Anze Kopitar’s overtime goal lifts Kings past Oilers in Game 2 thriller

by Admin
Anze Kopitar's overtime goal lifts Kings past Oilers in Game 2 thriller

The NHL regular season is like an anthology of 82 stories, each with their own beginning, middle and end. The playoffs, however, are like a novel, each game a new chapter that builds on the last one.

And Kings coach Jim Hiller says likes it that way, especially after his team took the book in a new direction Wednesday with Anze Kopitar scoring 2:07 into overtime to give his team a 5-4 win over the Edmonton Oilers, evening their first-round playoff series with the Oilers at a victory apiece heading into Game 3 on Friday at Arena.

“We all love the playoffs because we play the game, you review the game, adjustments are made and you just keeps moving along,” he said. “From a coach’s perspective, we all enjoy that part of the game, being able just to focus on a single team.”

Hiller got many those adjustments right in Game 2, juggling his line combinations, flooding the neutral zone with bodies and keeping Edmonton’s lightning-quick forwards from making the dangerous rushes up the ice they used to dominate Game 1. It then fell to Kopitar to make that pay off, scoring on a strange play that started with a poor pass from Mikey Anderson skipping along the boards in the Kings’ end. Quinton Byfield was able to get a stick on it near center ice, redirecting the puck to a streaking Kopitar, who beat Oiler goalie Stuart Skinner cleanly.

“It was kind of a wacky play,” said Kopitar, who assisted on his team’s first two goals. “You just try to read the play and sometimes you’re in the right spots, sometimes you’re severely in the wrong spots. Tonight I was in the right spot a couple of times. I guess and it worked out.”

Worked out well enough to guarantee the best-of-seven series will return to Canada after Sunday’s Game 4 in Los Angeles.

“One game for us one game for them,” Hiller said. “And now we go to L.A.”

But it wasn’t easy. Although the Oilers never led, they erased a two-goal Kings lead in the second period and a one-goal deficit early in the third in a game that wide open for large parts of the final period.

“That’s just playoff play hockey for you,” said Byfield, whose assist on the game-winner was his second of the game. “There’s a lot of momentum swings in a game like that and it’s just how well you can handle the ups and downs and how well you can stay sustain it.”

This is the third time in as many seasons the Kings and Oilers have split the first two games of a first-round playoff series in Edmonton. The teams went on to split the next two games in L.A. as well, although the Oilers wound up eliminating the Kings from the playoffs both times.

That’s the part of the story Hiller wants to rewrite.

The Kings took control early in Game 2 with Adrian Kempe’s second goal of the series, off an assist from Kopitar, giving them a 1-0 lead 3:19 into the game. Less than than six minutes later the Kings killed off the first of two penalties they would survive on the night, which was equally significant since Edmonton was three for four on the power play in Game 1.

Kempe then doubled the lead at 14:57, again off an assist from Kopitar, before defensemen Brett Kulak and Drew Doughty traded goals in the final three minutes of the first period. Kulak got Edmonton on the board with a wicked slap shot from the top of the left circle; Doughty restored the Kings’ two-goal lead 29 seconds later, slipping the puck through Skinner’s legs from the edge of the crease

The momentum swung heavily toward Edmonton after the intermission with Dylan Holloway taking advantage of a Kings’ turnover in the neutral zone to cut the deficit to a goal by banging home a left-handed shot from the top of slot at 7:51 of the second period. Less than three minutes later Zach Hyman, who had a hat trick in Game 1, scored his fourth goal of the series on a power play and the game was even.

Kings goaltender Cam Talbot managed to keep it that way with a sprawling save on Leon Draisaitl during an Edmonton power play in the final minute of the second period.

“That’s as good a save as you’re going to see,” Hiller said. “It probably made the difference in the hockey game in the end.”

Added Kopitar: “He kept us in it.”

That allowed Kevin Fiala to put the Kings ahead 1:46 into the final period with a rocket of a one-timer from the right boards. But again the lead was short-lived, with Holloway’s second goal of the night tying the score at 3:23 of the final period, sending the game to overtime and setting the stage for the game-winner from the Kings’ captain, a two-time Stanley Cup champion who, at 36, is the second-oldest player on the roster.

“Somebody’s got to score a big goal,” Hiller said. “We needed this game, clearly. To see Kopi get that one at the end, it was great.

“But I can tell you for me personally, for a guy who’s done as much as he has, to get another overtime game-winning goal was special.”

It figures to make a compelling chapter to a playoff story that’s far from complete.

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