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Oilers show they can grind out wins as they eye deep playoff run

Edmonton Oilers celebrate Edmonton Oilers celebrate - The Canadian Press

LOS ANGELES — Connor McDavid says it was far from a masterpiece.

The Oilers' 1-0 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday didn't break social media because of a highlight-reel rush or a back-and-forth slugfest.

And that's perfectly fine for Edmonton's superstar captain. The grind-it-out victory that gave the Oilers a 3-1 lead in their first-round series is exactly the type of performance that shows they're ready for a deep playoff run this spring.

“It’s not the prettiest way to win,” McDavid said post-game. "Sometimes you got to find a way to win a game like that where maybe you're second best, but you just gut one out."

Stacked with dynamic offensive talent, the Oilers are accustomed to winning by the 7-4 and 6-1 score lines seen earlier in the series. McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are regularly putting up post-season numbers that put them in a category with Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux.

On Sunday, the Oilers mustered just 13 shots — a category they led the NHL in this season — against a smothering Kings team to tie their lowest playoff total in franchise history.

But at the other end of the ice, Stuart Skinner stopped 33 shots and earned a shutout, thanks in large part to the unwavering defending from the skaters in front of him that kept the Kings along the perimeter all night long.

“These are the types of games you have to win in the playoffs,” said Oilers veteran Corey Perry, a Stanley Cup champion and three-time finalist. “It's not going to be 6-5, 7-4 every night. You're going to have to dig deep and play defence and grind one out, and we found a way.”

"It's a real strength of ours showing we can win games this way,” defenceman Mattias Ekholm added. “Having in our portfolio that we can play a lot of different games is going to be huge here coming down the stretch.

“These games, we're not afraid of them."

The Oilers can win the series at home Wednesday in Game 5 and close out what they hope is the first chapter in their pursuit of the Stanley Cup.

Edmonton reached the Conference final in 2022 followed by a second-round appearance in 2023, losing both times to the eventual champions.

Forward Zach Hyman believes games like Sunday’s bode well for reaching the ultimate goal in 2024.

“If you have different ways to win then you win more games, right? That's the reality,” he said. “The margins in the playoffs are so tight, and every year I've been here, it's felt like we could have done more.

“Having more options on how to win a game, that's huge. And we're going to have to win more games like this.”


Special teams are a key reason the Oilers are up 3-1 in the series.

Evan Bouchard converted on Edmonton’s only power-play opportunity Sunday as Edmonton improved to 8-for-15 with the man-advantage in the playoffs. Meanwhile, L.A. is scoreless in 11 opportunities.

At five-on-five, the Kings have a 10-9 edge over the Oilers.

"You guys see how tight it is five-on-five,” Hyman said. "It's hard to create offence against this team. So if you draw penalties, if you're able to capitalize, that's the advantage that you can get.”


Third-pairing defenceman Vincent Desharnais is among the players who stepped up in Edmonton’s gritty win.

Desharnais, 27, spent years in the ECHL and American Hockey League before making his NHL debut last season.

The six-foot-seven blueliner has become a regular in the Oilers lineup and played in the final minute with the Kings goalie pulled for an extra attacker Sunday.

"Vinnie's been so solid. I wouldn't want to play big Vin,” McDavid said. “He is big, skates better than people give him credit for. He's hard around the net, he's hard on the PK. He's like an eclipse on that side. When he comes across, it’s hard to get through.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 29, 2024.