While it wasn’t the outcome they had hoped for, the Los Angeles Kings were involved in a wild game last night in Edmonton. Down 1-0 for much of the game and being tagged with a disallowed goal late in regulation, the hometown Oilers retaliated, scoring with just four seconds to go in the third period. The player who scored: one Nail Yakupov who potted just his second-career NHL goal. Entering the season, there was a lot of expectation surrounding 2012’s first-overall draft selection and so far, he’s looking good. But did his celebration go too far?
Initially, I was upset at how Yakupov reacted, making a running start and sliding across the ice on his knees akin to a soccer celebration. Most fans have said that the celebration was justified, that hockey needs more of what Yakupov did and despite my allegiances lying with his opponent last night, I have to agree.
As frustrating as it was to see the winless Kings get a victory snatched away from them in the final seconds, I do have to give Nail Yakupov the benefit of the doubt for not skating over to the Los Angeles bench and taunting them and not celebrating after, say, a meaningless first period goal which some of his fellow countrymen have done, most notably Alex Ovechkin. It has always gotten on my nerves to see players showboating after a goal but for a 19-year-old rookie who tied the game in the dying seconds after being denied a goal multiple times earlier, there are worse things worth crying foul over.
I’ll admit it: the only thing about the celebration that bothered me was that it was against the Kings. Had Yakupov done the same thing against, say, the Canucks or the Ducks, I would have loved it right off the bat. In fact, a couple years ago when Edmonton’s Linus Omark made a spin-o-rama in the shootout before scoring to win a game against Tampa Bay, the only ones who took issue with the goal were the defeated Lightning players and understandably so. Their team had just lost so one would take something like that as a case of rubbing salt into the wounds. I never saw any issue with Omark’s goal then. Heck, I didn’t even mind a decade earlier when former NFL wideout Terrell Owens pulled a sharpie from his sock to sign the football he scored a touchdown with. So, if I didn’t mind those gestures, how could I take exception to this one? Los Angeles forward Jarret Stoll for one wasn’t too happy about Yakupov’s celebration and I can’t blame him. With that said, the Russian rookie was caught up in the moment and even admitted that he meant no ill will towards the Kings. As long as the latter’s true, then it’s okay.
The Los Angeles Kings, however, will surely have February 19 circled on their calendars as that is when the next time they meet the Oilers as the two teams face off at Rexall Place once again. Whether there will be any retribution remains to be seen but given that it’s nearly an entire month away, I would be very surprised to see Nail Yakupov get his just desserts. Maybe one of the Kings will try suckering him into a fight but don’t expect any lowbrow cheap shots heading the rookie’s way.
Yakupov’s celebration certainly is the hot topic today and as far as I’m concerned, let the rookie have his due. After all, his slide across the ice certainly was original and considering what the NHL has been through the last few months with the lockout, this is just the type of entertainment the fans need. Should it happen after every goal? No, but every once in a while and if the timing’s appropriate, then it’s best to go nuts just as long as it’s not detrimental to the opposing team – and a fine example of that is what Yakupov did last night. But what was a fantastic way to send a game into overtime was conversely a lousy way to remain winless. The sooner the Los Angeles Kings move on from this, the better and a win in Phoenix tomorrow night will put the defending champs back on track. Heck, by the time they see Nail Yakupov and the Oilers again, hopefully the Kings will look more like the team we saw last spring as opposed to the one we saw this past week.