LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Kings’ problem on Friday wasn’t that they kept the lights in the ring for as long as possible before the morning skate for the Edmonton Oilers, but that they turned them on for the game.
With the stage and Crypto.com Arena shining in their first Stanley Cup playoffs in Los Angeles in more than four years, the Kings weren’t ready when the lights came on. Showtime belongs to the Oilers, who scored twice in the first six minutes and embarrassed Los Angeles 8-2 to advance 2-1 in the first-round series.
Edmonton’s advantage seems to be more than one game.
Including breaking up the Kings 6-0 on Wednesday in Edmonton, the Oilers pumped two games out of two and won scores of goals on aggregate. And Conor MacDavid has only one of Edmonton’s 17 goals in the series. Think about that for a minute. Sixteen goals were scored by other oilers.
On Friday, Evander Kane scored a hat-trick, and Zach Hyman and Ryan Nugent Hopkins scored twice. The Oilers chased away Kings star Jonathan Quick midway through the second period, and Edmonton quarterback Mike Smith has been close to perfect since his third-round win in Game 1 allowed Los Angeles to win 4-3.
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The difference is in different paths. Fourth game on Sunday.
“I’m not a big believer in the momentum continuing,” said Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft. “I think you have to rebuild things. We expected a boost from them. Sure, you know, there are a lot of shots at the net from all angles and all that kind of thing, but I thought we showed some tenacity and tenacity and some patience with our game and hit when the time was right.
“I feel the true spirit of teamwork between our group – people who work hard for each other. It’s a fun group to get behind you tonight.”
Yes, these teams may ultimately be different from the teams that largely wasted McDavid’s first six seasons while winning only one playoff series. Certainly, no Edmonton coach has ever used “teamwork spirit” to describe his team.
“It takes everyone,” MacDavid said simply when asked about contributions from across the lineup.
“Just finding ways to win matches, that’s all that matters this time of year,” he said. “It doesn’t really matter how it looks or what’s going on. I think we did a good job playing well, we played hard, we played physically. They were kind of deterred today and I think we responded well.”
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Seven seasons and nearly 700 points under McDavid, the Oilers have been trying to win only their second playoff series since 2006. Naturally, that created a fair amount of the burden. The weight gets heavier every time Oilers lose a chain. At times, the burden seems to increase with the game, like when they lost their opening game on Monday.
But the funny thing about luggage is that everyone has some from somewhere. Lucky are the rare few who are not burdened with disappointments and failed expectations. Kings don’t carry steamer boxes on their backs like McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, but their hilarious packages are starting to feel heavy.
As an organization, the Kings have not won a playoff on ice at home since lifting the Stanley Cup against the New York Rangers in 2014. This impressive feat came with a few free passes. Ask fans in Toronto and Vancouver how much suffering it is worth to win the Stanley Cup.
To be fair to the Kings, the young team that has evolved from being rebuilt and returned to the playoffs perhaps a season or two sooner than expected, have neither the pressure nor the expectations the Oilers have for a win soon.
But the Kings lost all three home games in an opening set loss 4-1 to the San Jose Sharks in 2016, going 0-2 at what was then Staples Center while they were swept away by the Vegas Golden Knights in 2018. Friday was the return of the hockey game to Los Angeles .
The Kings trying to learn how to win, largely reconstituted but with a few key remaining from more prosperous times, were embarrassed by the Oilers for the second game in a row. Edmonton led 5-0 in the middle of Game 3.
Perhaps the rink staff, under instructions from the Kings, should not keep Crypto.com dark and the nets hidden away when the Oilers morning skating team came out a few minutes before their official 11:30 a.m. start time on Friday. The Kings take morning skates at their training facility in El Segundo, near LAX Airport, and it’s common for NHL teams to visit to get on the ice early when the home team isn’t using it.
The kings may have lost their watch at El Segundo. An extra 15 minutes of skidding and digging can burn more oiler’s energy. Instead, Edmonton jumped to Los Angeles at first.
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Skating four-on-four – thanks to Kings Brendan Lemieux, who showed the same respect for opponents as his father did – McDavid and Drysittel perfectly executed two-on-one to make it 1-0 in 3:50.
When Trevor Moore took a free-kick at 5:46, Oilers’ lethal force needed just 23 seconds to make it 2-0, and McDavid made another superb pass on the side of the goal to press Hyman behind Quick.
Smith handled 19 shots in the first half – the Kings fired from all around but made few good chances – but Oilers finished the match before 30 minutes left. Kane scored twice on rebounds around a superb solo attempt by Heymann, all in a three-and-a-half minute span, to make it 5-0 early in the second half.
And after later goals in the frame by Anzi Kopetar and Philip Danault at least got the Los Angeles fans back, the Oilers scored three more goals late in the third half, two from Nugent Hopkins and the third by Kane.
“Anytime you can come into someone’s building and jump on it, I think it’s huge,” MacDavid said. “We were able to do it. But I honestly thought they had a great first period. We had a couple of good games and kind of got there in the first, and I thought our game started early in the second.”
Woodcroft said he expects the Kings, after their poor loss on Wednesday, to put in their best efforts in Game Three.
“And we were ready for that,” he said. “I thought we were surgical to take advantage of the opportunities that presented themselves. I thought they ran a little bit to try my body with us. We handled it with good composure. We made more plays than them and ended up winning tonight.”
“What I enjoy the most as a coach is watching all the people in our squad contribute and give that kind of effort and intensity. Because it was so remarkable.”