Column: Kings seek final shot against Oilers after falling in Game 6

Rebuilding a team isn’t just about filling roster vacancies, it’s not just finding right-handed defenders to pair with left-handers and getting role players that fit the team’s base.

When all goes well – which is rarely quick or certain – a rebuilt team naturally develops and unites around an identity. Players live it and take pride in it. After struggling to end a steep decline after two-time Stanley Cup champions, the Kings used their first playoff run since 2018 to create a new identity they believe could define them for years to come.

Their resilience in the first-round playoff series against Edmonton allowed them to recover from a two-goal loss and move in a series-winning game. But the Oilers responded with some resilience of their own on Thursday, winning 4-2 with 5:10 left in the third quarter by Tyson Barry on a goal from above the right circle. An empty net goal sealed the victory for the Oilers.

The teams will decide Saturday in Game 7 at Edmonton’s Rogers Square. That team would advance to the second round against the Calgary-Dallas series winner, Calgary leading 3-2.

Edmonton built a 2-0 lead from a siege by Connor McDavid early in the first quarter and a deflection from Evander Kane early in the second, But the Kings fought back late in the second with a powerful goal from Sean Durzi, and Karl Glendstrom completed a brilliant pass from Matt Roy 29 seconds into the third. . But McDavid and Dresser worked their magic to make Barry the winner, which created Kings forward Dustin Brown — who will retire at the end of the season — to play one final game for the team. Possibility of home games.

Despite losing defenseman Drew Doughty to season-ending wrist surgery in March and losing 20-ball scorer Viktor Arvidsson to a lower extremity injury in the series, The Kings outperformed the Oilers in crunch time. The Oilers reacted to the urgency of the knockout game Thursday by reconfiguring their roster to place superstars Conor McDavid and Leon Dresser together while the Kings turned inward Look at their status and readiness.

“We know we’re going to give our all tonight. They’re going to play desperate. They’re going to do everything they can, so we have to be ready for that,” Kings guard Alex Edler said. “We have to play our game and execute our game.”

Edmonton also had to replace big-time defenseman Darnell Nurse, who was suspended for head-butting Kings center Philippe Darnot in Game 5 in Edmonton on Tuesday. Kris Russell is back in the lineup, but he’s not quite as strong. The king responded by looking inward again.

“They’ve got very capable defenders who’ve been waiting for their chance and they’re going to be hungry,” McClellan said. “For us, we care more about the players who are playing than the players who are not.”

McClellan’s move was incredible. Guard Troy Stecher, who was acquired with a seventh-round pick in March and entered the lineup for Game 4, contributed a goal and an assist in both Game 4 and Game 5. Winger Andreas Athanasiou scored in the 4th and he was in the 5th. Winger Grundstrom was injured for Game 3 and scored twice in Game 4.

“It was fantastic to see these guys come through and give us a good game,” winger Alex Jafalo said. “These are huge goals that push us forward, give us motivation and stuff like that.”

Kings’ Olli Maatta and Edmonton Oilers’ Evander Kane shove each other at the end of the second quarter during Game 6 of the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs at Arena on Thursday .

(Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)

Ifalo said he hoped the players would be able to end the series calmly on Thursday. If necessary, Game 7 will be played in Edmonton on Saturday.

“I feel like it’s just like what we’ve been talking about throughout the series, just sticking together,” Iafallo said. “Obviously you get excited before the game, but you have to channel it in the right way, treat every turn as the last and make sure you have more positives than mistakes.”

Regardless of the outcome, the Kings will lead in some ways. They’ve found everything they have in terms of talent and character, and they know that putting up a half-decent power play and average free-throw percentage could make them a Cup threat. They have no pressure.

Not so for the beloved Oilers. Edmonton revolved around superstars but failed to complete a stage where building a team should have been easier: finding a solid goalie and a solid support lineup. The NHL announced Thursday that McDavid, a two-time recipient of the award, was a finalist in the Hart Cup as the Most Valuable Player. But since he was drafted No. 1 overall in 2015, the Oilers won a playoff series in 2017. Fans and the media were fidgeting.

McClellan, who coached the Oilers from 2015-16 through the first 20 games of the 2018-19 season, knows the pressure the Oilers face. “Maybe I’m the only one who can talk about this because I live on their bench and now I live on ours. It’s totally different,” he said.

“Our pressure is what we put on ourselves. The pressure on them is enormous, the pressure on the whole oil country and Canada, the superstars and the media, and where they’ve been and what they want to do. A lot of people who follow the series are used [the term] House money, we don’t see it that way. But I believe it also creates a different set of pressure points for each organization. “

The pressure point for the Kings is in a comfortable environment. “We’re going to take advantage of our internal pressure, the pressure we put on when we’re looking at each other in the locker room, and what we expect from each other. That’s what we want to take advantage of,” McClellan said. “We have no control over what happens to their team.”

They’ve taken control of their route well and created a new identity they can build, either this season or not long after.


Leave a Reply