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Edmonton Oilers lock up playoff spot, put Los Angeles Kings on life support

By Robert Tychkowski, The Sports Xchange
Edmonton Oilers lock up playoff spot, put Los Angeles Kings on life support
Connor McDavid and Eric Gryba scored for the Oilers, who won for the seventh time in the past eight games. Edmonton (42-25-9) is gaining momentum at just the right time. File Photo by BIll Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

EDMONTON, Alberta -- The longest playoff drought in NHL history is over.

The Edmonton Oilers clinched their first postseason berth in 11 years and dealt the Los Angeles Kings' hopes a near-fatal blow at the same time with a 2-1 victory on Tuesday night at Rogers Place.

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"It's kind of bittersweet that it's taken this long, but it's exciting, it's what you play hockey for," said winger Jordan Eberle, the longest-serving Oiler at seven seasons. "You can kind of give yourself a pat on the back that you're in the playoffs, but the next step is to give ourselves the best opportunity to do well in them."

Connor McDavid and Eric Gryba scored for the Oilers, who won for the seventh time in the past eight games. Edmonton (42-25-9) is gaining momentum at just the right time.

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When the Oilers missed the playoffs for the 10th straight year last spring, it tied them with the Florida Panthers (2000 to 2010) for the longest slump the league has ever seen.

No wonder, then, that fans who haven't seen an NHL playoff game in Edmonton since the 2006 Stanley Cup final were on their feet and in full roar as the seconds counted down.

"It's definitely special; you saw the excitement in the building," McDavid said. "The fans are excited; we're excited. But there is a lot of work left to be done still."

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The game had a definite postseason feel. It was a tough, grinding win that went down to the final furious seconds around the Edmonton net.

"I've never played in the playoffs, so I can't really say what that's like," McDavid said, grinning. "It definitely felt high energy, high intensity, but you can never really know what it feels like until you're there.

"But these are the types of games that we're going to have to win, 2-1, kind of ugly hockey, lucky goals; that's the recipe for success in the playoffs. I'm happy we could do that tonight."

The Kings (35-33-7) are still alive mathematically, but that's about it. They sit 11 points behind St. Louis with just seven games left.

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"Seven times two is 14," center Jeff Carter said. "So we're going to fight. We have to keep fighting. We'll keep fighting until the end."

Goals were hard to come by in this one, and the Oilers had several false starts before they put a goal on the board.

A goal 49 seconds into the first period was wiped out by a goaltender interference call, and a shot hit a post midway through the period.

The Oilers eventually scored at 14:44 when McDavid's centering pass banked in off Kings defenseman Derek Forbort.

Los Angeles got that one back at 17:11 when 39-year-old Jarome Iginla won a puck battle along the boards, headed for the net and put a wrist shot top corner on Oilers goalie Cam Talbot.

Edmonton scored again to go up 2-1 in the second period. Gryba's harmless-looking point shot bounced off two Los Angeles defensemen and past goaltender Jonathan Quick at 7:03.

The Oilers had another goal wiped out 2:08 into the third period when a premature whistle cost Zack Kassian.

Edmonton outshot Los Angeles 15-5 in the first 17 minutes of the third period in search of some breathing room, but the Oilers never found it. The final moments were a wild frenzy around the Oilers' net, but the Kings couldn't find the equalizer.

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"We can't wait till the final five minutes to try and win a hockey game. You have to put the full 60 minutes in," Kings winger Tanner Pearson said. "Maybe, if we played like we did the last five or 10 minutes, we'd have given ourselves a good chance to win the hockey game."

The Kings are now one loss and one St. Louis win away from being officially eliminated. That is a tough pill to swallow for a two-time Stanley Cup champion.

"It sucks. It sucks for all of us," Los Angeles defenseman Drew Doughty said. "We don't want to be in this position. You can point your fingers at a bunch of games throughout the season that put us in this predicament.

"It sucks, but we're still playing for this organization and for each other and we have to play as hard as we possibly can and do whatever it takes to win games even though we might be out of the race."

NOTES:

-- C Jeff Carter leads the Kings with 31 goals, but he has just four in his past 20 games.

-- The Kings are on the verge of missing the playoffs for the second time in the last three seasons since winning a Stanley Cup in 2014.

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-- Oilers RW Leon Draisaitl has 14 points in his last eight games. He and captain Connor McDavid have combined for 29 points in the last eight games.

-- Oilers D Eric Gryba has two goals this season, both against the Kings.

-- Oilers W Zack Kassian has had four goals wiped out this season by video review.

-- The Kings have 181 goals, tied with the Arizona Coyotes for 26th in the NHL. They've been shut out 10 times and held to one goal 14 times.

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