May 25th, 2024

Skinner posts shutout, Oilers grind out 1-0 win to take 3-1 series lead over Kings

By Daniel Rainbird, The Canadian Press on April 29, 2024.

Los Angeles Kings goalie David Rittich will start in net against the Edmonton Oilers in Game 4 of their first-round playoff series Sunday. Rittich, left, deflects a shot by Anaheim Ducks center Trevor Zegras during the first period of an NHL hockey game, in Los Angeles, Saturday, April 13, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Mark J. Terrill

LOS ANGELES – The Edmonton Oilers’ offence wasn’t rolling Sunday night, but head coach Kris Knoblauch felt just fine knowing his goalie would get them to the finish line.

Stuart Skinner made 33 saves for his first post-season shutout as the Oilers ground out a 1-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday night and took a 3-1 lead in their first-round series.

“I don’t think anyone ever questioned if he was going to make the next save,” Knoblauch said.

Evan Bouchard blasted a one-timer past Kings goalie David Rittich at 11:49 of the second period, and that was all the run support Edmonton had for Skinner.

The Kings smothered the Oilers’ high-flying offence and limited it to 13 shots, its lowest total in a playoff game since Connor McDavid entered the NHL in 2015.

Skinner turned away chances from Alex Laferriere and Mikey Anderson early in the period to keep the Oilers ahead as the Kings made a push. He stood tall again midway through the frame, denying chances from Kevin Fiala and Trevor Moore below the faceoff dot.

Otherwise, the Oilers defence kept the Kings shooting from the outside all night. But that didn’t stop Skinner from taking credit for pulling out the stops.

“It’s a lot of work I’ve put in to try to make saves look easy,” Skinner said. “I don’t think any save is easy in the NHL, it’s a hard league.”

The sophomore netminder faced questions about his play after giving up five goals on 26 shots in a Game 2 loss. Since then, he’s turned away 60 of 61 and earned two wins in Los Angeles for the Oilers.

“As any goaltender they’re gonna have an off night, but his biggest strength is the way he rebounds after those nights,” defenceman Mattias Ekholm said. “That’s a sign of a really, really good goaltender.

“I thought he was unbelievable.”

Rittich made 12 saves in his first start of the post-season for a Los Angeles team that drove the play throughout the evening.

It still wasn’t enough to tie the series.

“Frustrating, probably, disappointing is a really good word,” interim Kings head coach Jim Hiller said to describe the feeling in the locker room. “Disappointed it’s not 2-2 but we gotta go play this game in Edmonton now “¦ only choice we have.

“We didn’t get it done. Even though we had a pretty good crack at getting it done.”

The Oilers can win the best-of-seven matchup in Game 5 at home Wednesday. Game 6, if necessary, would take place next Friday back at Crypto.com arena.

Edmonton’s unstoppable power play went 1-for-1 to improve to 8-for-15 in the series. Los Angeles went 0-for-1 and hasn’t scored in 11 opportunities during these playoffs.

“I don’t think we had a guy tonight who didn’t play well, we didn’t score,” Hiller said. “They scored one on the power play, we lost the special teams battle.

“We didn’t win the special teams battle and we didn’t get the win.”

Desperate not to go down 3-1, the Kings threw their weight at every opportunity to give the rowdy home fans – including actor Will Ferrell – more energy. Drew Doughty laid out Zach Hyman along the boards for one of several Kings hits through 20 minutes.

Rittich looked sharp during the Oilers’ limited opportunities, turning away two shots from Leon Draisaitl.

“I thought he played, the disappointing thing for him is no goalie is going to win when we can’t score for him,” Hiller said. “He did his job, there’s no question.”

Edmonton’s best opportunity came with under a minute left in the period when McDavid fed Brett Kulak with a backdoor pass. Kulak, however, couldn’t get a shot off.

L.A.’s tight-checking play continued into the second, but the Oilers struck first thanks to Bouchard and their red-hot power play.

The Kings outshot the Oilers 21-10 after 40 minutes but didn’t test Skinner with many Grade A chances as the Oilers limited them to shots from the perimeter.

200 FOR PERRY

Oilers forward Corey Perry became the 24th player in NHL history to skate in 200 playoff games. Perry has 53 goals and 71 assists in the post-season. The 38-year-old won a Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007 and reached the final in 2020 (Dallas), 2021 (Montreal) and 2022 (Tampa Bay).

DUBOIS DEMOTION

Los Angeles centre Pierre-Luc Dubois skated on the Kings’ fourth line Sunday. Signed to an eight-year, US$68-million contract last off-season, Dubois has one assist in these playoffs after an underwhelming 40 points (16 goals, 24 assists) in 82 games during the regular season.

ADDING DEPTH

The Oilers added reinforcements to their roster earlier Sunday. Edmonton recalled goaltender Jack Campbell and defenceman Philip Broberg from the Bakersfield Condors after they were eliminated from the American Hockey League playoffs.

Campbell, who has a U.S$5-million salary through 2026-27, was placed on waivers by the Oilers on Nov. 7 after he struggled to a 1-4-0 record to start the season. Broberg had two assists in 12 NHL games this season.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 28, 2024.

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