Oilers send Kings back to the drawing board with dominant Game 1 win

Zach Hyman scored his first career playoff hat trick, Connor McDavid picked up five assists and the Edmonton Oilers defeated the Los Angeles Kings 7-4 in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.

EDMONTON — They loaded donairs into the t-shirt guns for Game 1, as Edmonton a thing as we could possibly imagine.

Then the Oilers ground the L.A. Kings into street meat, packed them into an orange Uber Eats satchel, and delivered them straight back to the drawing board in a 7-4 roasting that wasn’t nearly as close as the score suggests.

In a battle of two divergent styles, Edmonton owned Game 1 by dictating how the game would be played for most of the 60 minutes. This game was about skating, passing and carrying pucks into the Kings zone, rather than the more deliberate — and boring — type of game L.A.’s one-three-one alignment is designed to produce.

“That’s not our model. That’s not the way we play,” stated L.A. defenceman Drew Doughty, whose Kings have lost two straight Round 1 series to Edmonton and got waxed in the opener of the 2024 edition. “It’s frustrating. We just have to put that game in the past and get back to doing what we do best and that’s playing good two-way hockey.”

Edmonton won the fight for how the game would be played, and as such, took a 1-0 series lead in this Round 1 series.

“We know that’s their game. We know they’re good,” Doughty said. “We’ve played them so many times, but that was probably the poorest we’ve played against them in the last three years in my opinion.”

We’ve seen the Kings have success against Edmonton when they can do their thing. When they can force the Oilers to chuck pucks out of their zone, or get it to centre and dump it into the Kings end.

On Monday, Edmonton’s break-out execution was impeccable. They carried the puck over the Kings blue-line as many times as they dumped it in, and it was L.A. that grew more and more frustrated as the game went on, taking at least two obvious and needless penalties that ended up as power-play goals.

The Oilers buried them with three power-play goals, as their best players romped. Zach Hyman had a hat trick, Connor McDavid had five assists, and Evan Bouchard had four assists.

“We played with some desperation early on and tried to impose our will on them in the first period,” said Adam Henrique, who set a new NHL record with 4,333 days between playoff goals. “That’s something we need to be able to carry over for 60 minutes.”

A big story coming in was the Kings stellar penalty kill, but it was perforated on a three-for-four night for the Oilers power play. In particular, a dangerous low-bridge hit by Trevor Moore near the end of the second period allowed Edmonton to restore a three-goal lead just 1:08 into the period when Zach Hyman scored his second of three goals on the night.

“They had their push in the second, and grabbing a hold of it in the third and scoring a big power-play goal, that was just a huge goal to kind of settle the group down. And to kind of be the dagger,” said Hyman.

After a career-best 54-goal season, Hyman completed his first-ever playoff hat trick later in the frame. The sheer number of hats that fell from the pews at a packed Rogers Place — 1,131 by someone’s count — was remarkable.

“It is good for the Oilers Store,” joked Hyman. “That is crazy. I have never seen so many hats. It is pretty special to do it here in front of the fans.”

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The Oilers had lost seven consecutive Game 1’s coming into this series and hadn’t won one at home since May 2, 1990. It’s a sign of increased maturity and experience that, after L.A. opened the game with most of three minutes in the Oilers zone, Edmonton grabbed hold of the game and never let go.

“Starts are really important,” McDavid said, “especially against a team as well structured defensively as the Kings are. You have to get out to a good start, it helps if you can score the first one and it kind of forces them to open up a little bit.”

In goal, Stuart Skinner was infinitely better than Kings starter Cam Talbot, another matchup the Kings had better shore up.

Of L.A.’s four goals, two went in off of the skates of Edmonton defencemen, and a third occurred when Cody Ceci’s stuck exploded as he went to make a routine pass.

In a rivalry that has seen Edmonton skiing downhill of late, the Oilers have won 10 of the last 13 meetings.

Game 2 goes Wednesday. The Kings will go back to the drawing board as soon as they wake up Tuesday.

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