Column: Coming back not in cards for Kings this time against Oilers in Game 2

Kings' Blake Lizotte and Edmonton Oilers' Vincent Desharnais vie for the puck.
Kings’ Blake Lizotte (46) and Edmonton Oilers’ Vincent Desharnais (73) vie for the puck during the first period of Game 2 of a Stanley Cup first-round playoff series on Wednesday in Edmonton, Canada.
(Jason Franson / Associated Press)

The Kings can’t match the Edmonton Oilers’ incredible skills. They don’t have the Oilers’ impressive scoring depth, imposing size or brawn.

But during the teams’ first-round playoff series, the Kings have shown they’re well stocked in an area no analytic study can quantify: resilience.

On Wednesday, that almost made up for all their disadvantages in a 4-2 loss to the Oilers that tied their series at 1-1 in advance of Game 3 on Friday at Arena.

The Kings nearly followed up their Game 1 comeback victory with another triumphant rally against the Oilers, reviving from a flat first period in which they had no shots on goal until 2 minutes, 2 seconds remained in the period.


They pulled even at 2-2 in the last minute of the second period on a slick goal by Gabe Vilardi, newly returned to the lineup after an injury kept him out of the last nine regular-season games and the playoff opener, and nearly took the lead on a shot by Rasmus Kupari that eluded Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner but hit the post with 10 seconds left.

The Kings got a huge overtime victory against the Edmonton Oilers to open the Stanley Cup playoffs Monday, thanks in part to goalie Joonas Korpisalo.

April 18, 2023

That allowed Edmonton to regroup, and the Oilers didn’t waste the gift. Fourth-liner Klim Kostin scored the decisive goal on a long shot that eluded a screened Joonas Korpisalo at 2:20 of the third period, and Evander Kane sealed it with an empty-net goal with 27 seconds left.

The Kings pulled off one miracle by twice erasing two-goal leads in the opener before winning in overtime. They couldn’t do it again.

“Obviously, we haven’t played that full 60 minutes yet and that’s something we’ve got to learn,” winger Adrian Kempe said. “Going home with one win out of two — and we could have won two games — not playing good for 60 minutes, I’d say we’ll take that.”

Kings' Arthur Kaliyev and Sean Durzi check Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid during the second period.
Kings’ Arthur Kaliyev (34) and Sean Durzi (50) check Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) during the second period of Game 2 in a Stanley Cup first-round playoff series Wednesday in Edmonton, Canada.
(Jason Franson / Associated Press)

With a better start, with an effort that didn’t force them to play catch-up again, they could have been coming home with a 2-0 series lead. That will stay on their minds for a while.


“We didn’t panic. We stuck to the plan. That’s our recipe, but we definitely need a better start,” said Phillip Danault, who cut Edmonton’s lead to 2-1 at 14:38 of the second period, on a putback of his own rebound after a setup on a short pass by Kempe.

“I thought the character was there again and we came back again so we proved that we can do that.”

Kings coach Todd McLellan said the team’s ability to stage another comeback was a positive, and he praised his players’ resilience. But they shouldn’t have put themselves in a hole that forced them to rally.

“The frustrating thing for me is that there were some things that we needed to do early in the game and we didn’t decide to do until the second period,” he said. “Very similar to Game 1.”

The Oilers scored twice in the first period before the Kings could muster a shot on goal. The Oilers used their size to bowl over the smaller Kings and they capitalized on their first power play to take a 2-0 lead.

Edmonton benefited from a fortunate bounce in scoring its first goal, at 2:34. A shot by Leon Draisaitl caromed off the end boards and directly to Derek Ryan, who slipped a wrist shot past Korpisalo.


Alex Iafallo’s tripping penalty gave the Oilers a power play at 11:13, and it didn’t take long for them to extend their lead.

Draisaitl took a pass from Connor McDavid and ripped a shot from one knee in the right faceoff circle, getting it past Korpisalo at 12:06.

Kings' Gabriel Vilardi is congratulated for a goal against the Edmonton Oilers during the second period.
Kings’ Gabriel Vilardi (13) is congratulated for a goal against the Edmonton Oilers during the second period of Game 2 in a Stanley Cup first-round playoff series Wednesday in Edmonton, Canada.
(Jason Franson / Associated Press)

That was the first point of the series for McDavid, the NHL’s regular-season scoring champion.

Danault made the crowd at Rogers Place uneasy with his goal, and Vilardi brought back Oilers fans’ unhappy memories of Monday’s Kings victory with his first playoff goal. But the Kings didn’t have another comeback left in them in the third period.

The teams went back to Los Angeles last year tied 1-1, a series the Oilers won in seven. The split, Kempe said, “is a good thing for sure.” He added, “Obviously a little frustrated we lost today but overall just got to stay positive and go home and win some games.”


A look at the process of changing over Arena for Lakers, Clippers and Kings home games during the 2023 playoffs.

April 19, 2023

Vilardi echoed the need for the Kings to start strong and not let the Oilers control the play. Easier said than done, so far. But he was encouraged by the Kings’ ability to respond, even though they fell short.

“We came out flat in the first period and made a game of it,” he said. “Obviously [Korpisalo] had a big factor in that. We’ve got to put together a solid 60 minutes. We haven’t played great for the majority of the game.”

Nothing less than a full and complete effort in every game will allow the Kings to compensate for the disadvantages they brought into this series.

Heart and character have been the Kings’ backbone so far, but better starts will give them a chance of happy endings.