EDMONTON — Bouncing back is nothing new for the Oilers. Now Edmonton needs to prove the resiliency it showed during the regular season has carried over to the playoffs.
The Oilers dropped a 4-3 decision to the L.A. Kings in Game 1 of their first-round playoff matchup on Monday, but the group is remaining calm ahead of Game 2 on Wednesday, said defenceman Tyson Barrie.
“There’s no panic,” he said Tuesday. “Give them credit — they played a good game and you know, you’re not going to win 16 in a row. So you’re gonna go through some adversity in the playoffs, and I think we’ve got a good mindset going into tomorrow.”
An enthusiastic sold-out crowd of 18,347 packed Rogers Place for the game, marking the first time the Oilers have played playoff hockey in front of fans since 2017.
The boisterous atmosphere created some jitters, Barrie said.
“There’s not really any feeling like it so it’s, it’s tough to say how you’re gonna react to it. And it’s a beautiful part of the game,” he said. “And I think we kind of know what to expect now and it’s amazing and we’ll be able to settle in and play our game and play hockey and get into our structure a little bit earlier.
“But there’s nothing like coming out of the tunnel when everyone’s going crazy like that. It’s awesome.”
Midway through the first period, the Oilers were already down 2-0 thanks to a shaky start.
After the game, captain Connor McDavid said the team didn’t handle the emotion of having fans back in the building well.
Head coach Jay Woodcroft doesn’t want to see his players strip all feeling from their game, though.
“You want your team to play with emotion,” he said. “But you want it controlled and you want to make sure you’re playing towards your identity and your structure. That’s what’s got us to this point.”
Despite the result, there were things to like about how the Oilers played on Monday, said forward Zach Hyman.
Edmonton’s special teams were effective, killing off all four penalties it faced and going 2 for 4 on the power play.
“I don’t think that we played poorly in Game 1, we just didn’t play our best,” Hyman said. “I think that we have another level to get to.
“In the playoffs when you lose a game, you just want to play another game as quick as you can because you don’t like that feeling. So we’ll be hungry, we’ll be a hungry group tomorrow. And we’re excited about it.”
The second half of Edmonton’s regular season was all about bouncing back.
After a hot start to the campaign, the Oilers struggled through December and early January with a rough 2-11-2 stretch. The club fired head coach Dave Tippett after a pair of big losses out of the all-star break and filled the vacancy by promoting Woodcroft from the American Hockey League’s Bakersfield Condors.
Edmonton went 26-9-3 under the new bench boss and hasn’t lost back-to-back games in regulation since early March.
“I have faith in their ability to regenerate and kind of regroup,” Woodcroft said Tuesday. “I think it has been a real strength of our team.”
Game 2 goes Wednesday in Edmonton. The series will move to L.A. for Game 3 on Friday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 3, 2022.
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press