The game plan against the Edmonton Oilers is pretty simple as of late.
Come out fast, pressure the Oilers puck carriers, and get as many pucks on net as you can as quickly as you can.
For the visiting Los Angeles Kings, that’s exactly what they did Sunday night in a 5-1 thumping against the Oilers at Rogers Place. A Rasmus Kupari goal three minutes into the opening frame to thank for that.
It’s a concerning trend that has crept into the Oilers game in recent weeks. It started during a five-game road trip out east, and has since been something that’s stuck. Yes, the Oilers have a 16-7 record and sit second in the Pacific Division. Yes, the Oilers have some of the most offensively gifted players in the NHL. Yes, they have an uncanny ability to push last in games and makes things tight.
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But last night against L.A., the game felt over before it started. The big guns couldn’t get going. The rest of the team couldn’t push the way they needed to.
“It’s hard to pinpoint,” said Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse after the game, his first back after breaking a finger. “We know every team we play against, we’re getting their A-game because of the way we started the season.
“Every team we play against, they come out of the game on top of their toes. We need to have that push and make other teams react to us. As a team, we don’t go out there and want to give up the first goal, that’s not our objective. For us, we just need to push the envelope a little bit and bring the game to other teams.”
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Edmonton showed little signs of life in the first period, and just 1:42 into the second, Adrian Kempe scored to make it a 2-0 game. The Oilers’ lone goal of the game came when Darnell Nurse broke in on a shorthanded chance roofing one over Jonathan Quick, but that was about as dangerous as Edmonton looked all night.
Edmonton pushed late in the second, but it was too little too late. The dagger for the Oilers came with six and a half minutes left in the third when Connor McDavid was ejected from the game for boarding Kempe. Kempe turned at the last second at the boards and McDavid finished his check.
On a subsequent five-minute powerplay, the Kings poured salt in the wound finding twine three times to extend their lead.
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Oilers head coach Dave Tippett didn’t mince words after the loss.
“This has been coming for a while here. We’ve been masking it with some special teams stuff, but we haven’t played well and we haven’t had enough guys play well for a while,” said Tippett. “We looked out of sync right from the get-go. I was worried yesterday in practice coming back, not a lot of juice in practice. my thoughts came true today.”
It’s not as if Tippett singled out individual players, either.
“This is everybody — it’s not just depth guys. It’s everybody tonight,” he said. “We didn’t play well enough as a group tonight.
“I think some adversity is good for us. It’s a recognition we need to get better as a whole group. I’m not singling anyone out — as a whole group, we need to get better. We’ve had a good start, done some good things but we need to get way better if we’re going to be a competitive team. You’re going to go through some ups and downs. These downs show you how much you need to get better.”
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And after the game. the agent of Oilers defenceman William Lagesson took aim at Tippett accusing him of poor communication with the rearguard being a late scratch.
“It’s the kind of disrespect from a coach that destroys teams,” Allan Walsh tweeted Sunday night. “William Lagesson has done everything asked of him by the organization.”
Oh, what a night.
And Edmonton will get back at it soon, too. Tuesday night Minnesota rolls into town and Edmonton’s going to need to get out to a strong start. The Wild have a Central Division-leading 35 points on the year and are second in league scoring.

Backhanders…

  • On a night full of darkness, Ryan McLeod shone bright. He led the team in 5×5 shot attempt share with the Oilers controlling 68.75 percent of them as well as 59.81 percent of the expected goal share. Very strong numbers from the young man.
  • Markus Niemelainen has impressed early. He’s a big, strong physical defenceman that’s provided some jam on the backend. It’s something the Oilers have lacked with the loss of Adam Larsson.

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]