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The Los Angeles Kings are heading back to Edmonton with the series tied, following a 5-4 overtime loss against the Oilers last night.
The Kings did get a major boost going into the game, with Kevin Fiala replacing Zack MacEwen to suit up for his first game in over three weeks.
We saw a fast-paced start to the night, with the Kings buzzing for a few really good chances right away. Fiala nearly set up a goal right off his first zone entry of the game, then both Quinton Byfield and Gabriel Vilardi had great chances in front, but the Kings couldn’t beat Stuart Skinner early. The Oilers did quickly come back with a few chances of their own and hit a couple posts, but midway through the frame, Gabriel Vilardi buried a rebound to put Los Angeles ahead.
Soon after though, Evander Kane ended up with a great chance to tie it off a bad defensive zone turnover from the Kings, but Joonas Korpisalo came up with a huge save in-close. The Kings made it count later, with Viktor Arvidsson spinning off a hit on a zone entry before beating Skinner five-hole to put the Kings up by two. Then after a penalty to Cody Ceci, Los Angeles capitalized on the ensuing power play, with Anze Kopitar making a nice move to slide the puck past Skinner for a three-goal lead through 20 minutes.
Jack Campbell replaced Skinner after the opening frame and the Oilers did get one back on a power play early in the second period, with Evan Bouchard putting a shot through traffic from the point to score. Then midway through the frame, Connor McDavid got a pass out front to Leon Draisaitl who beat Korpisalo, cutting the lead to 3-2. The Oilers were starting to take over from there and kept pressing for a lot of the frame. Then with only 10 seconds left in the period and Edmonton on a power play, Draisaitl took a pass from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to score his second goal of the frame, erasing the Kings’ lead and tying the game through 40 minutes.
Despite the blown lead, Los Angeles did rebound with a great third period. After a strong first few minutes, Matt Roy joined the rush and took a pass from Vikor Arvidsson, before going to the backhand to slide the puck through Jack Campbell, putting Los Angeles back ahead. The Kings did a really good job limiting chances from there, not even allowing a shot until about midway through the period. Despite the Oilers being the team trailing, it was the Kings who had all the momentum and if it weren’t for some big saves from Jack Campbell, Los Angeles likely would’ve run away with it. At one point, the shots stood at 13-1 in the period.
However, with only three minutes to go, Evander Kane took a pass on a rush and wired a shot past Korpisalo, tying the game and sending it to overtime. After a really strong frame, it was a pretty deflating turn of events.
Then in the extra frame, the Kings did successfully manage to kill off a penalty but shortly after, Zach Hyman was the hero for the Oilers, coming in on a rush and putting a shot through Korpisalo, as Edmonton took the win to even the series.
It’s a huge missed opportunity for the Kings and feels like a win that they let slip away. Despite the fact they weren’t necessarily the better team through the first three games of the series, last night was a game that felt like the Kings were in control for the most part (aside from the second period). They were the better team in both the first and third periods, but gave up two different leads and just couldn’t close out the game.
It’s difficult to poke too many holes in the Kings’ game, even with the loss. Overall in the series as well, they’re not struggling to score, Joonas Korpisalo has generally been playing very well, and the power play has been good. It's been a close series between two good teams and the reality is Edmonton’s power play has just been dominant.
It’s not even like Los Angeles got into penalty trouble, the Oilers just went 2-for-3 on the man advantage and it allowed them to get right back into the game in the second period. We know how dangerous the Oilers can be on the power play, but the Kings’ penalty kill just needs to find a way to slow them down, at least. Edmonton has gone 6-for-11 on the man advantage through the series.
The good news is Kevin Fiala looked like he hadn’t missed a beat in his return and had a good game (despite taking the penalty that led to the tying goal). The Kings’ offense is just much more dynamic with him in the lineup. Speaking of returns – Gabriel Vilardi continues to be a factor since coming back for Game 2 as well, with a point in every game so far. With both players back, it feels like the Kings are much more equipped to go head-to-head against the Oilers offensively (at least as much as they can be).
With the loss though, now instead of having a stranglehold on the series, the Kings go back to Edmonton tied 2-2. It’s a hugely disappointing result, given the Kings actually put together a good game and more than anything, the loss was just a huge missed opportunity.
At the very least, this has been the most exciting series of the first round and you can’t really ask for better hockey as a viewer.
Game 5 is set for tomorrow night.
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Breaking down the playoff picture in West before Kings’ 82nd game
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Kings battle back from two-goal deficit in Game 1, defeat Oilers in OT
Kings erase another two-goal deficit but fall to Oilers in Game 2
Kings take series lead with Game 3 OT win over Oilers