The Los Angeles Kings began their first-round series on the road against the Edmonton Oilers on Monday, and it was quite the way to start the playoffs. A huge rally in the third period saw the Kings tie the game and eventually win in overtime. Here are four things we learned from the Kings’ perspective after Game 1.
Kings Win Special Teams Battle
Coming into this series, the Edmonton power play had set the record for the highest success rate in NHL history. The Kings had done a decent job of slowing it down during the regular season, but allowed two goals while shorthanded in their most recent meeting. It went a bit under the radar, but LA’s power play was also a very important part of their game. They finished as the fourth-best team in the league with the man advantage.
In the first two periods of Game 1, things did not go well for the Kings on special teams. They allowed a 5-on-3 goal in the first, with Drew Doughty and Mikey Anderson in the box, who are the Kings’ top two penalty-killing defensemen. However, this was the only power-play goal they allowed in three Oilers’ power plays, which was another key part of the game.
However, the Kings’ power play struggled in the first two periods. They didn’t score in four opportunities, with Alex Iafallo taking a penalty that ended the fourth power play. They really missed the dynamic playmaking skills of Kevin Fiala, as their play seemed static, and they were lacking someone who would try risky passes. The fifth attempt was successful and tied the game with 16.7 seconds remaining after they pulled the goalie to make it a 6-on-4. Then when they got a chance in overtime, a simple bumper play allowed Iafallo to redeem himself and score the winning goal.
Kings Able to Limit McDavid
It’s a tough task for any NHL team to completely shut down Connor McDavid. The best they can hope for is to contain him. Staying out of the box is a good way to not have him explode for a ton of points on the power play. It helped that the Kings had six power plays, and he has to play shorthanded. Overall, the Kings managed to slow him down.
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McDavid did not have a point in this game, something that only happened seven times in the regular season. At five-on-five, he had just one high-danger chance. The Kings used Phillip Danault against McDavid, as expected. The Oilers’ star played 18:33 at five-on-five, and Danault played 18:07. Vladislav Gavrikov was also strong against him, using his long stick to break up a pass that led to Adrian Kempe’s first goal in a four-on-four situation. He also had another key poke check on McDavid later in the third period.
We know the Kings won’t keep McDavid off the scoresheet in every game. In this one, however, they defended him as well as any team can. He drew two penalties that led to the goal with the two-man advantage, and that was the only point in which the Kings looked like they were really struggling to stop him.
Korpisalo Continues Stellar Play
Many had speculated that Joonas Korpisalo would get the nod over Pheonix Copley in Game 1. Korpisalo has some playoff experience and really impressed the coaching staff since being acquired on March 1. He looked like the right call in this game, especially in the first two periods when the Kings struggled to generate offense.
The Kings’ Finnish goaltender stopped 37 of 40 shots in the win, including all 12 shots in overtime. Edmonton looked like the winning team before the Kings drew a penalty, but Korpisalo kept them in it. He saved 1.37 goals above expected, based on the danger of the shots he faced.
“He gave us the game we anticipated he would. It’s expected of him and from him, he expects a lot from his teammates out in front of him, but when push came to shove, and he had to make a big save, he was there,” head coach Todd McLellan told LaKingsInsider.com about Koprisalo. This game should end any type of goaltending controversy or the thought of turning to Copley for Game 2.
Kings Show Resiliency with Comeback
The Kings experienced ups and down in nearly every series in 2014 when they last lifted the Cup. Individual games also have ups and downs, as things did not look like they would go in the Kings’ favor after two periods. The playoffs are about resilience, and the Kings showed a ton of that on Monday. Any number of small things can change momentum, and for the Kings it was a goal at the start of the third period that started to shift things in their favor.
This is where playoff experience comes in. It may be exaggerated, but veterans like Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty were very important to have in the dressing room after two periods when the Kings needed something to get them going. McLellan is also a coach who has been in a ton of playoff games, and won’t get rattled despite trailing in a game. Going into the third period, not many people would have expected the Kings to turn things around, but they found a way to create more scoring chances than they did in the first two periods. If they can build on the way they played in the third, they can win this series.
- It was good for Adrian Kempe to score twice in the third period. Kempe only scored two goals in the seven-game series last season, both in Game 5.
- McLellan seemed to switch his lines in the third period, especially in the bottom-six forwards. This could lead to some permanent changes next game, especially if Fiala and Gabe Vilardi are still out.
- When the Kings needed some energy in the first and second periods, it looked like it would come from Quinton Byfield. Byfield used his big frame effectively and also looked quick up and down the ice. He appeared to be much more comfortable tonight than he did in the playoffs last year.