EDMONTON — Leon Draisaitl continued his torrid start in the NHL playoffs, but the Edmonton Oilers also leaned on their depth in a 4-2 win Wednesday over the Los Angeles Kings to even their playoff series at a win apiece.
Draisaitl scored a goal and had two assists to lead Edmonton, which dropped Monday’s series opener 4-3 in overtime after twice leading by two goals in that game.
Klim Kostin produced the third-period game-winner Wednesday for Edmonton. Evander Kane contributed an empty-net goal and Derek Ryan also scored.
“You’re not going to win 16 games by your top two lines scoring every goal and doing everything,” Draisaitl pointed out in the post-game press conference.
“You need guys like Klimmer, you need guys like Derek Ryan to chip in every once in a while. All year, we’ve been really, really lucky at finding those guys and having those guys on our team.”
Oilers captain and NHL leading scorer Connor McDavid had an assist for his first point of these playoffs. He was held off the scoresheet in Game 1.
Edmonton’s goalie Stuart Skinner made 23 saves for his first career NHL playoff win. Kings counterpart Joonas Korpisalo stopped 33 shots in the loss.
Gabriel Vilardi and Philip Danault scored for the Kings. Vilardi returned to the lineup after sitting out the last nine games of the regular season and first game of the series with a lower-body injury.
Game 3 is Friday and Game 4 is Sunday at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles, where the Kings went 26-11-4 in the regular season.
The Oilers were minus winger Mattias Janmark, who blocked a hard shot with his foot Monday.
Defenceman Philip Broberg drew into the lineup as the Oilers went with 11 forwards and seven defencemen.
That configuration upped Draisaitl’s five-on-five minutes to 19 minutes 28 seconds, when his regular-season average was 17:06 at even strength.
He was involved in Edmonton’s first three goals. Draisaitl’s neutral-zone check on Arthur Kaliyev along the boards forced a turnover for Kostin.
The Russian skated the puck into the zone and wired a shot far side on Korpisalo, to the joy and relief of the sea of orange at Rogers Place.
“I was looking for Leo actually,” Kostin said. “I was just trying to give the puck (to) his hands. I trust him more than myself. I saw three guys around me. I had nothing to do (but) shoot the puck and it went in.”
Draisaitl’s blast off the back wall came out beside the net for Ryan to chip the puck under Korpisalo’s left pad at 6:57 of the first period.
Draisaitl dropped to one knee to snap a cross-ice feed from McDavid upstairs on Korpisalo at 12:06 for a power-play goal, and his third goal in two games.
“He’s been the best player on the ice for two games in the series, by far,” Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft said. “He found a way to get things done in different ways and it was a big reason we won the game tonight.”
Edmonton let Los Angeles back into the game a second straight game after building a two-goal lead, but the Oilers were able to close it out Wednesday.
“We don’t want it to happen every game, but these situations happen in playoffs,” Draisaitl said. “The momentum swings seem to be a lot bigger, a lot more dramatic and up and down than in the regular season.”
The Oilers scored on their one power-play chance and held Los Angeles to 0-for-4.
Trailing 2-0 after the first period, the Kings drew even with goals at 14:38 and 19:16 of the second.
Vilardi scored his team’s second goal driving the puck below the goal-line and putting a shot off the back of Skinner’s skate and into the net.
Danault halved the deficit by cutting in front of the net and lifting his own rebound over Skinner’s pad on the backhand.
“It’s a poor recipe for taking a swing at this team, falling behind,” Kings head coach Todd McLellan said. “When you’re ahead you have a much better chance of checking and not taking as much risk as you have to come back.
“The frustrating thing for me is that there were some things that we needed to do early in the game. We didn’t decide to do them until the second, third period.”
Los Angeles didn’t register a shot on net until 17:58 of the opening period, in which the Kings were outshot 11-3.
Notes: Anze Kopitar ranks second all-time in Kings playoff assists (51) behind Wayne Gretzky (65) … Draisaitl’s two goals in Game 1 made him the third-fastest player in the NHL to reach 60 career playoff points in 38 games, behind Wayne Gretzky in 26 games and Mario Lemieux in 34.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 19, 2023.
Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press