One could say the Edmonton Oilers got lucky Thursday night. Their three goals traveled a combined distance of about 10 feet. But the Oilers earned that luck. The Kings? Well, they were also on the ice.
The Oilers, the NHL’s surprise team for the first month of the season, worked and worked, and benefited from three goals around the net. The Kings rarely even got the puck around the Edmonton net consistently, and fell 3-0 to the Oilers before a quiet, frustrated sellout crowd of 18,118 at STAPLES Center.
Shocking as the idea might have sounded a year ago, when Edmonton was the worst team in the NHL, there’s no real shame in losing to the Oilers, who now have an impressive record of 8-2-2 this season.
It’s the way the Kings lost, though, that raised blood pressure throughout the arena. Home hasn’t been kind to the Kings, who have scored one goal in their last three home games.
``Why? I really wish I had a good answer for you. I really don’t,’’ defenseman Jack Johnson said. ``We’ve got a lot of great offensive players in here, a lot of talent. We just, for whatever reason, we’re an offensively challenged team. One goal in three games, that’s pretty tough to win hockey games.’’
For the 10th time in 12 games, the Kings failed to score more than two goals in regulation. They were shut out for the second time in their last five games and recorded a season-low 19 shots on goal. The Kings tried everything, even putting their top two centers, Anze Kopitar and Mike RIchards, on the same line.
Moreover, the Kings were rarely even a threat against the Oilers, who protected goalie Nikolai Khabibulin well and blocked 22 shots. At one point, midway through the second period, the Kings had recorded only six shots on goal, while 12 other shot attempts had been blocked by the Oilers.
It’s not totally accurate to say that the Kings didn’t put a puck in the net. The Oilers scored twice in the final nine minutes of the second period, first when Ryan Smyth’s centering-pass attempt went in the Kings’ net off the stick of Alec Martinez, and later when Lennart Petrell knocked in a wraparound attempt.
Edmonton killed any attempt at Kings third-period momentum when the Oilers’ Corey Potter scored 1:06 into the period and coach Terry Murray shook up his line again, but to no avail.
``The first thing we’ve got to do is work,’’ Brown said. ``No matter what type of team you have, if you don’t work you’re not going to win. It’s real disappointing, but at the same time with our work ethic and our system, we were off-page a lot tonight. But I think the main thing for this team is work. When we work, we do pretty well for ourselves.’’
Really, the moment that epitomized the game for the Kings came early. Trevor Lewis had a step on an Edmonton defender for a shorthanded breakaway attempt, 9:15 into a scoreless first period, and not only didn’t score but didn’t hit the net. The Kings had little sustained pressure after that.
This game after days, if not weeks, in which coach Terry Murray publicly pressed the need for ``shot mentality.’’ The Kings responded with a total of 10 shots on goal in the second period. The Oilers’ blocked-shot total clearly contributed, but the Kings’ scoring resolve seemed to be weak overall.
The Kings hadn’t suffered a regulation loss to Edmonton since Feb. 2008. Where was the Kings’ effort?
``I don’t know if we had any really, especially the second period,’’ team captain Dustin Brown said. ``They dominated pretty much every aspect of the game, and we just weren’t good enough. Things went to crap pretty quickly.’’
After the game, though, in a rare moment of apparent public frustration, Murray sharply rebuked a radio reporter’s suggestion that the Kings’ overall effort might have been ``uninspired.’’
``Well, we had a couple bad bounces out there,’’ Murray said in response to a follow-up question. ``I look at the first goal here tonight. It goes off Quick’s head. The third goal is a pass that comes from our D and hits Kopitar in the back of the foot and they go in and score. So I look at that as bad bounces, that go through a process over the course of the year, and that’s what I chalk it up to right now.’’
Kings goalie Jonathan Quick allowed three goals for a fourth consecutive game -- he allowed a total of five goals in his first six games -- but really was not at fault for any of the Edmonton goals. His counterpart, Khabibulin, made a handful of good saves as he recorded his 45th career shutout.
The Kings’ challenge, going forward, is to try to bring some life to the offense.
``It would be one thing if we had glorious opportunity after glorious opportunity,’’ Johnson said, ``but that’s the trouble because it doesn’t seem like that’s really the case. For whatever reason, we need to try to find a way to be a little more creative, whether it’s kind of -- I don’t want to say `taking chances,’ but we have to do something to try to create some offense and score some goals for Quickie.’’
The Oilers recorded the game's first six shots on goal and outshot the Kings 10-3 in the first period. Quick made a brilliant point-blank save on Ryan Jones, 13 minutes into the period, to keep it scoreless.
The Oilers broke the scoreless tie with 8:34 remaining in the second period. Smyth held the puck behind the net and attempted a centering pass. Martinez tried to deflect the puck away, but the puck went off his stick blade, hit Quick and went into the Kings' net. Ryan Jones and Tom Gilbert got assists.
Smyth played his first game against the Kings, the team with which he spent the previous two seasons before he requested a trade this summer.
Edmonton took a two-goal lead with 2:22 remaining in the second period. The Oilers were able to cycle and hold the puck in the Kings' zone, and Ben Eager's wraparound attempt was stopped but Petrell scored on the rebound. The puck trickled past Quick as he appeared to be interfered with by Edmonton's Anton Lander, and the Oilers took a 2-0 lead.
The Kings' bid to get some momentum going in the third period ended early, as the Oilers took a 3-0 lead at the 1:06 mark. Quick got aggressive on Sam Gagner's wraparound attempt, and the puck got through the crease, and past Willie Mitchell, onto the stick of Potter, who shoveled it into the net.
1 - 0 EDM
2 - 0 EDM
3 - 0 EDM
Too many men on the ice