EDMONTON — Hockey’s most staunch cliché decrees that you’ve got to play the whole 60 to win in the playoffs.
The Edmonton Oilers tried to win a playoff game on about 15 minutes of hockey that you — that they — would consider adequate for the occasion, and in the end they got exactly what they deserved. And so did the Los Angeles Kings.
Adrian Kempe scored at 1:12 of an overtime session to give L.A. a 5-4 victory and a 3-2 series lead over an Edmonton team for whom the moment appeared to simply be too big in Game 5.
“We haven’t brought our best game yet,” said Oilers captain Connor McDavid who carried his mates to a third period comeback with a goal and two primary assists on the night. “They’re a good team… so it’ll take a complete game to beat them. And we haven’t brought that yet.”
Was McDavid inferring that too many of his teammates were no-shows? We would doubt that’s what he meant, though he’d be spot on if he had.
Even Leon Draisaitl — who is either sick, injured, or both — saved his impact for two third period goals, but was not a relevant player in the opening 40 minutes or overtime. As for the rest of the group, there were too many passengers here even for the great McDavid to lug over the finish line.
“As the game wore on, we found more and more players,” offered head coach Jay Woodcroft. “Being down early, proved too difficult a hill to climb.”
Did the Edmonton Oilers choke?
That might be giving the Kings the short shift, as they had a lot to do with the Oilers’ part-time performance. But we’ll say this: An Oilers team that had the series in their palm — at home for a series-shifting Game 5 — spit the bit big-time here, coming up microscopically small in a moment that required much, much more than what McDavid’s team offered on Tuesday night.
“We just got outskated early on,” assessed Draisaitl. “Once we found our legs it was a lot better for us. But yeah, five goals against obviously isn’t gonna cut it.”
It was an extra session in which the Oilers never gained meaningful possession of the puck, as Kempe buzzed past Duncan Keith and beat Mike Smith, who was only OK in this game, a step down from his previous playoff work.
The Kings lead this series 3-2 heading home to Los Angeles, and have to be feeling great about themselves this morning.
The Oilers, on the other hand, are due a long look in the mirror to figure out how they could trot out their worst effort of the series in the most important game.
Sure, Edmonton forged a heroic third-period comeback to force overtime. But that final score is deceiving — the Kings were the better team for more than just the lion’s share of this one.
“We scored four tonight. That needs to be enough in a playoff game,” McDavid said. “Obviously it’s not. We’ve got to keep the puck out of our net.”
Somehow, the Oilers have now lost five straight playoff games in which Draisaitl and McDavid each score a goal.
It was the first overtime game of the series, and just the fourth time in Round 1 across the NHL. But it was how this game reached extra time that had a sold out Rogers Place apoplectic, a comeback for the ages on a night where the home side didn’t look like it had the gumption for anything nearly this dramatic.
After a thoroughly disappointing opening 40 minutes, Edmonton scored three times while surrendering a goal, as Draisaitl cashed at 12:33 (shorthanded) and 15:08 to tie the game. Woodcroft went to the whip on his top players, pairing Draisaitl and McDavid throughout the frame, and the duo got Edmonton into an overtime they had no business reaching.
After 40 minutes the score was 3-1 for the Kings, and they led the shots on goal 25-14, too. That’s right, in a game that would define their season, this high-powered machine that combined for 14 goals in Games 2 and 3 had that many shots on net through 40 minutes.
“It’s disappointing,” said McDavid. “Obviously, (you) never like to lose. But they give you seven games for a reason and we need to go get one on the road and bring it back to Edmonton.”
We can debate whether the Oilers choked in Game 5, or whether the Kings should get more credit than that.
But unless Edmonton puts together a two-game winning streak, starting Thursday in L.A., the ‘C’ word will define this series and this team.
You can’t lose again, to another team that finished below you in the standings, and call it anything else.