LOS ANGELES — In what could be the evenly matched clash of the first round of the NHL playoffs, the Kings prevailed in a pivotal Game 3 against the Edmonton Oilers 3-2 in overtime on Friday night at Crypto.com Arena to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
As the Western Conference showdown returned to Southern California, fittingly, Thousand Oaks native Trevor Moore deposited the overtime game-winner.
Wingers Alex Iafallo and Adrian Kempe scored for the Kings in regulation. Moore had a regular-season hat trick against Edmonton in a 3-1 win, the Kings’ first against the Oilers this season. Joonas Korpisalo turned away 38 shots in a superlative performance.
Center Connor McDavid scored a pair of power-play goals less than two minutes apart for Edmonton, the first goals of the series for the presumed NHL MVP this season. Defenseman Evan Bouchard chipped in two assists and forward Leon Draisaitl added another. Stuart Skinner made 28 saves.
Though the Kings were outshot 40-27 in regulation, they opened overtime with a strong bid from Kempe and then drew a penalty. At the 3:24 mark of overtime, Gabe Vilardi sent a pass from below the goal line to Moore in front, where the local product gave the Kings their second lead in the series, with both wins coming in overtime. The goal went through a video replay review but was upheld.
Regulation ended deadlocked, even after McDavid had the crowd holding its breath as he bounced a shot off Korpisalo’s helmet with 18 seconds left.
The Kings escaped unscathed from a third-period penalty kill that saw Korpisalo stone McDavid from the low slot to preserve a 2-2 tie. Not to be outdone, on a subsequent power play for the Kings, Skinner responded with a sequence that included robbing Kempe on a point-blank bid.
Though the tight checking from the first period carried over into the second initially, there were three power-play goals scored in less than two minutes approaching the middle of the second period.
The Oilers equalized during a penalty to defenseman Alex Edler and seized control fleetingly after an infraction by winger Zack MacEwen. McDavid tried to gather speed off a drop pass but the manufactured rush was foiled by Kempe. Undeterred, the Oilers gained the offensive zone and McDavid set up shop in the left faceoff dot, from which he’d later launch a seeing-eye shot under the crossbar on the far side of the net 7:42 into the period.
From a similar spot, he scored short side 100 seconds later, giving Edmonton its first edge of the evening and McDavid his 23rd career playoff goal. It lasted just 18 ticks of the clock, however, as Draisaitl took an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty immediately after McDavid’s second goal that sent the Kings to a successful power play.
Defenseman Drew Doughty’s drop pass for winger Viktor Arvidsson allowed him to skate toward his own blue line and fling a stretch pass all the way off the end boards. Kempe treated the bounce off the half-wall like a pass, striding into a shot and rifling a one-timer past Skinner. Kempe has five career postseason goals, all against Edmonton.
The Kings are 4 for 15 with the man advantage in the series. The Oilers, who set an NHL-record with a 32.4% conversion rate on the power play during the regular season, are 4 for 8 in the series.
A grueling opening 20 minutes saw the Kings assume a bit of a combative posture, doling out 21 hits to Edmonton’s 14. Even so, they drew two penalties to the Oilers’ one and came away with a precious goal as only 33 seconds remained in the period.
A prolonged puck battle in the left-wing corner was won by Anze Kopitar, who rimmed the puck around to defenseman Matt Roy at the right point. His shot was tipped initially by Iafallo, who followed up with a tap-in tally. It was Iafallo’s second goal of the series, and where this one opened the scoring, his first goal was the overtime winner in Game 1.
Elsewhere in the Western Conference, the Minnesota Wild took a 2-1 lead over the Dallas Stars in their first-round series behind two goals by Mats Zuccarello. Only one of the eight ongoing matchups has the potential to be a sweep with six series starting out with a split and a seventh moving to 2-1 on Friday.
More to come on this story.