The Los Angeles Kings need to look no further than last season to find incentive for a comeback against the Edmonton Oilers in their Western Conference first-round series.
The Kings trail 3-2 in the best-of-seven set with Game 6 in Los Angeles on Saturday night.
A year ago, it was Edmonton that trailed 3-2 heading into Game 6 before winning the final two games to advance to the second round.
“We’re our own team and we have to write our own story. We can’t rely on what they did to us last year,” Kings coach Todd McLellan said. “We have to bring our best to Game 6 to even have an opportunity at the series, and I’m confident that our group can do that.”
A good place to start would be on the penalty kill.
After producing the most efficient power play in NHL history during the regular season (32.4 percent), the Oilers are 8-of-14 in the series (57.1).
“Everyone knows what they’re doing, but they still can’t stop it and that’s just the ultimate goal for a power-play unit,” Edmonton defenseman Mattias Ekholm said. “We’ve played L.A. now for a bunch of games and I feel like their PK looks different every game. They’re obviously trying something different because it’s not really going their way. It’s just a testament to our unit where they could just go out there and they just play hockey and it’s so hard to defend.”
Edmonton star Connor McDavid, who has two goals and three assists on the power play in the series, said the Kings work hard on their penalty kill, but the Oilers have been working harder.
“The strength of our power play is winning battles and it always has been,” McDavid said. “It’s not structure. It’s not anything fancy, although it may look fancy, but it’s nothing fancy. It’s winning battles and making the plays that we can make.”
In the three games at Edmonton this series, the Oilers scored the first two goals each time. In Game 4 at Los Angeles, the Kings scored the first three goals, but it wasn’t enough to hold off Edmonton, which rallied to win 5-4 in overtime and even the series.
“We’ve got to play more assertive, right from the start of the game,” Kings captain Anze Kopitar said. “More desperate and a lot more assertive.”
Los Angeles is getting as close to 100 percent healthy as it has been all series.
Kevin Fiala has three assists in the past two games after missing three weeks with a lower-body injury.
Gabriel Vilardi missed Game 1 with an upper-body injury, but has two goals and two assists since his return.
Blake Lizotte also returned to practice Thursday after missing the past three games with a lower-body injury. McLellan did not confirm that Lizotte will return to the lineup in Game 6, but said there’s a “real good chance.”
Lizotte had 11 goals and 23 assists in 81 games during the regular season. More importantly, he’s a key member of the penalty-kill unit.
“Blake Lizotte means a lot to our team,” McLellan said. “He is a spark plug, he’s the Energizer Bunny, if you want to call him that, and he often drags everybody into the game. … He’s a real good penalty killer, he’s pretty good in the faceoff circle, he’s tenacious.”
–Field Level Media