Only one player showed up for the Edmonton Oilers in game four: Mike Smith.
The other 18 skaters that dressed? Nowhere to be found.
And by the time 60 minutes were up in their game four matchups against the LA Kings, the score read 4-0 in the home team’s favour.
Despite knowing the LA Kings would come out desperate in game four after being embarrassed two nights earlier, the Oilers seemed to forget they had a 2-1 series lead. Right off the hop, the Kings brought it and didn’t let up all night long.
While Smith let in three goals, it’s hard to blame him in any sense of the term given the Kings fired 45 shots on him. Unlike game three where the Kings fired from anywhere and everywhere inflating the shot counter, tonight was the opposite. The Kings played with an edge and didn’t hesitate going to the dirty areas.
It paid off for them on their three non-empty net tallies, all of which were scored with players heading to the net. The jury is out on whether or not the third one should’ve counted, but alas, the show goes on.
Smith truly was the star of the show for the Oilers. While three goals got past him, it’s hard to fault him. One was in thanks to a nifty backdoor pass, another was a shot from the point and the third, well… whatever. He stood on his head more often than not and had a .933 save percentage to show for it.
Nothing else, however, was good enough from the Oilers. Their transition game was weak, they never supported the player with the puck in the offensive zone, and they appeared to abandon the heavy dump-and-chase against a small, soft Kings’ defence. It all didn’t help as the Oilers’ powerplay was all shades of putrid. Edmonton had three penalties, and somehow managed to muster up three shots, none of which seemed to be of any danger.
Credit where its due as Jonathan Quick was sharp. He seemingly turned back the dial while stopping 3.69 expected goals, according to Natural Stat Trick.
All in all, this was a big-time wake-up call for the Oilers. The good news is that the series is tied and heading to a best-of-three that will see the Oilers get home-ice advantage. Come Tuesday, Edmonton will once again need to find a hot start to come out on top.
Like on the Kings’ first goal 8:03 into the game. With the puck below the Oilers’ goalline, Duncan Keith tried to clear a puck out of the flipping it on his backhand only for it to hit a referee and fall to the ice. Evan Bouchard wasn’t able to get a handle on it allowing Philip Danault to get a lane to the Oilers’ net. He pulled Smith across the crease before dropping the puck back to Moore, who found the back of the net.
With Tyson Barrie and Brendan Lemieux both in the box for roughing with eight minutes to go in that first frame, the Kings were able to get their second of the night. A point shot from Troy Stecher, playing in his first game of the series, found its way into the net.
Come the second, things didn’t get much better. Once again doubling up on the shots, the Kings controlled the pace of play through the period. Edmonton’s best looks came towards the final five minutes of the frame after mixing up the lines.
It saw for the first time some new-look lines.
The lines, in once sense of the term, worked for the Oilers. In the last half of the second period and into the third, they started to get some good looks. Their best came late in the second when that new-look top-line banged away at three scoring chances right in front of Jonathan Quick, only to turn them all aside.
Come the third, Edmonton was unable to find the jucie they needed. As mentioned above, the Kings’ third goal was, well… a weird one. Darnell Nurse took down Carl Grundstrom driving wide to the net with the later ending supermanning into the Oilers’ net, knocking Smith back. The league reviewed it, then Jay Woodcroft challenged, but the call ultimately stood. The Kings got one more when the Oilers pulled Smith following.
Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at [email protected]