Column: Kings squander chance to take commanding series lead in stunning Oilers comeback

Kings goalie Joonas Korpisalo skates off the ice as the Oilers celebrate Zach Hyman's overtime goal.
Kings goalie Joonas Korpisalo skates off the ice as the Oilers celebrate Zach Hyman’s overtime goal in Edmonton’s 5-4 comeback win in Game 4 of the first-round series Sunday at Arena.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The win was on the Kings’ sticks, in their hands, in their building, in the third period of a wildly fluctuating game.

They were four minutes away from putting their skates on the throats of the Edmonton Oilers, of proving their resilience yet again and moving one victory away from advancing to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

All of those visions vanished when the favored Oilers, faced with being pushed to the brink of elimination from the Stanley Cup playoffs, pushed back with a ferocious effort that showed the depth of their character might just equal the great depth of their scoring.


Trevor Moore’s winning goal for L.A. against Edmonton in overtime was especially sweet for the Thousand Oaks native who grew up watching Kings games.

April 23, 2023

After the Kings had played their best period of the playoffs — and their most effective 20 minutes in a long time — they had a three-goal lead, only to lose it in a frantic, ice-tilted-in-one-direction middle period. Even so, they surged ahead again early in the third period, on a goal by defenseman Matt Roy, only to be stymied when Oilers winger Evander Kane’s wrist shot eluded Joonas Korpisalo with 3:02 left in regulation.

It was almost not a surprise when Zach Hyman ripped a shot past Korpisalo at 10:39 of sudden-death play to give the Oilers a 5-4 victory and tie the first-round series at two games each. Game 5 will be played Tuesday at Rogers Place in Edmonton, with Game 6 scheduled for Saturday at Arena.

“I think we just didn’t execute our game plan enough,” Kings captain Anze Kopitar said, “therefore we were playing too much in our own zone, and they’re obviously a good team and a skilled team, and the more you play in your zone, they’re going to make you pay.”

Edmonton Oilers goalie Jack Campbell makes a pad save on Kings forward Viktor Arvidsson during the third period.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

There was no time for the Kings to moan about what might have been. “The series is tied 2-2, so we can be frustrated tonight, but tomorrow’s a new day and we gotta get ready for Game 5. That’s how it is,” Kopitar said.

“Yeah, the first period was obviously really good, the second period was not good, so there’s no secret to that. We’ll have to correct that going forward.”


The Kings had said Sunday morning they felt they had another gear to reach, another level they could attain, after they won two of the first three games of the series. They appeared to have gotten there in the first period Sunday, an effort that triggered roars of sheer joy from their loyal fanbase.

But the Oilers had other ideas. They held a meeting after the first period, deciding to switch goaltenders — from Stuart Skinner to former King Jack Campbell — and their attitude.

“We’ve been there before and we’ve got lots of time,” was the theme, according to Leon Draisaitl, who continued his mastery of the Kings by scoring his fourth and fifth goals of the series.

“You want to put a period like that behind yourself and not dwell on it. Come on strong and give ourselves a chance.”

The Oilers gave themselves not just a chance, but a pivotal win. “In that moment it was massive for our group,” Draisaitl said. “They’re not an easy team to come back against. I thought we came in waves in the second period and put ourselves back in it.”

The return of Kevin Fiala, recovered from an injury that had kept him out of the lineup since April 1, instantly energized the Kings’ offense. He had two assists in the first period, earning the first when his backhander was stopped by Skinner, who couldn’t control the rebound and left the puck loose for a net-crashing Gabe Vilardi at 9:25.

Kings forward Viktor Arvidsson, center, celebrates with Trevor Moore and Phillip Danault.
Kings forward Viktor Arvidsson, center, celebrates with Trevor Moore, left, and Phillip Danault after scoring against the Edmonton Oilers in the first period Sunday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Kings players scramble as they try to keep the puck away from the Edmonton Oilers in overtime.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Viktor Arvidsson extended the Kings’ lead to 2-0 at 16:48. After taking a slick pass from Thousand Oaks native Trevor Moore — who had scored the overtime winner in Game 3 — Arvidsson pivoted around Edmonton defenseman Vincent Desharnais and scored on a blistering shot from the left circle. Edmonton defenseman Cody Ceci was serving a holding penalty when the Kings made it 3-0, at 18:11. Kopitar finished it off by faking Skinner out of his skates and scoring on a backhander, his second goal of the series.

The Oilers roared back in the second period, starting when defenseman Evan Bouchard slapped a long shot through a crowd and past Korpisalo during an Edmonton power play, at 4:55 of the period. At 9:41, after Connor McDavid had upended Kings defenseman Drew Doughty and took him out of the play on a move that could have been called a penalty, McDavid fed Draisaitl in the slot and the German-born forward scored his fourth goal of the series.

Fans became riled up over a tripping penalty called against Fiala on a play on which Fiala got his stick between Draisaitl’s skates but Draisaitl didn’t immediately go down. Draisaitl cashed in from the inside edge of the left circle at 19:49.

Edmonton Oilers forward Zach Hyman celebrates with Connor McDavid after scoring on Kings goalie Joonas Korpisalo.
Edmonton Oilers forward Zach Hyman, right, celebrates with teammate Connor McDavid after scoring on Kings goalie Joonas Korpisalo in overtime.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Roy put the Kings ahead again at 4:28 of the third, trailing the play and slotting home a backhander after a fine pass from Arvidsson, but Kane beat Korpisalo to the goalie’s glove side to tie the score at 16:58.


So near and yet still so very far from their first triumphant playoff series since they won the Cup in 2014 for the second time in three seasons. “I don’t think they were any better than us in OT,” Fiala said. “It could have gone either way.”

But it didn’t. The Oilers seized the moment. And the Kings, who had a 3-2 series lead over the Oilers last season only to lose in seven games, will need to find and sustain that elusive higher level or risk having playoff history repeat itself in an unhappy fashion.