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Photo Credit: © Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Day After: The Oilers show up to Game 4 with a lacklustre effort and allow the Kings back into the series

The Oilers dominated Games 2 and 3 with speed and physicality, getting on the Kings shift after shift so that they didn’t have any time or space to make plays.

On Sunday night, with an opportunity to give themselves a commanding 3-1 series lead, the Oilers came out and played a different game, a familiar one that we’ve seen in the past. They were slow and pensive and waited for the play to come to them, and then when the Kings grabbed a 2-0 lead in the first period the Oilers started to play panic hockey but couldn’t pull off a comeback.

It was a performance much like the ones we saw last spring when the Oilers were swept by the Winnipeg Jets, one where it seems they’re constantly chasing rather than setting the tempo themselves.

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The Kings came out of the gate flying, as they dominated the Oilers 26-to-18 in shot attempts and 9-to-3 in high-danger chances in the first frame. It wasn’t until the third that the Oilers really woke up and started to generate offence, but L.A.’s young blueline and veteran goaltender slammed the door to tie the series at 2-2.

The only reason the Oilers were in the game in the third period was Mike Smith, who stopped 42 of 45 shots in the loss. The score could have been a lot more lopsided if not for Smith.

What they said…

“It’s a missed opportunity, and that’s what it is. As I said, we’ll do our work, we’ll digest the game and give our players something that will be a focal point heading into Game No. 5. I just didn’t think we skated at the level we needed to skate at. I didn’t think our (puck) battles and stick fights were where they needed to be. We have to be better, we’re capable of more.” – Jay Woodcroft on bouncing back in Game 5.

“I think it’s the same thing across the board — penalty kill, five-on-five, power play — it’s just working. I mean, we’ve got to outwork those guys. They were working on their penalty kill tonight and didn’t give us as many looks. Quick stood in and, five-on-five, same thing. We’ve got to find a way to break him down. But at the end of the day, it’s just about working.” – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on the team’s effort. 

“He’s a good goalie. He’s been a good goalie in this league for such a long time. He’s not just going to come back and feel bad (about himself). He’s going to play his butt off, and he did tonight.” – Darnell Nurse on Mike Smith. 

“I could tell you that we didn’t play very well for two games and I could tell you that we played better tonight to a man. It wasn’t 100 percent better, it was only like five percent 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.

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

Worth mentioning…

  • The series is now locked at 2-2, which is unfortunate because teams that go up 3-1 in a seven-game series historically win that series roughly 90 percent of the time. The Oilers do still hold the advantage here, as they’re hosting two games in what’s now essentially a three-game series. The Kings need to walk into Edmonton and pick up a win while the Oilers just need to win their two home games.
  • The positive thing for the Oilers is that we haven’t really seen them lay an egg in back-to-back games during the Jay Woodcroft era. Since he took over behind the bench, the Oilers have done a very good job at rebounding after their poor performances and not spiraling into a losing streak. Back in April, the Oilers put up a miserable effort in Columbus and lost to the Blue Jackets by a score of 5-2 but then came back and hammered the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 5-1 a couple of days later. That 9-5 loss to the Calgary Flames back in March kicked off a six-game losing streak and an ugly 5-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild was compensated by a 4-0 win immediately after.
  • The thing about this series is that we know it isn’t the Kings figuring out how to shut down the Oilers, it’s the Oilers shutting themselves down. They won back-to-back games 6-0 and 8-2 and bought into their own hype, didn’t take the Kings seriously, and put forward a lackluster effort. Anything can happen in a three-game series, but I wouldn’t expect the Oilers to take the Kings lightly again.