LA Kings Edmonton Oilers

Photo Credit: Alex Cave // Hockey Royalty

In what was arguably their biggest game in years, the LA Kings failed to get it done when they hosted the Edmonton Oilers in DTLA on Thursday.

The Kings fell 3-2 and now sit with a 38-25-10 record. The Oilers extended their Pacific Division lead over the Kings to three points. While the playoffs aren’t looking quite as certain as a week ago, the Kings’ have nine games left in the season to right the ship.

LA’s first period was the worst we’ve seen them play in a long time. They had very little jump throughout the opening 20 minutes, managing just four shots on goal.

Connor McDavid opened the scoring as he got around Troy Stecher and fired a shot short-side on Jonathan Quick early in the first period.

In the second period, due to an Oilers defensive lapse, Trevor Moore found himself with a short-handed opportunity and buried it five-hole on Mike Smith. That marked his fifth shorthanded tally of the season, giving him the league lead.

Later in the period, Warren Foegele converted on a 2-on-1, giving the Oilers a one-goal lead heading into the final frame.

The Oilers would get an early insurance goal when McDavid fed defenseman Evan Bouchard at the point, who blasted one through traffic to put the Oilers up by two goals.

Off of another defensive lapse for the Oilers, Viktor Arvidsson found himself with the puck at the top of the left circle and picked his spot to bury it and pull the Kings within one. This time, unfortunately, they couldn’t even the score.

“I think we started a little slow,” Arvidsson told media in the post-game. “I think we gotta move on. Forget about this one and go onto the next one.”

“When you describe an individual as just okay, that probably cuts it in November, December, but certainly not in April. We were a little bit short tonight with ‘just okay’ players. They weren’t horrible, but they weren’t quite good enough in certain situations,” head coach Todd McLellan told media in the post-game.

“Tonight we made a couple of mistakes that they capitalized on. I thought we forced them into the odd mistake too, which we didn’t capitalize on, but it’s a fine line.”

Three takeaways:

1. Jonathan Quick with a respectable game

The Kings went back to Jonathan Quick last night, and he certainly was not the reason for the Kings’ loss. He made some big saves but didn’t get the defensive support needed for the win.

Quick finished the night with 27 saves on 30 shots, and -0.39 goals saved above expected (GSAx).

2. Kings’ defensive core continues to falter

The absence of Drew Doughty and Mikey Anderson from the LA Kings’ blueline is evident. It’s been extremely rough back there without them, and it’s even worse that there still does not appear to be a timetable for their return.

While the Olli MaattaJordan Spence pairing had a fine night, the top-four consisting of Matt Roy, Troy Stecher, Tobias Bjornfot, and Sean Durzi was just not good enough.

For starters, that Roy-Stecher pairing was on the ice for 1.089 expected goals against and one actual goal against.

The Bjornfot-Durzi pairing, while only allowing 0.414 expected goals against, only generated 0.195 expected goals for, and were also on the ice for a goal against.

The fact of the matter is, without those two top-pairing guys in Anderson & Doughty, it’s going to be hard for the Kings to win many playoff games.

3. Kings need to take advantage of the final stretch

While the Kings’ grasp on a playoff spot is slowly slipping away, not all hope is lost just yet. Of the team’s final nine games, seven will be against teams that aren’t currently in a playoff spot.

Though the Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche, arguably the two best teams in the Western Conference, are on the schedule, they’ll also get the opportunity to play the Blackhawks and Ducks twice each, the Blue Jackets, Kraken, and Canucks.

With an easy schedule like this, the Kings cannot afford to let it go to waste. They’ll need to win these games, knowing that they’re the better team.

The LA Kings are back at it on Sunday in Minnesota.

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