hopkins, Kassian, and McDavid were doing it again—controlling play.
But the Kings reversed that on a good shift by the Kopitar line (Iafallo, Kempe), and then Kempe scored his first goal. The period was about halfway over, and this was not a good goal. Kopitar put it over to Kempe, who threw it at the net, between Mike Smith’s pads.
The game would see-saw over the thirty remaining minutes to end up 4-4 at the end of sixty minutes, with the Kings taking two-goal leads twice only to lose them.
Andreas Athanasiou got the next goal, at 13:34 of the second, to make it 3-1. This goal, like their prior one, was the result of hard work, this time a turnover forced by Dustin Brown as the Oilers tried to throw the puck up the ice.
The Kings then roared out for period three, Iafallo shooting and Kempe getting the rebound. Smith made the stop.
Then the Oilers captain came out of his semi-silence. Edmonton got a power play, and immediately, McDavid scored, burying the first shot off the faceoff. It came off a broken play where he took the puck to his right side, got Quick down, and threw it over top of him. That made it 3-2, LA advantage.
Phillip Danault got that back on a Kings’ PP, Kempe getting the assist by launching the puck at the net for Danault to put behind Smith from the edge of the crease.
The Oilers could have packed it in, down 4-2, but on the next play, Nurse put the puck to Nugent-Hopkins, who took a shot. Quick did a lovely splits save. There were eight minutes left. Had Edmonton been of a mind to give up, they could have comforted themselves by saying they could win in LA and then come back for a glorious game seven triumph at home, but hockey players never think two games ahead, so instead, Draisaitle got a shorthanded goal with about twelve minutes gone, then backed it up with a rush with McDavid where the puck came over and Draisaitle slammed it home from the right dot for his fifth post-season goal. This was at 15:08 of the third. OT loomed.
But not so fast. Darnell Nurse hit the post behind Quick with two minutes left, shooting towards the far side from the slot. He later put it to Draisaitl, who forced Quick to fight one off, getting a catching glove on it. Iafallo nearly sealed the game with less than ten seconds to play with a shot off a rush and a backhand that Smith got with a high glove hand.
So finally, everyone already having their money’s worth, OT.
The OT goal came off a slip of Evander Kane in the neutral zone. Kempe picked up the puck and went in on Smith. Here’s how he described the events leading up to the goal: “Great start by [Danault’s] line and the D who kept it in [Edmonton’s] zone for a minute. Forwards on our side changed in great time and [Edmonton] didn’t get the puck all the way down. We go it back into their zone, caught them on their heels when they were a little tired, and that was pretty much it.”
For even longer context, he explained what had transpired in the third period: “I think going back to the third period, we were up 4-2. They came back and definitely had some momentum going into the overtime. But we were talking in the locker room, ‘We’ve got to stick with it here; whatever happened, happened already,’ and we reset our mindset and went out to win the game.”
The goal itself was pure effort, Kempe carrying or beating all of McDavid, Duncan Keith, and Brett Kulak on the way to the net. He went right to left across the crease and scored by going backhand to forehand from his left-shooting position.
After the game, he summed up where the series sits: “There’s still a lot to play for, but obviously we’re very glad for where we’re at right now.”
The series has a 7pm Pacific start time on Thursday, so East Coasters need to plan for a late night, no matter which way the game breaks.
Brian Kennedy is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. Please follow him on Twitter @growinguphockey.