Anze Kopitar, Alex Iafallo fuel Kings’ Game 1 overtime win against Oilers
EDMONTON, Alberta — The series opener between the Kings and the Edmonton Oilers did not disappoint in any way, shape or form.
Game 1 went to the Kings, who rallied to win, 4-3, on Alex Iafallo’s power-play goal at 9:19 of overtime on Monday night at Rogers Place, a rematch of last year’s opening round, won by the Oilers in seven games.
Kings center Anze Kopitar had pushed the game into overtime with 16.7 seconds remaining, scoring on a 6-on-4 advantage. The Kings were on the power play and pulled goalie Joonas Korpisalo for an extra attacker. Kopitar had a four-point night, adding three assists, including one on the game-winner in OT.
The reaction from the two men helping set up the game-tying goal was explosive and immediate with Phillip Danault and Viktor Arvidsson leaping in the air behind the net like little kids after Kopitar’s tap-in.
Kopitar factored in all three of the Kings’ goals in the third period, with secondary assists on Adrian Kempe’s two goals. Before Kopitar’s last-second drama, Game 1 between the Kings and the Oilers had been a two-man battle of offensive talent.
The game within the game: The Oilers’ Leon Draisaitl against the Kings’ Kempe.
Kempe, who scored 41 goals in the regular season, jump-started the offense, scoring twice in the third period. His first goal cut the Oilers’ lead to 2-1 just 52 seconds into the third. Draisaitl then put Edmonton back ahead by two goals, and again Kempe pulled the Kings back to 3-2.
Earlier, all the talk had been about Oilers star Connor McDavid. To the surprise of almost no one, it didn’t take Kings defenseman Drew Doughty long to get to the point, talking to the media after the morning skate.
“We don’t want to be going to the (penalty) box. I don’t know if we’re going to be taking dumb penalties on them or anything like that. But if we get a chance to try to smack him, we’re going to try to do that,” Doughty said.
Of course, ‘him’ would be McDavid, fresh off a 153-point regular season, which included 64 goals.
The Kings kept McDavid off the scoresheet but Draisaitl stepped in, starting the scoring with the first goal of the series and adding another at 8:46 of the third.
It might be possible to keep one of them in check but it is nearly impossible to contain both stars.
Still, McDavid was a factor, and, well, how could he not be?
One critical juncture came just past the midpoint of the first period with the Oilers leading 1-0 on Draisaitl’s even-strength goal at 6:57.
Doughty took a hooking penalty against McDavid at 11:25 and Mikey Anderson, Doughty’s defense partner, joined him in the box 30 seconds later, taking a holding penalty against McDavid.
Giving the Oilers a 5-on-3 advantage is like handing over a gift-wrapped present, considering they had the best power play percentage in NHL history this season. They converted on the two-man advantage with defenseman Evan Bouchard taking advantage of time and space, skating into the right circle and launching one past Kings goalie Joonas Korpisalo.
In Game 1, the Kings were without two of their key offensive cogs – injured forwards Kevin Fiala and Gabe Vilardi. Fiala played in 69 games and was the Kings’ second-leading scorer this season with 72 points, while Vilardi had 41 points in 63 games, putting him seventh in scoring among the Kings.
More to come on this story.