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Penalties make early impact on several NHL playoff series

Throughout four unsuccessful power plays in their playoff opener at Edmonton, coach Todd McLellan told his Los Angeles Kings players to simplify their approach.
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Throughout four unsuccessful power plays in their playoff opener at Edmonton, coach Todd McLellan told his Los Angeles Kings players to simplify their approach.

Adrian Kempe doesn’t even remember what the specific lesson was late in the game, but it worked. Another Oilers penalty set the scene for Anze Kopitar’s 6-on-4 tying goal with 16.7 seconds left in regulation — and Edmonton’s seventh penalty of the game nine minutes into overtime paved the way for Kempe’s game-winner that gave Los Angeles a comeback victory and the lead in the first-round series.

“We took far too many penalties,” said Evan Bouchard, who was called for high sticking late in the third period. “You give a team like that that many power plays, it’s going to bite you.”

The Oilers weren’t the only team bitten by penalties on the first night of the NHL playoffs. After a regular season in which power-play goals accounted for just under 21% of the total, 40% of the offense in the first four series openers came with the man advantage: 18 goals out of 45.

Carolina beat the New York Islanders despite not scoring at even strength; three power-play goals and another crucial one at 4-on-4 added up in Minnesota’s double OT Game 1 win at Dallas; and a power-play goal by David Pastrnak jumpstarted Boston’s victory over Florida.

Discipline — staying out of the penalty box — and special teams will be major areas of focus going into each Game 2 Wednesday night.

“It can be everything,” Stars center Tyler Seguin said. “Everyone knows about the special teams and how important they are in the playoffs. They can be the dictator of a whole series.”

ISLANDERS at HURRICANES, Carolina leads 1-0 (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Carolina and New York each badly needed a power-play breakthrough. The Hurricanes responded with their first game featuring multiple power-play goals since March 5, ending a 6 for 51 stretch and a lack of production reminiscent of similar struggles. During their second-round playoff exit last year, the Canes went 11 for 98 over their final 31 games and 2 for 18 in the seven-game series loss to the New York Rangers.

“We have great players on our unit,” forward Seth Jarvis said Tuesday. “We knew it was bound to happen, so for it to happen early like it did … and win the game on the power play is something huge for our confidence.”

As for the Islanders, they’re now 1 for 23 in their last 10 games, including 0 for 4 in Game 1. One positive: They have top center Mathew Barzal back after he missed the last 23 regular-season games because of injury.

“Barzie obviously has the ability to make something out of nothing,” captain Anders Lee said after the 2-1 loss. “It brings a dynamic spot to our power play, so we’ll keep building on that.”

PANTHERS at BRUINS, Boston leads 1-0 (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Maybe the Panthers already learned their lesson. The second of two early penalties opened the door for Pastrank to score on the power play less than six minutes in, and they did not commit another the rest of the game.

The Bruins scored twice more at even strength on the way to winning 3-1, but Florida outshot them 30-23 at 5-on-5. That’s reason for optimism that the eight-seeded team in the Eastern Conference can hang with the Presidents’ Trophy winners who set the NHL records for most victories and points in a season.

“It’s going to be a 5-on-5 series, I think, based the way the first one was played, so there was some good there,” coach Paul Maurice said. “We’ll get better every game.”

WILD at STARS, Minnesota leads 1-0 (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

The Wild and Stars combined for three power-play goals to open their Game 1, but the most important one came after a series of officiating decisions.

Dallas’ Max Domi got a roughing penalty and a 10-minute misconduct for going after Matt Dumba for his hit that injured Joe Pavelski, which was reduced from a 5-minute major to a 2-minute minor. Instead of the Stars enjoying a power play, the Wild tied the score in the aftermath.

The Stars got three power plays — one each in the third period and first and second overtimes — and came up empty.

“I didn’t like our game,” coach Peter DeBoer said.

KINGS at OILERS, Los Angeles leads 1-0 (10 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Evan Bouchard knew he clipped Trevor Moore with a high stick late in the third period and had to watch from the penalty box when the Kings’ Anze Kopitar tied it. Edmonton defenseman Vincent Desharnais was in the box for Kempe’s overtime winner after being called for tripping Blake Lizotte.

Minutes after, he was eager to turn the page.

“We’ll do video tomorrow, we’ll be more disciplined and we’ll be ready,” Desharnais said.

The Oilers better be ready. After league-leading scorer Connor McDavid was held without a point (and a minus-2 rating), they’re in danger of losing the first two games at home and heading to Southern California needing to dig out of a deep hole.

Edmonton put L.A. on the power play six times, which coach Jay Woodcroft correctly called “not ideal.”

“It taxes too many people, and it’s asking a lot of that special teams unit — certainly we can be better in that situation,” Woodcroft said. “We feel that it’s going to be a long series between two good teams. It’s incumbent upon us to make sure that we learn from (Game 1) and elevate and adjust.”