A Comeback in Slow Motion

The Kings win Game 1 by making it feel like it was a mid-week game in February
Adrian Kempe and Alex Iafallo

Watching. The. Los. Angeles. Kings. Play. Hockey. Is. Painfully. Slow. Sort. Of. How. This. Sentence. Reads.

When Alex Iafallo scored the overtime winner at Rogers Place Monday night to seal Game 1 of the Oilers/Kings Part II, it felt like the culmination of a comeback that happened in slow motion. This may have been the slowest 4-3 game I have ever seen.

The Kings were able to do something that I’ve never seen a road team pull off in a playoff game in Edmonton. In the third period, though they were trailing on the scoreboard, they were able to suck the life out of the building. Rogers Place was rocking in the first period, but, by the third, you’d swear that it felt more like a midweek mid-season game against Arizona – even when it was 3-1 for the Oil. It seems counterintuitive (because it is), but the Kings roared back by slowing things down.

In fact, as playoff games go in Edmonton, I’d say this was one of the most blasé crowds I’ve (not) heard. Maybe it was the rain that doused the fans as they entered the building.

But, after an impressive first period in which the Oilers hemmed the Kings in their own zone for the better part of the 20 minutes, the Kings slowly, surely, clogged up the game like my diet does to my arteries.

Despite being down, the Kings stuck doggedly to their 1-3-1 system which clogs the neutral zone and robs the game of flow. And, they put Edmonton to sleep — both the crowd and the opposition.

And, with the Oilers and the home crowd in a lull, the Kings scored three times in the third — two from Adrian Kempe and a last-gasp game-tying goal from Anze Kopitar. Kopitar ended with a four-point night.

“You’re trying to chip away,” Kopitar said when I asked him if he felt that the Kings had sucked the life out of the building. “You build whatever game, whatever momentum, you can. It worked out for us.

“You’re down two, and you can pretty well change the whole momentum of the game with one shot.”

Kempe didn’t think that Rogers Place felt as dead as I felt it was.

“I thought the atmosphere was really good all game, but we got a goal back and the momentum changes. The momentum swung our way a bit. And that’s what happens; when the other team scores, the crowd gets a little quieter and a little bit more nervous. I think the momentum was changing a lot in this game and it ended up being in our favour.”

The Kings won it on the powerplay just seconds after Vincent Desharnais went to the penalty box. The conspiracy theorists will howl about the call.

They need to stop their whining.

Hard truths:

  • The Oilers had a 3-1 lead with less than 10 minutes left in the third, and blew it.
  • On the powerplay winner, the Oilers won the faceoff and then immediately gave the puck away behind their own goal.
  • Before Kopitar scored the game-tying goal, the Kings had to win a faceoff in their own zone with less than half a minute to go.

If you want to blame the refs, you’re blatantly missing a lot of times the Oilers should have ended this sleepy, not-quite-playoff-atmosphere affair, but didn’t.

Now, I’ve got to get to bed.