LOS ANGELES — It’s not like it was a burn-the-tape effort, but the Edmonton Oilers might be best served to just forget about what happened Saturday and get ready to resume their schedule Tuesday.
Just about everything — really, everything — went wrong in a 4-0 loss to the Los Angeles Kings as the Oilers ended a three-game trip with two defeats.
“They just played better than us,” winger Zach Hyman said.
Perfect summation, but there’s lots to expand on.
The penalty kill, which allowed two goals against the Anaheim Ducks a night earlier, surrendered the opening goal to Pierre-Luc Dubois 2:38 into the second period.
“That hasn’t been the case lately,” winger Warren Foegele said, “but you have to respect the other team as well.”
Just 49 seconds later, the Oilers allowed a two-on-one marker as Quinton Byfield found Trevor Lewis for an easy goal. The transition defence, much improved under coach Kris Knoblauch, was asleep on that one.
Quickly, the Oilers trailed by two.
“It’s tough to chase it against that team,” forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said.
Byfield then scored in the third period to solidify the outcome, which meant Stuart Skinner allowed three goals in a game for the first time since Dec. 22, a span of 12 starts. Byfield rounded out a three-point night by finding the empty net with 2:42 left in regulation.
Their offence, usually so strong, didn’t generate a ton against the Kings.
Edmonton’s best chances came on one shift when a fluttering puck of Leon Draisaitl’s stick hit the crossbar before Corey Perry was robbed by David Rittich’s right pad. Hyman also had a backdoor try.
“Had we buried a couple of those, the game’s totally different,” Foegele said. “We’ve seen that in this building before.
“Our last time here (on Dec. 30), we were down two and we came back and won. It just wasn’t ours tonight.”
“It makes it harder to win games when that happens.”
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) February 11, 2024
Knoblauch felt it simply came down to an inability to capitalize. His players believed there was a bit more to it than that.
“We stuck with it and had chances. We just couldn’t find it,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “They’re not going to give you anything easy.”
“We had to make something happen out there,” Hyman said. “There wasn’t a lot of space.”
Adding to the offensive woes was the work of their regularly superb power play, which won them the Anaheim game thanks to Draisaitl’s third-period marker. It went 0-for-4 and generated little.
It was just the second time all season the Oilers were shut out.
“We could have played a better game,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “But if we capitalize on the power play, the game probably takes a different shape.”
Should haves, could haves and would haves.
Truthfully, it never really seemed like the Oilers had a chance to win this one, despite what the players and coach said. The Kings, playing under interim coach Jim Hiller for the first time, were the much superior squad — as Hyman said.
“I thought we played better as the game went on, but ultimately it just didn’t go our way,” Knoblauch said.
It hasn’t gone their way in two of the three games since coming out of the bye week when they were riding a 16-game winning streak.
It appears the break came at the worst time.
“When you’re going like that, it’s not ideal. But that’s the way it is. You can’t control it,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “I actually thought we played solid against Vegas, and last night (in Anaheim) we battled.”
Maybe so, but pucks that were going in before the week off aren’t now. The Oilers scored just one goal in their two losses — a two-on-zero, short-handed rush where Draisaitl set up Connor McDavid in Vegas.
It’s not as if the Oilers were firing on all cylinders in their last few games of January, but it seems like their good fortune has been halted.
The chances missed midway through Saturday’s game were an example of that.
“It’s weird how the hockey world works,” Foegele said. “Probably on that streak, a couple of those goals would have went in. Today was just one of those games where you just couldn’t get one in.”
“Tonight, it was probably a game that we were finding ways to win during that streak,” Knoblauch added, “and tonight it just wasn’t enough.”
Despite dropping two of the three games on their road trip, the Oilers have still won 17 of their last 19 contests and 25 of their last 30. They’re 27-8 under Knoblauch.
That’s still an unbelievable run, one that’s vaulted them to three points clear of the Kings for third place in the Pacific Division with a game in hand. That’s an incredible accomplishment after their dreadful start. There’s no reason to hit the panic button.
The Oilers are back at it when they host Detroit on Tuesday before heading back on the road for another three-game swing.
All that’s left to do is put this game — and their near-record-tying streak — behind them and get back to their winning ways.
“We’re going to have to find it again here,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “There are no excuses. We have to get the second half rolling.”
(Top photo of the Oilers’ Leon Draisaitl battling with the Kings’ Pierre-Luc Dubois for the puck in the second period Saturday: Jayne Kamin-Oncea / USA Today)