3 Keys to an Oilers Victory in Game 3 vs Kings

The Edmonton Oilers visit the Los Angeles Kings in Game 3 on Friday night. Their first-round series is tied 1-1 after two games in Edmonton, and the Oilers are coming off a statement 6-0 win.

This is a big game for both teams. The Oilers have the momentum, but the Kings will want to bounce back, especially at home. The Oilers’ special teams have dominated the Kings, the tides have turned in net, and the stars have shown up for the Oilers. Here are the three keys to a Game 3 Oilers victory.

Oilers’ Special Teams Killing Kings

Head coach Jay Woodcroft has completely turned the Oilers’ penalty kill around since taking over the team. They are aggressive in their own end and not so quick to shoot the puck down the ice. They have been great at running time off the clock and skating the puck out and even to the opposing team’s net if they have space (from “What have the Edmonton Oilers done differently under Jay Woodcroft and Dave Manson?” Edmonton Journal, 5/1/22).

Every member of the Oilers’ penalty kill has speed, and most of them like to score. It also helps that most of the Oilers’ penalty kill has an offensive mindset and knows how to create chances. Between Leon Draisaitl, Zach Hyman, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Kailer Yamamoto, and Ryan Mcleod, the speed and skill are there to take rushes the other way and score goals.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Edmonton Oilers
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The Oilers scored 11 shorthanded goals this season and many at key times. Nugent-Hopkins led the way with three shorthanded goals and five points, followed by Hyman with four points and three others with three, including Evander Kane, who didn’t get much playing time on the penalty kill.

Not only can the Oilers create offence while down a man, but they have also been exceptional at killing off penalties. In the final 15 games of the regular season, they allowed just three power-play goals on 43 opportunities and scored four shorthanded goals. They also added a shorthanded goal in Game 2 to go up 2-0 at an important moment (from “Los Angeles Kings disappointed in loss, but happy going home with split,” Edmonton Sun, 5/5/22).

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The power play is always a threat to score as long as Connor McDavid and Draisaitl are on it. Under Woodcroft, the Oilers’ power play scored in 22 of 38 games during the regular season for a total of 27 goals. They finished third in the NHL in power-play percentage at 26 percent and were much more dangerous in the first two games of the playoffs. They are 4/8 with the man advantage in the postseason and a perfect 8/8 on the penalty kill. There’s also no reason to think the Kings have found an answer to the Oilers’ special teams yet.

Storylines in Both Oilers and Kings’ Nets

Mike Smith continues to do great things in net for the Oilers since turning 40, while Jonathan Quick has enjoyed a career resurgence for the young Kings team and is giving them a chance to win the series.

Quick controlled Game 1 despite allowing three goals. He stopped 36 shots and several great opportunities as the Oilers tried to get back in the game. Moneypuck had Edmonton’s expected goals rate at 4.22 for Game 1, so Quick really stood on his head and stepped up. Smith was alright in the first game but was labelled the goat who cost the Oilers the game after his turnover up the middle.

Jonathan Quick Los Angeles Kings
Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Game 2 was a completely different story as the Oilers dominated play and it was too much for even Quick to handle. The first period was quiet but the second opened up the scoring. He ended Game 2 with a .833 save percentage but still stopped 30 shots, while Smith completely redeemed himself from his Game 1 blunder and stopped 30 shots for his fifth career playoff shutout. It also snapped his playoff losing streak at 10 games. With his losing streak and the Oilers’ playoff losing streak behind them, the team can move on and roll into Game 3 with a solid defensive game in front of a more confident Smith.

Oilers’ Star Players Outplaying Kings’ Young Lineup

Other than the Kings’ second line of Phillip Danault, Trevor Moore, and Alex Iafallo, the Kings haven’t produced much offence. Three of their four goals in the series have come from that line at even strength, and they all have recorded two or more points. However, despite their Game 1 dominance, the Oilers shut them down like the rest of the Kings in Game 2.

On the other side, the Oilers have two 100-point scorers who finished first and fourth in the NHL in scoring. The Kings’ highest scorer was Anze Kopitar, who finished the regular season with 67 points. McDavid recorded 12 more assists than that.

Leon Draisaitl Connor McDavid Edmonton Oilers
Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Oilers have seven players with two or more points, while the Kings only have the three players on their second line. McDavid has shown up to play and leads the series with four points. He has been flying, taking the body, and backchecking and has also been a key piece to the power play, which is 4/8, as I mentioned above. Both Draisaitl and Kane have two goals, Yamamoto has been playing some of the best hockey in his career, and Jesse Puljujarvi finally got on the board, which could give him confidence moving forward.

Related: Oilers’ Trade Candidates Barrie & Kassian Can Boost Value in Playoffs

The Kings knew they would have to be stingier defensively to knock off the Oilers in the first round, and so far, Edmonton has nine goals in two games. The special teams have been and should continue to play a huge role in the outcome of this series, while the Smith and Quick matchup is something to keep an eye on.

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