Sorting by


Oilers seek more goals, fewer penalties in Game 4 of playoff series versus Kings

LOS ANGELES — Goals have been harder to come by in the playoffs for the NHL’s most prolific team, but Edmonton Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft believes that dam will break.

“For us, it’s keep hammering away at the rock,” he said Saturday in Los Angeles. “We know it will split eventually.”

The Oilers trail the Kings 2-1 in their first-round, best-of-seven series heading into Sunday’s Game 4 at Arena.

While captain Connor McDavid produced his first two goals of the playoffs on the power play in Game 3, the Oilers could use more even-strength production and secondary scoring to escape from L.A. with a split.

Four of Edmonton’s nine goals so far were scored five-on-five.

McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Zach Hyman have each yet to produce an even-strength point, despite Edmonton outchancing the Kings in that department.

“We haven’t scored as much as we want to score,” Woodcroft said.

“I think we can be patient and we are a patient group. I think if you looked at the scoring chances, it’s not close.

“Can we bear down in certain situations? Yeah, we can.”

While Edmonton’s power play has been the more efficient at 4-for-8, they’ve been short-staffed more than the Kings at 4-for-15.

“It’s hard to win games when you’re sitting in the box,” Edmonton defenceman Matthias Ekholm said. 

“Seeing our five-on-five game being pretty good, and I feel they have not a whole lot on the five-on-five, it’s an emphasis on us to try and stay out of that. We can do a better job in that regard.

“It’s also good knowing if we clean that area up, I see us being very dominant in every aspect of the game. They’ve had their moments on the power play. If we can keep them to a lower number, that would be great.”

Edmonton’s penalties have been ill-timed.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ overtime slash on Alex Iaffalo in Friday’s Game 3 gave the Kings the man-advantage for Trevor Moore’s game-winner.

While defenceman Vincent Desharnais’ tripping minor in OT of Game 1 was questionable, he did swing his stick behind him. Iafallo scored the OT power-play winner.

Evan Bouchard’s high-sticking penalty with less than two minutes remaining in that game was a back-breaker as it gave Los Angeles two extra attackers with goalie Joonas Korpisalo pulled. 

Kings’ captain Anze Kopitar scored the equalizer with just 16.7 seconds left. 

“I can’t tell you we’re going to have zero penalties tomorrow, that’s for sure. It’s going to happen,” Ekholm said. “The ones we can control, we’ve got to try to get them out of it. There are going to be battle penalties. They’re going to be when you try to prevent a goal.

“It’s just a matter of controlling the ones that are controllable and the other ones, we’ll deal with.”

In addition to the smart, heavy game the Kings have thrown at the Oilers, Korpisalo is a prime reason for Los Angeles’s lead in the series. 

Fans who bemoaned the loss of stalwart Jonathan Quick to get the Finn at the trade deadline likely feel better about the transaction because of Korpisalo’s .931 save percentage in three games.

“I think the playoffs, you’ve got to score dirty goals and you’ve got to be able to get to the paint and find those opportunities to make it difficult on him,” Hyman said.

“At this time of year, it doesn’t matter who scores. That’s the mentality amongst everybody in the room. You get enough guys going to the net, we’ll get a greasy one eventually.”

Woodcroft wasn’t willing Saturday to re-litigate the overtime goal review of the previous evening. 

Players stood by their team benches for several minutes awaiting the decision on whether there was a high-stick by the Kings seconds before Moore’s winner.

“I haven’t changed my opinion on it, but in the end, what I feel about a certain play of that magnitude and how it’s reviewed is immaterial,” Woodcroft said. “We don’t have control over it. It wasn’t called the way. We have a different opinion. We move on.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 22, 2023.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press