Elliott: Trevor Moore's heroics for Kings in Game 3 cap his surreal hockey journey

The Kings' Trevor Moore celebrates after L.A.'s 3-2 overtime victory over Edmonton in Game 3 on April 21, 2023.

Trevor Moore had lived this moment in his head a million times, picturing himself at the center of a sweaty, smiling mob on the ice, embraced by his teammates after he scored a dramatic, game-winning goal.

Experiencing his dream Friday night at Arena, where the Thousand Oaks native had grown up watching Kings games and adopted charismatic Ziggy Palffy as a favorite, exceeded anything Moore had dared to imagine.

Moore one-timed a pass from Gabe Vilardi off the post and behind Edmonton goaltender Stuart Skinner for a power-play goal 3 minutes, 24 seconds into overtime, giving the Kings a 3-2 victory and a 2-1 lead in a series that will resume Sunday on their home ice. For Moore, the first California-born player to score a postseason overtime goal for a California team, the moment was especially sweet because he could look up and see his parents, Dave and Sharon, Kings season-ticket holders who had transported him thousands of miles to launch his journey from squirt level with the L.A. Selects to the NHL.

“You name a rink, my parents drove me there, for sure,” said Moore, whose Montreal-born grandfather got him started in hockey.

Many of his friends were there too. And throughout the wildly celebrating crowd were kids — some of them around the age he was when he became entranced with the game — who might be inspired to become part of a future in which it’s no longer rare to find NHL players from Southern California.

The moment was surreal. Sublime. Better than he could have predicted.

“Much better for sure. Didn’t know what to do afterward,” Moore said Saturday, after the Kings held a lightly attended practice in El Segundo. “Time just stopped. It just happened, you can’t believe it.”

Believe it. Because he earned it. “He’s a solid player,” Vilardi said. “I like Mooresy.”

Moore has had to claw his way up to a regular spot on the left side with Phillip Danault and Viktor Arvidsson, a defensively responsible and often productive second line.

Kings left wing Trevor Moore (12) scores on Edmonton Oilers goalie Stuart Skinner.

Moore, whose family now lives in Simi Valley, left home at 16 to play for Tri-City (Neb.) of the Tier I junior United States Hockey League. He played three seasons at the University of Denver but wasn’t drafted by an NHL team. He signed as a free agent with the Toronto Maple Leafs and promptly became stuck behind a group of prime prospects. He spent a lot of time in the American Hockey League.

“There were so many first-round picks ahead of me,” he said. “My goal was just to get my foot in the door.”

The Kings acquired him and two third-round draft picks in February 2020 for goaltender Jack Campbell (now Edmonton’s backup goalie) and enforcer Kyle Clifford. Moore produced career-best totals of 17 goals and 48 points in 2021-22 but was hampered by injuries during the just-completed regular season and contributed 10 goals and 29 points.

Moore, his linemates and the Kings’ defense corps have effectively blanketed NHL scoring champion Connor McDavid, though McDavid broke through to score a pair of power-play goals Friday that gave the Oilers a 2-1 lead. The Kings matched that on a power-play goal of their own by Adrian Kempe.

The Kings got another power play in overtime, when Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was penalized for slashing, and they took control of the puck deep in Edmonton’s zone. At one point the puck popped up in the air and Vilardi raised his stick, hitting Edmonton defenseman Mattias Ekholm in the back. Moore scored 17 seconds later, but the NHL hockey operations department initiated a review to determine if Vilardi had struck the puck “above the normal height of his shoulders,” which calls for a stoppage in play and would have wiped out the goal.

After a long review, the league said there was no conclusive video evidence to determine that Vilardi had touched the stick and that the original call of a goal was confirmed, to the delight of a crowd that celebrated loud and hearty a second time.

Vilardi said Saturday he didn’t know if his stick had made contact with the puck and altered its course. “I watched it and I don’t think it did, to be honest with you,” he said. “Things happened fast. Depends on who you ask. There’s winners and losers. Everyone’s going to complain.”

The Kings had no complaints. They’re leading the series despite injuries that led to the long-term absence of forward Kevin Fiala and, in Game 3, the absence of third-line center Blake Lizotte. Fiala skated Saturday wearing a red, no-contact jersey and coach Todd McLellan said if all went well, Fiala would participate in Sunday’s game-day skate. Lizotte didn’t skate Saturday, making his return for Game 4 unlikely.

Although the Kings have the upper hand at the moment, that could change quickly. McDavid is too explosive to be silenced for long. At some point, Leon Draisaitl just might stop taking bad penalties.

“I think we have another level to get to. I still think that we played well last game but we can still be better,” Moore said. “Just in all the areas: competing, making sure we’re paying attention to detail. We want to continue to stay out of the box. That’s an important thing. But just bring it up another level. It’s only going to get more competitive now.”

Challenges have never deterred Moore before. It’s a longer way from Thousand Oaks to the NHL than it appears on an app or a map, but Moore has found his place and his moment.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.