Oilers get back to simple, successful formula in much-needed win over Kings

Leon Draisaitl had a goal and an assist, Connor McDavid added another pair of assists and Zach Hyman pushed his goal streak to five games as the Edmonton Oilers defeated the Los Angeles Kings 4-2 to snap a three-game losing skid.

EDMONTON — They are ploddingly boring, these Los Angeles Kings. They shun the forecheck. They eschew wide-open hockey.

They are the rag in hockey’s drain, clogging up the neutral ice like Jacques “The Mad Trapper” Lemaire’s soul-crushing teams in Jersey and Minnesota.

When they were winning Stanley Cups playing this way, you could at least justify the excruciating tedium.

But today?

Today, the style these Kings play is good for one thing: focusing an opponent which has been searching to dumb its own game down for about three weeks.

“The game that they present is for us to be patient,” said Edmonton Oilers defenceman Mattias Ekholm, fresh off a 4-2 win that broke a tie in the Pacific Division standings with the Kings. “As soon as you get out on your own and try to dangle it through, it’s hard to get through that neutral zone. They usually break it up and come the other way.

“I think it was great timing to have them come into our building.”

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The Oilers came as close to a 60-minute effort as they have since they left for the Mexican beaches of the All-Star break, coming from behind twice before breaking the Kings’ stultifying posture in Period 3.

An Oilers team that set a team record by going 14 straight games allowing two goals or less prior to the break, immediately began a 10-game run of allowing three goals or more upon its return.

This game, though less than thrilling, represented a return to the kind of defensive posture that had Edmonton feeling pretty good about itself not long ago.

“I think this is more of the recipe that we are looking for,” Ekholm said. “I thought the third was outstanding from our group. We were patient and played really poised when we had to. We played good defence.”

It was the 10th win this season for Edmonton when tied after two periods, tied for the league lead in that department with Florida.

“It’s probably a good timing the way our game was trending lately, to have a game where you have to play simple and stay in it the whole 60,” said Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who scored the insurance market on a sweet feed from Connor Brown. “We did a great job of that.”

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Evan Bouchard wired home the game-winner, neatly picking a high corner through a Zach Hyman screen from 55 feet out. He has a rocket for a shot, but that’s not his best attribute said his partner Ekholm.

“I think the accuracy is the thing that stands out,” Ekholm said. “He can really get velocity … but look at the goal tonight. It’s the top corners that are picked. That’s where he puts them.”

“It’s a good shot from the point,” admitted L.A.’s Anze Kopitar. “I should have been better in the lane to kind of discourage that shot. But there was still 19 minutes left in the game that we could have come back from. We didn’t create as much as we wanted and didn’t spend enough time in their zone.”

Predictably, behind a stiffer defensive posture, Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner looked better than he has in some time. He ended up facing 40 shots as the Kings came on with their goalie David Rittich on the bench, and Skinner was more solid than spectacular.

Leon Draisaitl found his game as well on a two point night (1-1-2). He’s a leader that is counted on here in Edmonton, and against the Kings, Draisaitl played his best 200-foot game in a while.

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“I thought Leon played really well tonight,” said head coach Kris Knoblauch. “Goal and an assist, and a lot of good defensive plays, breaking up plays on the back check. Yep, more of what we like.”

L.A. winger Adrian Kempe went to the Kings dressing room with what looked like a left arm or wrist injury with 1:35 to play. A deft offensive player, the Kings could have used him with their goalie pulled, but will now await news on the diagnosis of Kempe’s injury.

“I don’t have one,” said Kings head coach Jim Hiller after the game. “But for him, not to finish the game means something’s not right, because it was a big moment.”

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