Kings see bigger picture after series-opening loss to Oilers

League: NHL

Posted on: 24 Apr, 2024 at 06:55 AM

Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Kings will not even bother trying to fool themselves: The Edmonton Oilers were the superior team en route to claiming a 7-4 victory in the opener of their Western Conference first-round playoff series.

With Game 2 coming Wednesday in Edmonton, the Kings expect the biggest difference to be their own performance.

"It's a seven-game series, and you have to win the first to four. We're down 1-0, but we can easily win and make it 1-1 next game," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. "We have to put it behind us and learn from what we did wrong and fix what we did wrong and bring it into the next game. That's not our model. That's not the way we play. It's frustrating. We just have to put that game in the past and get back to doing what we do best."

Led by their usual suspects, the Oilers staked a 4-0 lead by the game's midway point. The Kings pulled within two by the second intermission, but a couple of costly penalties led to a pair of Edmonton power-play goals early in the third period and it became a coast to the finish line for an Oilers team that scored three times with the man advantage.

"It was a couple of borderline (calls)," Kings coach Jim Hiller said. "When you could look at it and say you gave them a chance to make that call. There were two for sure that can't be in our game. ... You can't put yourself in a position where the referee's got to make a judgment call."

Aside from surrendering a pair of late goals that made the score appear tighter than it actually was, the Oilers opened their Stanley Cup chase with a textbook performance.

Connor McDavid became only the 13th player in NHL history -- Wayne Gretzky did it twice -- to record five assists in a playoff game, and the first since 1998. Zach Hyman collected a hat trick in a four-point performance. Evan Bouchard netted four assists, and both Leon Draisaitl and Adam Henrique collected one goal and one assist.

A huge key was taking the early lead and building on it, notably against a Kings team capable of strangling a team upon taking a lead.

"Starts are really important, especially against a team as well-structured defensively as the Kings are," said McDavid, who has collected 29 points in 14 career playoff games against Los Angeles. "It helps if you can score the first one, and it kind of forces them to open up a little bit."

Oilers coach Kris Knoblauch said his team succeeded by playing a structured game from being calm and composed.

"I don't think they were in a rush," Knoblauch said. "I think we were able to just pass the puck around rather than skating it, and we looked really organized. The passing and the execution were outstanding, and the power play was the difference."

This being the third consecutive opening-round meeting between Edmonton and Los Angeles, the Oilers only need to look at their one-on-one history to understand the value of Game 2. In the first two series, Los Angeles won the opener, but Edmonton took Game 2 and, ultimately, advanced.

"It just helps you in the sense that now, you've only got to win three instead of four," Hyman said. "You're not behind the gun, so it's good. We've got to defend home ice, so it's important to take care of business here."

--Field Level Media