5 Times the Oilers Rallied to Win Series After Game 1 Home Loss

There is tension in Oil Country after the Edmonton Oilers dropped Game 1 of their first-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Kings, falling 4-3 in overtime at Rogers Place on Monday (April 17).

The loss was particularly painful, considering the Oilers twice led by two goals in the third period and gave up the tying goal with only 17 seconds remaining. Alex Iafallo then scored the winner for Los Angeles 9:19 into overtime.

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Unfortunately, this feels far too familiar for Edmonton fans, who have now seen their favorite team lose six consecutive Game 1s on home ice. The last time the Oilers opened the series with a win at home was on May 2, 1990, when they defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 in Game 1 of the 1990 Campbell Conference championship series.

But having been down this road before, Oilers loyalists also know that things could all work out in the end. Of the 11 series that Edmonton has suffered defeat in Game 1 of an NHL playoff series on home ice, it has rallied to advance five times, including just last year against these very same Kings also in the first round. In fact, two of the Oilers’ five journeys to Stanley Cup glory started with a loss in Edmonton.

So as the Oilers get set to host L.A. in Game 2 tonight (April 19), here’s a reminder to their nervous fanbase that this best-of-seven battle is still anyone’s for the taking, with a look back at each time the Oilers have won a series despite falling in the opener at home.

1987 Smythe Division Semi-Final – Oilers vs. Kings

There was already an undercurrent of uneasiness in Edmonton going into the 1987 Stanley Cup Playoffs, given how the 1986 postseason had ended for the Oilers. In search of a third straight championship, they were eliminated when they lost Game 7 of the Smythe Division Final on home ice to their most fierce rival, the Calgary Flames, after rookie Edmonton defenceman Steve Smith essentially scored on his own goalie, Grant Fuhr.

Goalie Grant Fuhr
Grant Fuhr, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by B Bennett/Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

Now just imagine the mood after the Oilers began their quest to reclaim the Stanley Cup with a 5-2 loss in Game 1 at Northlands Coliseum after giving up three unanswered third-period goals to the Kings, a team Edmonton finished 36 points ahead of in the regular season.

So what did the Oilers do? Only go out and set the NHL single-game playoff record for most goals with a 13-3 victory over L.A. in Game 2, and then go on to win the following three games to take the series 4-1.

1987 Campbell Conference Final – Oilers vs. Red Wings

It happened again in the spring of 1987. Four weeks following their Game 1 loss to L.A., the Oilers were beaten by the Detroit Red Wings 3-1 in the opening game of the Campbell Conference Final at Northlands Coliseum.

Related: 3 Takeaways From Oilers Game 1 Overtime Loss to Kings

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Between those two losses, the Oilers had reeled off eight consecutive victories, including a 4-0 sweep of the Winnipeg Jets in the Smythe Division Final. But the upstart Red Wings came into Edmonton and, buoyed by some terrific goaltending from Greg Stefan, played a textbook road playoff game, never trailing on their way to a two-goal win.

The Oilers, however, were the far superior team, and their skill and experience would prevail: after defeating Detroit 4-1 in Game 2, Edmonton won twice at Joe Louis Arena to take a 3-1 lead, and closed the series out with a 6-3 win back home in Game 5. Two and a half weeks later, they beat the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 7 of the championship series to win Edmonton’s third Stanley Cup.

1990 Smythe Division Semi-Final – Oilers vs. Jets

Not unlike Monday’s turn of events, the Oilers blew a pair of two-goal leads in Game 1 of the 1990 Smythe Division Semi-Final before losing 7-5 to Winnipeg at Northlands Coliseum. Matters got worse in Game 2 when the Oilers found themselves behind 2-0 at the end of the second period.

Craig Simpson got the Oilers’ comeback started with a goal early in the third period, and with just over seven minutes remaining Joe Murphy scored the equalizer to force overtime. Mark Lamb’s goal at 4:21 into sudden death gave the Oilers a 3-2 win and evened the series at one game apiece.

Craig Simpson Edmonton Oilers
Craig Simpson, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Graig Abel/Getty Images)

But these Jets weren’t the same pushovers of a few years earlier, and after dropping Games 3 and 4 at Winnipeg Arena, Edmonton was on the brink, needing to win three straight games to survive the best-of-seven series.

The Oilers did just that, beginning their march to the Stanley Cup Final, where they beat the Boston Bruins in five games to win the franchise’s fifth and most recent championship.

2017 Western Conference First Round – Oilers vs. Sharks

Edmonton’s first game in the first round of the 2017 NHL Playoffs, against the San Jose Sharks, was all about firsts: the first Oilers’ playoff game in 11 years; the first time the Oilers opened a series at home in 26 years; first postseason game at Rogers Place; and first NHL playoff games for current Oilers stars Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid, Darnell Nurse and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

Unfortunately, the party was spoiled when Melker Karlsson scored just 3:22 into overtime to give the visiting Sharks a 3-2 victory. Edmonton had exploded out of the gates to take a 2-0 lead in the first period but shot blanks the rest of the way in what is yet another instance of the Oilers blowing a two-goal Game 1 lead on home ice.

Game 2 would also prove to be about firsts: the first playoff triumph for the Oilers at Rogers Place, and the first postseason win for McDavid, who scored his first career playoff goal as Edmonton defeated San Jose 2-0 to square the best-of-seven series at one.

The Oilers went on to eliminate San Jose in six games, closing things out with a 3-1 victory at SAP Center for Edmonton’s first postseason series win since 2006. They were defeated 4-3 by the Anaheim Ducks in the second round.

2022 Western Conference First Round – Oilers vs. Kings

The Oilers’ thrilling 4-3 triumph over the Kings in the best-of-seven opening round of the 2022 NHL Playoffs didn’t begin promisingly.

With the 2020 and 2021 Postseasons held without attendance because of the pandemic, Game 1 marked the first playoff action since 2017 that Oilers fans could cheer on their team in person.

After falling behind 2-0, Edmonton fought back with two goals to draw even. The Oilers then rallied again after the Kings had reclaimed the lead at 3-2. But they had no reply for Kings center Phillip Danault’s goal with 5:14 remaining in the third period and wound up dropping Game 1 by a 4-3 score.

The loss left the Oilers with 12 losses in their last 14 postseason games dating back to the 2017 series against Anaheim, and plunged Oil Country into a despair not unlike what Edmonton woke up to on Tuesday (April 18) morning. But in Game 2, they responded with exactly what their fans hope to witness tonight: a blowout victory.

The Oilers defeated Los Angeles 6-0 to even the series, then took the lead with an 8-2 Game 3 result at Crypto.com Arena. The six-goal margin of victory is equal to Edmonton’s largest in the postseason since 1990. They faced more adversity after losing Games 4 and 5 but showed their mettle by staving off elimination twice, with victories in Game 6 on the road and Game 7 back at Rogers Place to take the series 4-3.

History shows there remains plenty of reason to believe in Edmonton. But it also can’t be ignored that the Oilers have never rebounded to win a series after losing the first two games; which brings the focus back to Rogers Place tonight. The series has barely begun and is far from over, but yet for the Oilers, Game 2 is pretty much a must-win.