It’s a new era for the Kings, but they reached back to their triumphant past on Friday to play “Welcome to the Black Parade,” the song that became their anthem during their 2012 and 2014 Stanley Cup championship runs.
The familiar song and updated video stoked fans’ emotions to a frenzy, but the Edmonton Oilers soon deflated their hopes of replicating those playoff successes by staging a dazzling display of skill and precise passing.
Evander Kane recorded a hat trick, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Zach Hyman each scored twice and NHL scoring champion Connor McDavid contributed two nifty assists as the Oilers earned a commanding 8-2 victory at Crypto.com Arena and took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Kings coach Todd McLellan was angry and succinct at his postgame news conference.
“We can do this really quick tonight. I can [summarize] it all up for you, we can all go home,” he said. “We weren’t any good. We’re really disappointed, we got trapped playing their game.
“You could ask me about individuals, I’ll give you the same answer for all of them: They weren’t any good. And we have to regroup [Saturday].”
They have no choice but to regroup, especially on defense. They’ve been outscored 14-2 in the last two games, a dramatic departure from the identity they constructed this season. They knew they’d have to work hard to match McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, but the Oilers are getting scoring from secondary sources and the Kings have been powerless to stop them.
“I think it’s a big slap in the face tonight, and we’ve got to regroup,” said center Phillip Danault, who ended the Kings’ power-play futility at 17:29 of the second period to cut the Oilers’ lead to 5-2. “Luckily it’s only 2-1 in the series, so we’ve got to regroup and step up next game.”
He also said the Kings must look at it as the Oilers holding a one-game edge in the series and not that Edmonton is scoring almost at will. “We have to look at it as 2-1. We don’t want to look at all the goals,” Danault said.
That won’t make those goals go away, though. The Kings’ defense, smallish and not very experienced without injured leader Drew Doughty, is getting overrun. The forwards are committing too many turnovers, a product of inexperience and the pressures of playoff hockey. The answers are within their locker room, at least until this summer when they can dip into the trade and free-agent markets to make upgrades up front and on defense.
McLellan also said forward Carl Grundstrom missed the game because of an injury; he said early Friday that Viktor Arvidsson remains out because of a lower-body injury. For now, the Kings’ only option is to rediscover the pride and identity that carried them to the playoffs this season for the first time since 2018. That’s a tough assignment.
“You can’t lose confidence this time of the year,” defenseman Alex Edler said. “We know what kind of team we are. We haven’t shown it the last two games.”
The Oilers struck twice in the first period. Draisaitl converted a pass from McDavid at 3:50, while the teams were skating four on four, and Hyman redirected a perfect pass from McDavid while stationed at the far post during a power play, at 6:07. That improved the Oilers’ power-play performance in the series to five for nine.
The Oilers sent Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick to the bench in favor of Cal Petersen at 7:42 of the second period, after Kane scored on a second effort and an unchecked Hyman scored from the slot for the Oilers’ fourth goal on 17 shots. Kane scored again, on a rebound, before Anze Kopitar spared the Kings the embarrassment of a second straight shutout by backhanding the puck under the crossbar and past Mike Smith at 10:07.
The Kings scored a power-play goal — their first in 11 chances in the series — at 17:29 of the second period, when Danault converted the rebound of a shot by Kempe. That gave the fans life again and trimmed the Kings’ deficit to 5-2, but Nugent-Hopkins scored twice and Kane completed his hat trick in the final six minutes of the period.
“We’ve just got to look at the next one,” Edler said. “We didn’t play good enough tonight, we didn’t play good enough last game.”
The Oilers’ scoring spree added a laughable dimension to criticism made Friday morning by reporters who cover the team that Crypto.com Arena’s lights weren’t turned on and the nets weren’t in place at 11:20 a.m. for the team’s scheduled 11:30 starting time.
Video showed patches of water still on the ice after it had been flooded, and the maintenance crew was waiting for the ice to dry before moving the nets to prevent the metal frame from causing gouges in the ice. Hints of gamesmanship abounded.
“It must have been a slow day as regards to news in Edmonton,” said Lee Zeidman, president of Crypto.com Arena, Microsoft Arena and L.A. Live. He said the crew was following standard procedure for an 11:30 a.m. skate but said the ice will be ready by 11:10 a.m. for the Oilers’ next game day skate.
Not that the Oilers need the practice. The Kings, however, need a miracle or something close to it.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.