Daily News Kings’ woes ‘fixable’ in Game 2 in Edmonton, Hiller says

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The Kings anticipated another playoff matchup with the Edmonton Oilers this season and envisioned it as being different from the past two years, when the Oilers sent them to golf tees and fishing boats in successive springs.

Ahead of Sunday’s Game 2 in Canada, there was little from Friday’s Game 1 to support any turning of the tide.

For the Kings, there was to be a toothier penalty kill, and during the regular season there was, as their PK ascended from 24th to second in the NHL.

They gave up three power-play goals on four opportunities in Game 1, which they lost 7-4.

Analytically, interim coach Jim Hiller said the matchup was closer than suggested by results from the regular season, when Edmonton took three of four clashes including the final two meetings by an 8-3 aggregate score.

In the first period, the Kings gave up 10 high-danger chances and generated just one, en route to a 4-0 deficit with less than half the match elapsed.

The Kings were to deploy the crown jewel of their offseason in Pierre-Luc Dubois, and when he largely languished in the bottom six, that was intended to create a mismatch for the lower lines.

They did get a goal from their bottom six, and from Dubois no less: a Rube Goldberg machine of a goal with a shot that was initially blocked by the Oilers’ Cody Ceci, sending it careening wide into the skate of Edmonton’s Darnell Nurse and serendipitously into the net.

That was one of two own goals on the night for Edmonton and there was a third de facto one when Ceci’s stick broke on a routine pass in his own zone, a turnover that led directly to Trevor Moore’s goal.

In a game in which the Kings were spotted three goals, they still lost by three.

“Two things that happened are strengths of ours – penalty kill and eliminating rush chances,” Hiller said. “That’s what we do well and we didn’t do either of those well tonight. That’s the obvious, we definitely saw that and we’ll have to fix that.”

Hiller described the issues as “fixable” and said that there were at least two penalties that “for sure can’t be in our game.”

One such penalty was Moore’s clipping of defenseman Vincent Desharnais’ knee, which drew a minor penalty but no supplemental discipline despite bearing some similarity to the play for which former Edmonton forward Josh Archibald was suspended in the 2021 playoffs.

Goalie Cam Talbot bore the brunt of brutal moments defensively and had already put up a poor showing in the season finale. While the six goals he surrendered Monday came on a weighty 44 shots, he conceded four goals on just 13 shots against lowly Chicago in the finale.

Hiller said No. 2 goalie David Rittich was an option for Game 2 in the way that every player was always an option, continuing his noncommittal comments about his netminders.

For the Oilers, personnel changes seemed unlikely, especially to their top line. Former Duck Adam Henrique scored his first postseason goal since 2012, when he potted one for the New Jersey Devils against the Kings in the Stanley Cup Final, and added an assist. Zach Hyman, who is Jewish, celebrated Passover’s first seder with a hat trick and a helper. Connor McDavid turned in the first five-assist performance in the playoffs since 1998, and became just the 14th player ever to accomplish the feat.

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They won each of the past two series against the Kings after losing Game 1, but they’ve also won 21 of 24 series in franchise history in which they’ve prevailed to open a series. For the Kings’ part, they’ve made 180-degree turns before, reverse sweeping the San Jose Sharks in 2014’s first round and taking these same Oilers to Game 7 in 2022 even after losing Games 2 and 3 by a staggering 14-2 combined count.

While McDavid, Edmonton’s captain, may have posted the gaudy numbers in Game 1, the Kings’ fearless leader, Anze Kopitar, will reach yet another milestone in Game 2. He’ll tie Kings executive and once prolific left wing Luc Robitaille for the most playoff games played in franchise history with 94.

Game 2: Kings at Oilers​


When: 7 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Rogers Place, Edmonton, Alberta

TV: Bally Sports West, TBS

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