Leon Draisaitl scores four goals, but Oilers drop series-opener 6-4 to Knights
LAS VEGAS — The Edmonton Oilers didn't turn Leon Draisaitl's four-goal game into a win Wednesday as they fell 6-4 to the Vegas Golden Knights to open their second-round playoff series.
A night after Joe Pavelski scored four times for the Dallas Stars in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Seattle Kraken to start their series, Draisaitl's quadruple was similarly for naught.
"He led the way for our group tonight," Oilers forward Evander Kane said. "Great performance by him. It's a shame we let it slip away."
Ivan Barbashev scored twice and Mark Stone had a goal and an assist for host Vegas to take an early lead in the best-of-seven conference semifinal.
Chandler Stephenson and Michael Amadio also scored for the Knights with Jack Eichel adding a power-play, empty-net goal. Knights defenceman Zach Whitecloud had two assists.
Vegas starter Laurent Brossoit stopped 23 shots for the win, while Edmonton counterpart Stuart Skinner turned away 28 shots in the loss.
Skinner was among the three Calder Trophy nominees announced earlier Wednesday for the NHL's rookie award.
Draisaitl's 11 goals lead the NHL post-season. He was the first Oiler to score four goals in a playoff game since Jari Kurri in 1987.
Edmonton's Connor McDavid, Mattias Ekholm and Zach Hyman each had a pair of assists.
Game 2 is Saturday in Las Vegas before the series flips to Edmonton for the third and fourth games.
The Oilers beat the Los Angeles Kings in six games in the first round. The Knights had a slightly longer break after dispatching the Winnipeg Jets in five games to advance.
"I don't think they saw that heavy of a forecheck from L.A. on a consistent basis, so that's the formula again Saturday," Knights head coach Bruce Cassidy said. "We're not going to hide from it. That's what we need to do.
"Wear their defence down and get their forwards defending as opposed to coming through the neutral zone a hundred miles an hour.
"We're aware of their top guys and the damage we can do. We like our team. We feel if our team plays well we can have success."
Draisaitl scored Edmonton's first goal less than four minutes after puck drop, but the Knights countered with the first of three unanswered goals 40 seconds later.
"Right off the hop, we were ready to start, which helps throughout the game as well," Whitecloud said. "That's something that you know, we've been focusing a lot throughout these playoffs — starting on time and getting to our game as fast as possible."
Draisaitl completed his hat trick with a power-play goal early in the third to draw the Oilers even at 3-3, but the Knights answered quickly again a minute later with two goals in a 50-second span.
"We can't give up goals in bunches and we can't give up goals after we score," Kane said.
When asked if he took joy from his four-goal night, Draisaitl responded "nope" twice.
"It's definitely a different-looking team, different system," Draisaitl said. "They're a good team. We know that, but nothing we can't handle or haven't seen. This is on us not bringing our best game."
His second goal with 10 seconds remaining in the first period made it a one-goal lead for the Knights heading into the second.
Draisaitl chipped the puck high from beside the net and it rolled across Brossoit's upper back. The goalie arched his back to stop it, but too late.
"Guys practice that shot, so it's not a good goal, but it's not one of those egregious ones because that's a special talent," Cassidy said. "It was deliberate and he executed it."
Draisaitl scored his fourth at 8:33 off the rush.
"Does that sound funny to you? Eleven goals. We're in the first game of the second round. Unbelievable," Cassidy said with an incredulous chuckle.
"His 11th goal, we probably lost some awareness on the transition that could happen to us, so that's an odd-man rush. I thought for the most part, their chances, they had to earn them.
"We're OK with that. They've got a lot of good players. So do we. We didn't want to give them too many free ones."
Trailing 5-4 and with Skinner headed to the bench for an extra attacker, the Oilers were called for too many men with 63 seconds remaining in the game.
"I don't think our team was anywhere near where it needed to be in order to walk away with a road win in the playoffs," Edmonton head coach Jay Woodcroft said. "Leon had a great effort. He's been good all playoffs, but our team can do things a lot better than we did tonight."
Edmonton's power play converted two of three chances. Vegas was 2-for-4, including Eichel's empty-netter.
IN AND OUT: Mattias Janmark was briefly back in Edmonton's lineup Wednesday, but the winger needed assistance getting off the ice after he fell backwards into the boards in the first period. Janmark hadn't played since Game 1 against the Kings when he took a shot off the foot. He drew in Wednesday for an ill Derek Ryan, but his departure had the Oilers playing 10 forwards.
Defencemen Shea Theodore and Brayden McNabb played for Vegas after sitting out the fifth game of the Jets series. Phil Kessel also sat out Game 5 and remained out of the lineup for the opener against Edmonton.
STREAKS: Draisaitl has at least a point in all seven post-season games he's played (11 goals, four assists) … Stone, who missed 39 games of the regular season because of back surgery, extended his playoff points streak to five games (four goals, six assists) … McDavid's points streak is at six games (three goals, nine assists).
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 3, 2023.
Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press