LOS ANGELES –– The Kings concluded the 2023 calendar year the same way they ended each of their past two postseasons: with a loss to the Edmonton Oilers, this time 3-2 in a shootout at Crypto.com Arena on Saturday night.
Adrian Kempe scored a goal and added a primary assist on Kevin Fiala’s tally to mount a 2-0 lead, which later evaporated. Cam Talbot stopped 24 shots.
Connor McDavid notched a stunning goal for his 13th of the season and set up Leon Draisaitl’s marker. Derek Ryan netted the shootout winner. Stuart Skinner made 26 saves to give him the most victories of any NHL goalie since Nov. 7, while Edmonton pushed their win streak to four games.
“Every time we’re in this building, it feels like the exact same game, rinse and repeat,” McDavid said. “It’s a grind, they’re a great team and I thought we did a good job of just hanging in there.”
Each of the first four shooters converted on their shootout attempts: Trevor Moore and Kempe for the Kings as well as Edmonton’s McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. It was the decidedly lower-profile Ryan playing the villain, capping the comeback with a shootout winner a night after his 37th birthday.
In overtime, Anze Kopitar, Moore and Edmonton’s Zach Hyman all had forays to the netfront in overtime, and Phillip Danault came up with an enormous clear during a seemingly endless shift for McDavid.
The final third of regulation took a tactical posture, with the Kings killing the period’s only penalty, assessed to Fiala, and both teams playing a structured stanza that set up an overtime session.
“They’re not gonna give up much, we’re not giving up much,” said Kings coach Todd McLellan, remarking that his team scored the game’s only five-on-five goal. “For the most part, it was a hard-fought game, it was playoff-style, if you will.”
The first 40 minutes were a tale of two periods, with the Oilers taking control of the middle frame and leaving the teams deadlocked at the second intermission.
Edmonton struck on the power play at the 5:35 mark and again nearly 10 minutes later during a four-on-four situation, with their two-headed monster of McDavid and Draisaitl knotting the score.
First, after an offensive-zone faceoff win McDavid received the puck near the left-wing wall and appeared to be looking for a seam pass to Draisaitl in the right faceoff circle. Kempe dumped Draisaitl to the ice but rather than looking for a penalty, McDavid turned his eyes upward and lifted the puck over Talbot, off his goalie mask and into the net for a surreal goal. McLellan, who coached McDavid at the outset of his career, said McDavid appeared to attempt a similar shot a short while earlier.
Later, the Oilers lost a draw in the same circle, on the left side of the Kings’ zone, but McDavid and Draisaitl hemmed in Matt Roy. They picked his pocket and weaved their way through traffic to connect on a one-timer and Draisaitl’s 16th goal of the campaign.
For McDavid, it was career assist No. 581 in Game No. 600. In the same number of appearances, only Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Bobby Orr accumulated more helpers.
“Any time you’re mentioned with those guys, you’re doing something right. Those are three of the game’s very, very, very best,” McDavid said. “To be with that company obviously means a lot to me. It’s not lost on me; it’s a special group.”
The first period was all Kings, as they earned a pair of man-advantage opportunities, out-shot Edmonton 11-2 and constructed a two-goal edge.
After a dry run on their first power play, the Kings cashed in on their second with 5:16 left in the stanza. It was their first conversion in 15 opportunities, but one that proved worth the wait.
Fiala and Kempe turned in a play that was as spectacular as it was reciprocal as Fiala created space for Kempe on the breakout and Kempe did the same for Fiala with a fast and flawless entry. He zoomed down to the goal line, drawing three of four defenders to him in the process, and then found Fiala in wide open space just inside the right circle for an authoritative one-timer.
Kempe would extend the Kings’ lead on another three-zone goal, 4:05 later. This time it was the big bodies of Quinton Byfield and Kopitar barrelling in on the forecheck to win the puck. Byfield’s flick to Kopitar allowed him to send a laser of a lead pass ahead to Kempe, who had inadvertently knocked down the lone defender behind the play, Darnell Nurse, allowing Kempe to dart ahead for a partial breakaway goal from near the right dot.
“(The Kings) play a unique style of game and when you’re not prepared to play that way, it can make for a long night, and we saw that in the first 20 minutes,” McDavid said.