The shortest player on the Edmonton Oilers roster had their biggest goal Saturday night.
Kailer Yamamoto scored with 3:02 remaining for his first point of the series as the Oilers beat the Los Angeles Kings 5-4 in Game 6 to advance to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
In a series dominated by superstars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, it was the Oilers’ fourth line that played a pivotal role. Besides Yamamoto, Klim Kostin had two goals and an assist.
“It didn’t go in the net early in the series but he stuck with it. He stuck with it and eventually ended up scoring the series winner,” Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft said.
Yamamoto — who lived in Los Angeles for three years and played youth hockey for the Jr. Kings — got possession of the puck deep in the offensive zone, skated around and then sent a wrist shot through traffic and past the right shoulder and stick of Kings goaltender Joonas Korpisalo.
“Being in this position it’s pretty crazy. Playing against them last year you get your hopes up,” Yamamoto said about scoring a pivotal goal against the Kings. “To be able to beat them is an amazing feeling.”
McDavid and Draisaitl also scored while Stuart Skinner stopped 40 shots as the Oilers knocked the Kings out of the postseason for the second straight season.
Next up for Edmonton is the Vegas Golden Knights in the second round. The Oilers won three of the four regular-season meetings, but Vegas won the Pacific Division by two points on the way to the top seed in the Western Conference.
The series will start in Las Vegas but the NHL has not announced when Game 1 will be played.
Yamamoto got the game-winner after the Kings tied it 7:46 into the third period on a fluke goal. Phillip Danault took advantage of Skinner breaking his stick and scored short-handed.
“It’s good that we’ve been in that situation before where you feel like you’re doing a lot of good things and the game is tied. You didn’t really do anything wrong, but a couple tough breaks,” McDavid said. “Coming down the stretch Skinner gave us a chance to win and obviously, the little guy (Yamamoto) steps up over here.”
Kevin Fiala had a goal and two assists for Los Angeles, and Adrian Kempe and Sean Durzi also scored. The Kings have been eliminated in their last four first-round series.
Viktor Arvidsson, who was moved up to the top line for this game, had two assists. Korpisalo made 21 saves.
“We gave up too many chances. I mean, Korpi had to make a lot of big saves, in the first especially,” defenseman Drew Doughty said. “The playoffs isn’t always about who dominates the game. It’s about who has the hotter goalie a lot of times and whoever gets the bounces. And, unfortunately, we didn’t get them tonight.”
Los Angeles hasn’t won a playoff series since it defeated the New York Rangers in six games in 2014 to capture its second Stanley Cup title in three seasons.
“When you get two power-play goals and a short-handed goal against a team like that you should probably come away with a win. And we didn’t,” coach Todd McLellan said.
The Kings trailed 3-1 in the second period before tying it on a pair of power-play goals 100 seconds apart.
Kempe went top shelf from the right faceoff circle at 6:36 for his team-leading fifth goal of the playoffs. Fiala evened it at 8:16 when his shot from the back of the left faceoff circle found its way through traffic.
ANOTHER QUICK START
McDavid redirected Bouchard’s shot 85 seconds into the game to stake Edmonton to an early lead. It was the fourth time in the last 17 playoff games that the Oilers scored in first two minutes.
Evan Bouchard tied an NHL record for most power-play points by a defenseman in a playoff series when he picked up an assist on Draisaitl’s goal. It was Bouchard’s sixth assist and eighth point with the man advantage, joining the New York Islanders’ Denis Potvin (who did it twice), Washington’s John Carlson and Detroit’s Paul Coffey.
THE BIG THREE
The Oilers became the third team in the last 25 years to have three 10-point scorers in a single series, joining the Winnipeg Jets (2018 second round) and Ottawa Senators (2006 Eastern Conference quarterfinals).
Draisaitl had 11 points (seven goals, four assists) while McDavid (three goals, seven assists) and Bouchard (two goals, eight assists) had 10 apiece.
Joe Reedy, The Associated Press