For third year in a row, Kings' season ended by Edmonton

The Kings’ season expired Wednesday at 10:52 p.m. Mountain Time. Cause of death was the Edmonton Oilers.


For the Kings, these Oilers have become serial killers, snuffing out their NHL playoff hopes in the first round in each of the last three seasons. And it has become easier for the Oilers over time. In 2022, they eliminated the Kings in seven games; last year, they did it in six games; this time it took just five, the last a 4-3 Edmonton win.

“It’s definitely a disappointing feeling, obviously for the third year in a row,” Kings captain Anze Kopitar said. “It just sucks right now.

“It doesn’t matter, you’re out of the playoffs regardless who gets you. But definitely not a great feeling getting the worst of it three years in a row.”

The Oiler goals came from Evander Kane in the first period and two from Leon Draisaitl and one from Zach Hyman in the second period. Evan Bouchard had three assists and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Connor McDavid two apiece, with McDavid’s two helpers giving him a league-best 11 in the postseason.

The Kings’ goals came from Alex Laferriere, who scored in the final seconds of the first period, Blake Lizotte, who scored in the opening minutes of the second, and Adrian Kempe, who scored in the season’s final three minutes.

Facing elimination and with no room for error Wednesday, the Kings made a bushelful, going to the penalty box five times in the first two periods to set up all three of the Oilers’ second-period goals.

Edmonton was ready to celebrate long before the puck dropped in Game 5. Downtown restaurants and storefronts were adorned with Oilers banners and signs while office workers and shopkeepers wore Oilers jerseys to work. “Go Oilers Go!” flashed from the digital destination signs on the front of city buses. Even the opioid clinic around the corner from the arena had an Oilers playoff poster taped to its windows.

Rogers Place, the team’s hulking home, was again stuffed with a raucous crowd of more than 18,000; thousands more watched on large-screen TVs in a parking lot next door. And they didn’t have to wait long for something to cheer, with Kane scoring off a give-and-go with defenseman Brett Kulak to put the Oilers in front 10:17 into the opening period.

Coming in, Edmonton had lost none of the previous seven playoff games in which Kane had scored against the Kings. That wouldn’t change Wednesday.

The Kings, building off the momentum of a well-played Game 4, had largely controlled the game up to that point, outshooting Edmonton 7-1 in the first 10 minutes. But they weren’t able to take advantage of some sloppy Oilers play until Laferriere scored a freak goal 28 seconds before the first intermission.

With Edmonton trying to close out the period, the Kings’ Vladislav Gavrikov sent a routine pass the boards into the Oilers’ end. Edmonton goalie Stuart Skinner came out of the crease to play the puck, but it took a strange bounce across the front of the goal to Laferriere, who had an easy finish into an open net for his first career playoff goal.

Just more than three minutes into the second period, Lizotte, promoted to the third line alongside Laferriere for this game, scored his first playoff goal to give the Kings their first lead in the series since Kopitar’s overtime winner in Game 2. Andreas Englund and Viktor Arvidsson made the goal possible, quickly moving the puck the length of the ice in two passes, freeing Lizotte to score on a wrister from the right circle.

The lead didn’t last long, however, and once again it was the Kings’ penalty kill that let them down with Draisaitl evening the game on a power-play goal, Edmonton’s ninth in 19 man-advantage opportunities in the series. The Kings were 0 for 12 on the power play in the playoff.

“It just comes down to the special teams,” said Jim Hiller, the Kings interim coach. “It’s pretty simple. You saw one team execute, one team not.”

Center Phillip Danault agreed.

“I don’t know what to think. It’s too fresh,” he whispered in the Kings’ empty locker room. “But it definitely hurts. “You have to be better to win against that team.

“The five-on-five game, it’s right there. At the end of the day, they get five power plays, we get [one]. You can’t control that. And it’s the same scenario every year. So if there’s one thing you should change, it’s less penalties probably.”

With their backs against the wall the Kings had stressed exactly that — the need to avoid unnecessary penalties. Yet less than three minutes after Lizotte’s goal, Gavrikov went off hooking. And 65 seconds later the game was tied, with Draisaitl blasting a shot just inside the right post that Kings goaltender David Rittich gloved outside the goal, only to have the momentum of the shot carry the puck – and Rittich’s glove – over the line.

Draisaitl’s fifth goal of the series less than five minutes later put Edmonton ahead to stay and it came just four seconds after another Oilers’ power play had expired. It also came from the same spot — the edge of the right faceoff circle — and again the assists went to McDavid and Bouchard.

Hyman deflected in the rebound of Bouchard’s shot from the top of the slot in the final minute of the second period — three seconds after the Kings’ Drew Doughty came out of the penalty box — to double the lead.

Kempe’s fourth goal of the series gave the Kings hope with 2:18 left in their season, but they could get no closer.

“Probably just needed some more guys to step up. Play better. All of us, every single guy on the team,” defender Drew Doughty said. “That’s the only way you’re going to win a playoff series.”

When it finally ended, there was really nothing more for the Kings to do than board their Thursday morning charter flight home to another long offseason. The Oilers, meanwhile, are off to the second round again, this time against the winner of the Vancouver-Nashville series, which resumes Friday in Nashville with the Canucks leading, 3-2.

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