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Soup or Stu; what’s on the Game 5 menu for the Oilers?
It has to be Soup, as in Jack Campbell, doesn’t it?
Stuart Skinner, who was pulled from Game 4 on Sunday after the hometown L.A. Kings went up 3-0 on 11 first period shots at Crypto.com Arena, had given the Oilers adequate goaltending through the first three games of the series. But at the other end of the ice, L.A. goalie Joonas Korpisalo looked like he might steal the series for a Kings team that can’t match Edmonton’s top-end offensive firepower.
Enter Campbell, who tipped the scales in favour of the Oilers. He stopped 27 L.A. shots through 50 minutes of relief duty and left town with a win, a save percentage of .964 and goals against average of 1.18. Skinner’s numbers pale by comparison; .881 save percentage and 3.38 goals against, though obviously with a much larger sample size.
After ceding a goal to L.A. defenceman Matt Roy on Sunday, Campbell kept the Oilers within striking distance late in the game by making a wicked left toe save on Viktor Arvidsson, who was sent in alone. Not long later, Evander Kane evened the game at 4-4, going high glove on Korpisalo, who is vulnerable there. The OT winner by Zach Hyman, on the other hand, went under the other arm, Korpisalo’s blocker side.
Want a goal, put Leon Draisaitl on the ice.
He’ll either score it, assist on it, or watch it up close and personal. The Oiler centre has been on the ice for all 14 goals scored by Edmonton through four games. He’s potted five of them and assisted on four more for the National Hockey League playoff points lead at nine. He’s also plus-four and has won 52.4% of the faceoffs he’s taken. He was particularly valuable on the dot in Game 4, winning a combined 10 of 16 draws in the offensive and defensive zones.
Down 2-1 and looking to shake things up, Edmonton head coach Jay Woodcroft reunited Draisaitl and Connor McDavid for a regular shift right out of the gate on Sunday; marking the first time during the series that he’d put the high-octane duo out regularly together at five-on-five.
The Kings got a boost from a lineup change as well, welcoming back winger Kevin Fiala, who made an immediate impact. Gabe Vilardi banged in the rebound of a Fiala shot for a 1-0 L.A. lead, and later in the period Fiala chipped the puck to Anze Kopitar, who deked Skinner on a power play to make it 3-0.
Fiala missed the final six games of the regular season with a suspected knee injury, and he might well have finished as L.A.’s scoring leader, had he been healthy. He managed to put up 72 points in 69 regular season games. Kopitar led the Kings with 74 points and played in all 82 regular season games.
Fiala and Vilardi, who missed Game 1 of the series, give the Kings much-needed offensive touch down the lineup as they slotted in on the third line with Alex Iafallo, the OT hero in Game 1.
There’s more acrimony on most Hollywood sound stages.
With just eight penalty minutes, Kane leads the series, while 45 other NHL players have logged between nine and 26 PIMs elsewhere. Boston’s Tyler Bertuzzi is on top, with Max Domi of Dallas hard on his heels at 24 PIMs.
The entire Kings roster has combined for 28 PIMs, the Oilers 40. The Boston Bruins, by way of contrast, have been called for 103, Minnesota 90, New Jersey 89, Dallas 82 and the New York Rangers 79.
Ten Kings, including Selke and Lady Byng candidate Kopitar, and nine Oilers have yet to visit the box.
While the Oilers’ penalty woes have been well documented — Vincent Desharnais and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins took minors in overtime in Games 1 and 3 respectively and the Kings converted them into a pair of wins — but there hasn’t been much extra-curricular nastiness at all. A little pushing, a little shoving, some slashing and barking at one another, but no sustained chippiness. Nor is there an obvious villain on either side, save for Kings defenceman Drew Doughty, who draws a chorus of boos every time he touches the puck in Edmonton. He has just four PIMs.
The worst lead in hockey is apparently every one taken by either the Oilers or Kings in this series. Neither team can stand much prosperity, it seems.
The Oilers led 2-0 and 3-1 in Game 1, which they lost 4-3 in overtime. The Oilers also led 2-0 early in Game 2 and gave that up before winger Klim Kostin sent them ahead 3-2 and Kane finished off the proceedings into an empty net for a 4-2 win.
The Kings romped to the aforementioned 3-0 lead after 20 minutes on Sunday, saw that evaporate in the next 20 minutes, went ahead again 4-3 early in the third and couldn’t hold that one either.
Prior to Game 4, the Kings held the lead for a paltry 8:15. They added 42 minutes and 52 seconds to that total on Sunday, but have let the more important series lead slip away. It’s a best-of-three now, with Game 5 set for Tuesday in Edmonton. The teams then get a massive break before Game 6 on Saturday in Los Angeles.