Column: Kings are routed in Game 5 against Oilers, must find resilience facing elimination

The Kings' Viktor Arvidsson competes for the puck against the Edmonton Oilers' Cody Ceci and Darnell Nurse.
The Kings’ Viktor Arvidsson, middle, vies for the puck against the Edmonton Oilers’ Cody Ceci, left, and Darnell Nurse during Game 5. The Kings lost 6-3 and trail the first-round series 3-2.
(Jason Franson / Associated Press)

If the Kings have any resilience left in their bruised and weary bodies, if they can figure out how to repair the gaping holes the Edmonton Oilers ripped open in their defense during the last two games of their Stanley Cup first-round playoff series, if they want to prolong a promising season, they have three days to find that resilience, those solutions, that fight.

For the second straight game, the Oilers revved up their offense to a level the Kings couldn’t match. The particulars are less important than the undeniable trend: Nick Bjugstad scored twice as the Oilers chased Kings goaltender Joonas Korpisalo to the bench in favor of Pheonix Copley in the second period and roared to a 6-3 victory Tuesday night at Rogers Place.

The Kings have until Saturday, when Game 6 will be played at Arena, to reflect, repair and regroup and try to extend their season to a seventh game Monday in Edmonton.


“That’s obviously not good enough. It wasn’t close to good enough,” Kings coach Todd McLellan said of his team’s defensive effort. “It probably doesn’t get you a win in Game 2 of the regular season, so move on.”

Or move out.

The Oilers’ scoring spree — a strong follow-up to their 5-4 overtime comeback win in Game 4 — put the Kings one loss from the end of a season they thought would go long. They upgraded their skill by acquiring Kevin Fiala. They traded franchise legend Jonathan Quick and a first-round pick to acquire Korpisalo and Vladislav Gavrikov, both of whom can leave without compensation this summer. They didn’t make those moves to be eliminated in the first round by the Oilers for a second consecutive season.

After their heartbreaking loss in Game 4, the Kings know they’ll have to make fixes to their game in order to upset the Edmonton Oilers in the playoffs.

April 24, 2023

“Certainly not the game we wanted to play tonight,” team captain Anze Kopitar said. “The result is what it is now, and we’re still going home. Obviously down 3-2, but we’re going to play a lot better in the next one.”

They have no choice.

The tenacity that served them so well early in the series and early on Tuesday has been worn down by Edmonton’s scoring depth, size and skill. The Oilers scored twice on the power play to extend their success to eight for 14 in the series, and they sprinted beyond the Kings’ reach with a two-goal second period that turned a 3-2 nailbiter into a 5-2 laugher.

After repeatedly saying Tuesday morning that they wanted to play five-on-five as much as possible, the Kings sabotaged that plan when Carl Grundstrom took a hooking penalty at 6:12 of the first period. Edmonton cashed in on a shot by Evander Kane from the left circle at 8:08, the Oilers’ 15th goal of the series but the first for which Leon Draisaitl was not on the ice.

Draisaitl didn’t let that happen twice in a row. He took a pass from Connor McDavid and scored from close range as he fell to the ice to give the Oilers a 2-0 lead at 10:40. The Kings responded at 13:12, when Alex Iafallo converted the rebound of a shot by Adrian Kempe after Kopitar had made a good play to keep the puck in the zone. Kempe has scored at least one point in all five games of this series.

The Kings' Trevor Moore and the Edmonton Oilers' Darnell Nurse battle for the puck.
The Kings’ Trevor Moore, left, and the Edmonton Oilers’ Darnell Nurse jostle for the puck during the first period of Game 5 on Tuesday night.
(Jason Franson / Associated Press)

A minute later, the Oilers rebuilt a two-goal margin when defenseman Brett Kulak darted in from the blue line to snap a shot past Korpisalo. But the Kings cut that lead to 3-2 when Kempe got behind the defense and unleashed a wrist shot that eluded goalie Stuart Skinner at 17:35.

“Coming in at 3-2, it felt like it was anybody’s game,” Kopitar said. “I just think we’ve got to play more assertive right from the start. It’s a start that we didn’t want tonight and didn’t need. More desperate and a lot more assertive.”

The second period was sleepy, by comparison, until the Oilers woke up the crowd by extending their lead to 4-2 when Bjugstad tipped a shot by Cody Ceci. That was the last shot faced by Korpisalo, who was replaced by Copley after stopping 15 of 19 shots. The appearance was the first in the Stanley Cup playoffs for Copley, a journeyman who saved the Kings’ season after Cal Petersen and Quick stumbled.

Copley couldn’t be blamed for Edmonton’s fifth goal, scored during a power play, when a shot by Evan Bouchard struck Zach Hyman’s chin and caromed into the net at 15:47. The rest was bookkeeping for the Kings, a matter of not getting hurt and getting mentally ready for what might be their season finale.

Zach Hyman scores in overtime as the Edmonton Oilers rally from a 3-0 deficit to defeat the Kings 5-4. The series is tied 2-2 as it heads back to Canada.

April 23, 2023

The Kings were scheduled to travel back to Los Angeles after the game, instead of staying over, as they had done after the first two games. They will have time to heal their bodies and learn from all that went wrong Tuesday and figure out how to fix a mountain of problems by Saturday.


“We’ll look at what we could have done better, get a couple days of rest,” Kempe said. “Obviously, we’ve got to win a game at home and hopefully come back here for Game 7. Just think of the next game now and move forward.”

At the moment, forward consists of one game.