EDMONTON — Two points for Edmonton felt a lot like a win for Los Angeles, so everyone went home happy after a 4-3 shootout win for the Oilers over the Kings Wednesday night.
“We might have bent but we didn’t break,” Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft was saying, after it took everything his team had to beat a Kings team playing without eight regulars and a defence corps that was young and untested. “We didn’t have 65 minutes of perfect moments, but in the end we did whatever it took to find the two points.”
Give Los Angeles credit for nabbing a point in Edmonton, and clinging to second place in the Pacific one point ahead of the surging Oilers. This game was tied 3-3 after 40 minutes, and it was L.A. that controlled the third period, outshooting Edmonton 11-0 halfway through the period.
“The group we have playing right now did a real good job tonight,” said Kings coach Todd McLellan, whose team fell behind 3-1 but scored twice in 14 seconds to jump back into the game. “We had to scratch and claw to come back. It’s disappointing we didn’t get the point when the shootout starts, but as far as the rest of the game and finding guys to contribute, I thought we did a real good job.”
But don’t disrespect an Oilers team that had its ‘B’ game going for much of the night, yet hung around to win in a shootout. It was one of those, “they don’t ask how, just how many” wins, as Edmonton ran its home winning streak to eight games.
The climb to get past Los Angeles and into second place has been a long one, and Edmonton wakes up Thursday morning trailing by just a point with a game in hand on L.A. in a three-point game that no doubt miffed folks in Vancouver and Vegas.
“That was a playoff-type game,” said Leon Draisaitl, who notched his 49th of the season. “It was good to see that we can stick with it and come out on top at the end. That is a great sign for us. Who knows, we might see this team sometime down the stretch.”
Speaking of stretch runs, as Draisaitl and Toronto’s Auston Matthews trade punches in their quest for the Rocket Richard Trophy, tied with 49 goals apiece, Draisaitl admitted he is enjoying the theatre as much as the rest of us. He’s trying to keep pace as the Maple Leafs’ sniper seems to get one every single night.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t pay attention,” Draisaitl said. “It is impressive what he is doing. Teams focus on him and he scores 50 pretty much every year. It is fun to watch and we will see how it ends. Of course I would like to beat him, but he is a pretty good player himself. I don’t think he is going to stay at 49, to be honest with you.”
Of the two, only Draisaitl has a 50-goal, 100-point season under his belt, and he’s a lock for one this season with 49 goals, 48 assists, and 14 games left on the schedule.
Draisaitl will have to wait for another day for his milestone, but not Connor McDavid, who had a goal and a helper for an even 100-points on the season. It is the fifth career 100 point season for McDavid, with Sid Crosby being the only active NHL player who has posted more (six).
McDavid now has five 100-point seasons before his 25th birthday, joining Bobby Orr and Bryan Trottier. Wayne Gretzky (eight), Mario Lemieux and Dale Hawerchuk (six each) make up the rest of the exclusive club that McDavid joins with the milestone.
It’s crazy that these two are teammates, one-two in the scoring race for almost the entire season and two of hockey’s elite superstars in the prime of their careers.
“The rate that both are scoring at, and the consistency that they bring every single night putting up points is impressive,” said defenceman Cody Ceci. “That is what kind of drew me here in the summer time (as a free agent) was the chance to play with these guys and see how far we can go.”
Draisaitl and McDavid both beat Jonathan Quick on Edmonton’s two shootout tries, and with Mikko Koskinen stopping Viktor Arvidsson and Anze Kopitar it was that rare four-attempt shootout that sent 16,472 fans into an Edmonton spring night with hope for a playoff berth in a few weeks.
Edmonton is 4-0 in the shootout this year, and ran their home-ice winning streak to eight games.
“That is something that needed to improve from over the last couple of years. So far this season we have done that,” said Draisaitl, whose team is 22-12-0 at home. “We want to make this building a tough building for other teams to come in to and a hard building to play in. I think we have done a good job of that lately.”
Funny, it was a hard building for Derrick Brassard and Josh Archibald to play in Wednesday — and they both play for the Oilers.
The two third-line wingers played 6:03 and 7:56 respectively, as Woodcroft shortened his bench in a game with playoff implications.
“The players who perform will play,” the coach said. “And we want to make sure that there is competition for ice time.”