Analysis: 'I think we owe them.' Kings eager to flip the script with the Oilers

As rites of spring go, it’s not as celebrated as the swallows returning to Capistrano. But the Kings’ returning to Edmonton for the NHL playoffs is seemingly becoming just as common.

And after a wild conclusion to the NHL season Thursday, that’s just where they’re headed for a third straight year.

Know what else has become almost as predictable? The Kings ending their season against the Oilers, a script the team hopes to flip this spring.

When the teams meet Monday in their playoff opener, it will mark the 10th postseason meeting between the two rivals; neither have faced a single postseason opponent more often. However the series has been anything but even with Edmonton winning seven of the nine previous series.

In fact, the Kings haven’t beaten Edmonton in the postseason since 1989, Wayne Gretzky’s first season in Los Angeles.

“There’s no question we’ve got a history with them,” Jim Hiller, the Kings’ interim coach said.

“We definitely want to beat them now,” added forward Quinton Byfield, who scored his 20th goal of the season in a 5-4 overtime win over the Chicago Blackhawks in the Kings’ regular-season finale. “I think we owe them.”

Quite a bit of work went into making next week’s rematch happen.

The Kings went into Thursday’s game holding the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoffs and anticipating a first-round match-up with the Dallas Stars, the team with the second-best record in the NHL and one which has owned the Kings this season. To avoid that, the Kings had to beat the Chicago Blackhawks — or at least take them to overtime — while the Vegas Golden Knights, the reigning Stanley Cup champions, had to lose their final regular-season game to the visiting Ducks.

The second part of that equation seemed improbable: The Ducks not only had the third-worst record in the league, but their 24 road losses were third-worst in the league as well. Vegas, on then other hand, had one of the NHL’s best home records.

Vegas lost.

It was a result that appeared to knock the Kings, whose game started a half-hour later, a bit off balance when they headed out for the third period leading Chicago 3-1.

“It’s hard not to think about the whole picture, I guess. We kind of knew what the score was going out,” Kings captain Anze Kopitar said.

All the Kings had to do was protect their lead, then pack for Edmonton. But less than seven minutes into the period, they were trailing after Tyler Johnson, Joey Anderson and Ryan Donato scored for the Blackhawks.

Hiller immediately called a time out, but the Kings needed a little time and a lot of luck to regroup. Both came together seconds after Hiller pulled goaltender Cam Talbot to get another attacker on the ice with 1:46 left in the game.

The luck came first. With the Kings’ net empty, Chicago’s Philipp Kurashev knocked the puck over the glass, drawing a penalty for delay of game. Then came the composure with Viktor Arvidsson tying the game for the Kings with his second goal of the night 21 seconds after Kurashev went to the penalty box.

“We showed character,” Arvidsson said. “We settled down and we took a timeout and kind of regrouped and went after it again. After that timeout, we were pretty much having the puck the whole time.”

Because the NHL’s tiebreakers favored the Kings, the one point they earned for taking the game to overtime was enough to lift them over Vegas in the Pacific Division standings and change their playoff destination from Dallas to Edmonton.

“Didn’t plan on going down one goal, but I guess we got the job done in the end,” Kopitar said. “We’re going back to Edmonton.”

And they’re taking a little momentum with them after Adrian Kempe scored his 28th goal of the season six seconds into overtime to give the Kings the win, their 10th in the last 15 games. Trevor Moore had the other goal for the Kings, his team-leading 31st of the season, while Phillip Danault had three assists.

The first two games of the best-of-seven series will be played Monday and Wednesday in Canada before the series moves to the Arena on April 26 and 28th. The playoff would then return to Edmonton for Games 5 and 7, if necessary, with Game 6 scheduled for Los Angeles.

Hiller, for one, can’t wait to get it all started.

“We’ve played big games against Edmonton,” he said. “Played in the playoffs against them last year. We’ve had big games this year against them up in that building. It’s a feeling of excitement.

“I don’t imagine it would be any different.”

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top