Nail Yakupov slid into the hearts of Edmonton Oilers fans on Thursday night.
The No. 1 overall pick in last summer’s NHL entry draft scored with 4.7 seconds left in the third period and Sam Gagner had the winner in overtime as Edmonton staged a dramatic rally to keep the Los Angeles Kings winless with a wild 2-1 victory.
Yakupov’s exuberant celebration took him to centre ice where he dropped to his knees and slid into Edmonton’s defensive zone, screaming, as the 16,839 fans at Rexall Place cheered on.
“The fans was crazy,” said Yakupov. “It was probably my greatest feeling. We showed our heart. It was the best night in the world. I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Yakupov’s celebration had Oilers head coach Ralph Krueger smiling.
“He’s watched a lot of soccer games,” joked Krueger.
Krueger said that the game brought out the best in his team.
“If we want passion and to be challenged, there was a lot of that tonight,” he said. “You have to love the compete in the group. There reaction after the San Jose game (that saw the Oilers allow six first-period goals) was something we were looking for and they gave it to us.
“The persistence at the end of the game showed truly the character of this group. To finish it off in overtime was a very mature step in a very difficult situation emotionally.”
Gagner handed Edmonton (2-1-0) the overtime win when he snuck in from the point to score on the power play after the Kings were caught with too many men on the ice.
Jeff Carter scored the lone goal for the Kings (0-2-1), who are off to their first winless start to the season after three games since the 1985-86 campaign.
There were 17 power plays in the game with Edmonton going 1 for 9 and the Kings remaining without a power play goal on the entire season at 0 for 8.
“That had to be a record for the least five-on-five play in a hockey game. The referees were great,” deadpanned Kings coach Darryl Sutter. “Both goalies were pretty awesome.”
Kings forward Jarret Stoll said it was a tough loss to take, especially considering how things have gone to this point for L.A.
“We just couldn’t finish it,” said Stoll. “We made a couple of mistakes right at the end and they capitalized. It was a weird, weird game. It was an odd one. We can’t feel sorry for ourselves.
“We have to figure it out and find a way to get two points. We battled hard tonight, but not enough.”
There was a crazy finish to regulation time in this one.
Edmonton looked to have tied it with 1:05 left on a goal by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins but after video review the officials ruled that Gagner was in the crease and the goal was not counted. Irate fans littered the ice with debris as they felt Rob Scuderi had pushed Gagner into Los Angeles goaltender Jonathan Quick on the play.
However, the Oilers were able to draw even with just 4.7 seconds remaining to send it to extra time as Yakupov batted down a rebound at the side of the net for his second of the season with Edmonton goalie Devan Dubnyk on the bench for the extra attacker.
The game started much slower than it ended. The Kings had a good opportunity early in the game with a two-man advantage for two minutes, but couldn’t capitalize despite twice hitting the post behind Dubnyk.
Los Angeles had nothing but power play chances in the first half of the opening period. However, the Kings shot blanks and went 0 for 5 with the man advantage in the first 20 minutes of play.
After weathering the storm, the Oilers were awarded a two-man power play of their own, yet also couldn’t find the back of the net against Quick in the Kings net.
Edmonton had a chance to get the game’s first goal six minutes into the second on a two-on-one but Quick robbed Yakupov with a glove save.
Los Angeles finally broke the scoreless tie with six-and-a-half minutes remaining in the second period as a giveaway by Edmonton defender Nick Schultz allowed Carter to get loose on a breakaway and he made the most of it, beating Dubnyk high to the stick side for his first goal of the season.
Dubnyk earned the win with 30 saves, while Quick stopped 37 shots for the Kings.
Notes: It was the first of three meetings between the two teams this season. The clubs split their four-game series in 2011-12... The Kings brought an eight- game point streak in Edmonton into the contest, having gone 7-0-1 in that span since a regulation loss at Rexall Place on Feb. 28, 2008... L.A. is now 0-19 on the power play through its first three games... The Oilers were without forward Ben Eager, out indefinitely with a concussion. Also out for Edmonton were Andy Sutton (knee), Theo Peckham (hip flexor), Ryan Jones (eye) and Nikolai Khabibulin (hip)... Kings defenceman Matt Greene (back) was placed on injured reserve this week and will likely miss the remainder of the season. Willie Mitchell (knee surgery) is also out, but practised this week... Former Oiler Dustin Penner was a healthy scratch for the Kings. Fellow forward Simon Gagne was also a healthy deletion for Los Angeles as the Kings tried to send a message after a slow start to the season... Edmonton native Mark Fistric made his debut on defence for the Oilers after being picked up via trade from the Dallas Stars for a third-round pick.