Column: Jonathan Quick and Kings revive Cup-chasing memories in Game 4 shutdown of Oilers

Kings goalie Jonathan Quick stops a shot by Edmonton Oilers forward Zach Hyman.
Kings goalie Jonathan Quick stops a shot by Edmonton Oilers forward Zach Hyman as defenseman Olli Maatta tries to clear the crease during the second period of Game 4 on Sunday at Arena.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
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Being thumped by a flashy opponent early in a first-round Stanley Cup playoff series, as the Kings were flattened in losing their second and third games against the Edmonton Oilers by a cumulative 14-2, wasn’t anything new for them.

The 2014 Kings faced a worse situation after they lost the first two games to San Jose by a combined 13-5 and the first three by an aggregate 17-8. After a better performance in an overtime loss in the third game, then-coach Darryl Sutter said he saw signs it wasn’t the end for his team but the beginning of an opportunity to show their staunch character. “It’s a tough hill,” he said, “and we won’t go quietly away, that’s for sure.”

They didn’t go away until they had the Cup in their arms, rallying to beat the Sharks while becoming only the fourth NHL team to erase a 3-0 deficit and win a best-of-seven postseason series. That dramatic reversal launched them on a long and sometimes perilous path to their second championship in three seasons.


Kings coach Todd McLellan knows that the Kings’ 4-0 win in Game 4 against the Edmonton Oilers will mean nothing once the teams meet again in Game 5.

May 9, 2022

The current Kings are on a longer path back to the top, with the peak still appearing to be a fair distance away.

But on Sunday they showed some of the pride and stubbornness of their pedigreed predecessors, highlighted by a 31-save shutout by two-time Cup champion Jonathan Quick.

Their 4-0 victory over the Oilers on Sunday at a rollicking Arena was as complete an effort as they’ve had this season, and it came at a time they needed it most.

They leveled the series at two games each before heading to Edmonton for Game 5 on Tuesday, and they ensured there will be a Game 6 at home on Thursday.

Kings defenseman Troy Stecher celebrates with teammates Blake Lizotte and Alex Iafallo.
Kings defenseman Troy Stecher, center, celebrates with teammates Blake Lizotte, left, and Alex Iafallo after scoring in the first period Sunday.
(Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)
Kings defenseman Alexander Edler and forward Trevor Moore get in a scuffle with Edmonton Oilers forward Evander Kane.
Kings defenseman Alexander Edler, left, and forward Trevor Moore get in a scuffle with Edmonton Oilers forward Evander Kane during the third period of Game 4.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

None of that was certain after the Oilers dismantled them and outhit them in the previous two games and threatened to run away with the series.

Quick, who at one point made a blocker save after his glove had fallen off and left his hand bare, erased the doubts about the Kings’ intentions.

“We played the game that got us to the playoffs,” Quick said after recording his 10th career playoff shutout. “We got pucks deep, forechecked, blocked shots, pucks to the net, rebounds. We play that way, we can be successful.”

The bad memory of their losses in Games 2 and 3 played a part in reviving their resolve on Sunday.

“Everyone in our room was tired of giving up that many goals,” defenseman Mikey Anderson said. “We tried to lock it up more to get back to our identity, being harder to play against, and try to give up less than we’ve given up the last couple games.”

How did they explain the dramatic turn from allowing six goals in Game 2 and eight more in Game 3 to blanking the mighty Oilers and dominating every phase of the game?

A shot by Kings defenseman Troy Stetcher (not pictured) slides past Edmonton Oilers goalie Mike Smith.
A shot by Kings defenseman Troy Stetcher (not pictured) slides past Edmonton Oilers goalie Mike Smith as Kings forward Blake Lizotte watches during the first period Sunday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Kings forward Blake Lizotte, right, celebrates after a goal by Troy Stecher on Oilers goalie Mike Smith.
Kings forward Blake Lizotte, right, celebrates after a goal by Troy Stecher on Oilers goalie Mike Smith in the first period Sunday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

“I don’t,” coach Todd McLellan said. “I can tell you that we didn’t play very well for two games and I can tell that you we played better tonight, obviously to a man. It wasn’t 100% better. It was only like 5% better per player. But we did some of the things we needed to do to win the game, and we hadn’t been doing that since Game 1.”

McLellan pushed the right buttons to give his players the tools they needed to get back to their hard-working but poised game.

He took rookie defenseman Jordan Spence out of the lineup in favor of Troy Stecher, who scored the second goal on Sunday when his shot from above the right circle struck the stick of Edmonton defenseman Duncan Keith and caromed past goalie Mike Smith at 14:03 of the first period, while the teams were skating four-on-four.

“I thought we needed a little more stability back there,” McLellan said, “somebody that played in this situation before. Obviously he had a real good night, scoring a goal and making plays at key moments, calm plays.”


McLellan also brought Carl Grundstrom back into the lineup after the Swedish winger missed Game 3 because of an undisclosed injury and scratched Andreas Athanasiou. Grundstrom was trustworthy, McLellan said. Reliable.

And that move paid off, too, as Grundstrom scored twice in the third period.

Los Angeles, California May 8, 2022-Kings goalie Jonathan Quick makes a save against the Oilers.
Kings goalie Jonathan Quick watches the puck fly past his helmet during the second period Sunday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

What appeared to be a dire situation turned out to be just another obstacle for a team that became accustomed to them throughout an injury-filled season and had to pretty much rebuild its defense corps on the fly. The kids who looked starstruck and lost in Games 2 and 3 looked steadier, more confident, thanks to the better support around them and the lessons they’ve been learning.

“Our team believes in themselves and what we stand for and we just have to get them back to playing that way and believing in it,” McLellan said. “We can’t go to the table, if you will and just put all our chips in on one play. We have to manage them all night and we did a better job of that tonight.”

Those with long memories will recall that McLellan coached the San Jose team that couldn’t hold that 3-0 series lead over the Kings in 2014.

Kings fans revel in the chance to watch their team in the NHL playoffs, but the Oilers abruptly ended their celebratory mood with an 8-2 win in Game 3.

May 6, 2022

Asked Sunday morning if he had learned anything in that series that might help him now, he pleaded forgetfulness.


“I have a tough time remembering what I did last week, never mind going back a decade,” he said.

Sometimes there are worthwhile lessons in the past. The only numbers that matter now for the Kings are 2-2.