Anze Kopitar's overtime goal lifts Kings past Oilers in Game 2 thriller

The NHL regular season is like an anthology of 82 stories, each with its own beginning, middle and end. The playoffs, however, are like a novel, each game a new chapter that builds on the last one.

Kings coach Jim Hiller likes it that way.

“We all love the playoffs because we play the game, you review the game, adjustments are made and you just keeps moving along,” he said. “From a coach’s perspective, we all enjoy that part of the game, being able just to focus on a single team.”

On Wednesday, Hiller got many of those adjustments right, allowing the Kings to escape Edmonton with a 5-4 overtime win that evened their first-round playoff series with the Oilers at a victory apiece heading into Game 3 on Friday at Arena.

The winning goal came from Anze Kopitar 2:07 into the extra period and it guarantees the best-of-seven series will return to Canada after Sunday’s Game 4 in Los Angeles. But it wasn’t easy. Although the Oilers never led, they erased a two-goal Kings lead in the second period and a one-goal deficit early in the third.

This is the third time in as many seasons the Kings and Oilers have split the first two games of a first-round playoff series in Edmonton. The teams went on to split the next two games in L.A. as well, although the Oilers went on to eliminate the Kings both times.

That’s the part of the story Hiller wants to rewrite. And he got a start on that Wednesday, juggling his line combinations, flooding the neutral zone with bodies and keeping Edmonton’s lightning-quick forwards from making the dangerous rushes up the ice they used to dominate Game 1.

That paid off early with Adrian Kempe’s second goal of the series giving them a 1-0 lead 3:19 into the game. The sequence started with Kopitar stepping between two Oilers to force a turnover at the blue line, then skating up the left wing to feed a wide-open Kempe for a one-timer from the slot.

Less than than six minutes later the Kings killed their first penalty of the night, which was equally significant since Edmonton was three for four on the power play in Game 1.

Kempe doubled the lead at 14:57, taking control of a pad save from Kings goalie Cam Talbot and breaking up the center of the ice with Kopitar to his right. Kempe sent the puck to his captain at the center circle, then took a waist-high return pass in the slot, lifting it up with the blade of his stick before batting it past Oilers goalie Stuart Skinner.

Defenseman Brett Kulak and Drew Doughty then traded goals in the final three minutes of the first period, with Kulak getting Edmonton on the board with a wicked slap shot from the top of the left circle before Doughty restored the Kings’ two-goal lead 29 seconds later, slipping the puck through Skinner’s legs from the edge of the crease

But the momentum swung heavily toward Edmonton after the intermission with Dylan Holloway, taking advantage of a Kings turnover in the neutral zone, again cutting the deficit to a goal by banging home a left-handed shot from the top of slot at 7:51 of the second period. Less than three minutes later, Zach Hyman, who had a hat trick in Game 1, scored his fourth goal of the series on a power play and the game was even.

Talbot managed to keep it that way with a sprawling save on Leon Draisaitl during an Edmonton power play in the final minute of the second period, and that allowed Kevin Fiala to put the Kings ahead 1:46 into the final period with a rocket of a one-timer shot from the right boards.

But again the lead was short-lived with Holloway’s second goal of the night tying the score again at 3:23 of the final period, sending the game to overtime and setting the stage for Kopitar’s game-winner.

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