EDMONTON — Captain Connor McDavid has seen his team through to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
McDavid had a goal and an assist as the Edmonton Oilers advanced with a nerve-racking 2-0 Game 7 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.
“It feels good to do it in that fashion,” McDavid said of the shutout. “There is always a lot of talk about the defensive side of the game, so for our group to step up in a big moment and play like that in a 2-0 win with (goalie Mike Smith) playing great and contributions from everyone, it feels good."
“But that being said, it is just one round. There is a long way to go here. We’re happy to move on to the second round, but that is all we did, survived another day.”
Cody Ceci also scored and Mike Smith made 29 saves for his second shutout of the playoffs for the Oilers, who last won a Game 7 in1998 and celebrated their first playoff series win since 2017.
“I don’t think I’ve ever heard a building so loud and I’ve been in the playoffs a few times with some pretty wild times, but that was incredible to be a part of,” Smith said. “The last couple of years with no fans has sucked, nobody in the building was disappointing. To win a Game 7 before home fans who gave us a boost before the drop of the puck, that was an incredible feeling and hopefully it’ll stick around for the next round.”
Jonathan Quick made 39 saves in a losing effort for the Kings, who have not won a playoff series since they won their second Stanley Cup in 2014, also the last year they won a series in a Game 7.
“Right now it’s very frustrating obviously,” said Kings veteran Anze Kopitar. “This series was hard-fought, and we gave it all and we should be proud of that. There is certainly an element of growth within the group, and throughout the season and throughout the playoffs. It didn’t go for today and it’s extremely frustrating because we came in here believing we can get it done and we didn’t.”
Kings coach Todd McLellan felt the experience was an important one, even if it is hard to see right now.
“I think they’re small picture, big picture,” he noted. “Small picture, we’re disappointed. We said all along we were in it to win it, we weren’t just coming here just to gain experience and when you’re all in and you want to win and you don’t, it’s disappointing. We were all-in and it stings right now.”
There was no scoring in a tense opening period, with the Oilers putting 10 shots on Quick in the L.A. net, while the Kings sent seven on Edmonton starter Smith. Quick came into the game with a 4-0 career record in Game 7s.
Edmonton came close to scoring midway though the second when a puck was heading over the goal line in a scramble, but was fished to safety just in time by Kings forward Andreas Athanasiou.
The Oilers finally broke the deadlock with 6:45 remaining in the second period as McDavid fed a pass from behind the net to a pinching Ceci, who rifled a shot over Quick’s shoulder.
Edmonton came close to extending its lead a couple times early in the third as Josh Archibald narrowly missed putting a puck through Quick’s legs and Kailer Yamamoto hit a post with most of an open net to shoot at.
The Oilers finally got some insurance with 3:53 left in the third on a terrific individual effort from McDavid, who drove behind the net before sending his second backhand attempt into the net for his fourth goal and league-leading 14th playoff point. McDavid had multiple point efforts in six of the seven games in the series.
The loss represented the final game for Kings star forward Dustin Brown, who announced that this was his final season prior to the playoffs.
The Oilers will now advance to play the winner of the Calgary Flames/Dallas Stars series — which will be decided in a Game 7 of its own on Sunday.
Notes: Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse returned after serving a one-game suspension in Game 6 for head-butting Phillip Danault in Game 5… There was some concern after Oilers Leon Draisaitl and Brett Kulak missed the morning skate, but both were able to play, leaving the Oilers with a healthy roster to choose from… The Kings remained without Viktor Arvidsson (lower body), Drew Doughty (wrist) and Sean Walker (knee)… There were no scoring changes in any of the games of the series, with the team that scored first winning each encounter.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 14, 2022.
Shane Jones, The Canadian Press