Kings lose to Oilers, 3-2, in a penalty shootout

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
The Kings lose their final game of 2023 to Edmonton.

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Kings have played the Edmonton Oilers numerous times over the past two seasons. They have played in the playoffs for two years straight in addition to regular season matches.

Any time they play now, the game has a playoff feel.

On Saturday, the two sides met at Crypto.com Arena, and the Kings fell, 3-2, losing in a penalty shootout. They lost much like how they had in the previous playoff series, a close battle.

The tight affair featured the Kings dominating five-on-five play in the first period, jumping to a two-goal lead. Adrian Kempe led the team with two points; a handful of others added one to their totals. 

14:44 into the first period, Kempe used his quick skating to enter the zone. Then, he passed it back to Kevin Fiala as he approached the blue line, and Fiala scored. The Kings had failed to score on a previous power play attempt, but they converted on that one. 

Near the end of the first period, Kempe found the back of the net, scoring a shot that bounced off the goalpost. The goal was his 12th of the season and the Kings’s second of the game. Anze Kopitar and Quinton Byfield were credited for assists on it. 

“He (Kempe) has an impact on the game when he’s not scoring,” said head coach Todd McLellan. “It’s as simple as that. He sits on the bench. He goes out, and he plays a shift, and he’s determined, and he makes mistakes. We try to help them with him. He goes back out, he tries to fix them. We appreciate players like that.”

However, the Oilers pulled two goals back in the second period due to a lack of discipline by the Kings. They gave up too many penalties to their liking, allowing the Oilers to come back instead of imposing their lead. The Oilers’s goals came from two of the top players, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl; neither was five-on-five, one was on the power play, and the other was four-on-four.

“They scored four-on-four, and they scored in the shootout,” McLellan said. “So, those are special situations. They beat us there. But for the most part, it was a hard-fought game. I thought it was playoff style, if you will.”

The Kings’s penalty kill has not been an issue in the 2023-24 season. Entering Saturday, it was first by percentage in the NHL. Nonetheless, since they gave up multiple (four) opportunities, they conceded a goal.

On the contrary, the power play has been a weakness for the Kings. It ranks in the lower half of the NHL despite them scoring on it on Saturday. As the team heads into 2024, McLellan said it is one of their New Year’s resolutions. 

“Our penalty kills improved, but our power plays fallen off,” McLellan said. “We need to work on that. We need to improve that area.”

The Kings get their first chance to improve on the power play in the new year when they play the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday. They have played 33 games and hope to find success in their remaining fixtures, leading to a deep playoff run.