Long ago, they were used to watching their season vaporize against the Edmonton Oilers.
That was in the days before the Kings were the kings of hockey, well before the Stanley Cup victories and parades. The Kings lost playoff rounds to the best generation of hockey players in the Oilers' dynasty years and later in 1991 and 1992.
Now their season teeters on the edge, courtesy of forwards Matt Fraser and Tyler Pitlick and goalie Richard Bachman. They led the Oilers to a stunning 4-2 victory over the Kings on Tuesday night at Rexall Place.
The Kings' flickering playoff chances are close to being extinguished. If they lose Thursday at Calgary in regulation, the Kings will be eliminated, joining the Carolina Hurricanes in a dubious distinction. Carolina was the last Stanley Cup champion (winning in 2006) to fail to make the playoffs the next season.
"I just didn't think we had enough energy, enough jump," Kings center Anze Kopitar said. "Obviously, it just wasn't good enough. We didn't play our style of game. It was too much of a run-and-gun game. When you play a team like Edmonton, they have a lot of speedy forwards and it hurt us."
The back-to-backs for the Kings meant the first start for goalie Martin Jones since Feb. 27. Jones wasn't the problem Tuesday night. Fraser scored two goals, the second an empty-netter, and Benoit Pouliot converted on a breakaway in the second period to make it 2-1.
The Kings trail Winnipeg by three points for the final wild-card spot, and third-place Calgary leads the Kings by two points in the Pacific Division. The Kings lost to Vancouver in a shootout Monday night and got to Edmonton late.
"I don't know what the reason was, but it wasn't good enough," Kopitar said. "That's the bottom line."
Kings center Jarret Stoll did not buy into the theory that the team had run out of gas.
"No, no. This time of year, it's very difficult to run out of gas in the situation that we're in," he said.
Last week, the Kings beat the lowly Oilers, 8-2, at Staples Center. But Bachman, who was away from the team then because of a death in his family, rejoined the Oilers and continued his winning ways against the Kings. With him, the Oilers played like a different team despite the absence of several regulars.
"Our D-zone wasn't as sharp as it needs to be and they burned us on a couple of faceoff goals," Kopitar said. "Our power play gave us life for a little bit. That's about it."
The Oilers never trailed. They had leads of 1-0, 2-1 and 3-1. Pitlick, who missed 41 games because of an injury to his spleen, scored at 5 minutes 31 seconds of the third to make it 3-1. It was his second goal of the season, and it finally caused the Kings to start playing with some urgency.
"We didn't start pushing until we were down 2- or 3-1 in the last period," said Kings defenseman Drew Doughty, who had a goal and an assist. "It was a little too late.
"I don't think we were chasing the game. I don't think they outplayed us. It hasn't been the greatest season, but we still have a chance. We win the next game against Calgary, and the next one against San Jose, some other things have to work out for us but we still have a chance."
Doughty's goal came on the power play — his first power-play goal of the season — and cut the Oilers' lead to 3-2 at 9:38 of the third. He beat Bachman with a laugher, scoring from center ice.
Bachman was able to joke about it later, saying he was trying to make the top-10 highlight list, adding: "I'm pretty sure that'll make it this week."
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