3 Takeaways from Kings’ Game 5 Loss to Oilers

Game 5 between the Los Angeles Kings and Edmonton Oilers felt like it could be a turning point. It’s obvious that whoever won this game would have the death grip on the series. The Oilers won 6-3 and now lead the series 3-2. This was the first game of the five that wasn’t close for the majority of the game. There are certainly things we can takeaway from this game, so here are three from the Kings’ perspective.

Kings’ Penalty Kill Letting Team Down

It’s been discussed over and over about how good the Oilers’ power play is. It finished with the best success rate in NHL history. The Kings had done a fairly good job of shutting them down in the regular season, allowing them to score on just two of 13 opportunities. It was surprising to see this because penalty killing was not a strength of L.A. this season. They ranked as the ninth-worst team on the penalty kill in the league but seemed to have the Oilers’ number.

2023 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Round 1 Los Angeles Kings Edmonton Oilers
Los Angeles Kings Edmonton Oilers (The Hockey Writers)

That changed at the start of this series and has become a huge problem. Edmonton has gone a stunning 8/14 on the power play in this series. Best power play ever or not, you have to get a better penalty kill than 42.9% if you want to win this series. Amazingly, the Kings have been competitive despite that penalty kill. As good as the Oilers’ power play was in the regular season, they didn’t click on over half of their power plays.

Related: Kings Need Better Starts in Series Versus Oilers

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It’s a tough problem to solve because the Kings are giving up different types of goals and have multiple avenues they need to shut down. Evan Bouchard has been bombing away with point shots, Connor McDavid scored a few goals from the left faceoff circle, and Leon Draisaitl has been popping up either in the right faceoff circle or in the slot to score one-timers. The Kings have done a fairly good job keeping shots to the outside, but the Oilers have talented enough players to still make the payments.

The way to solve this would be to stay out of the box against Edmonton, although 14 power plays over five games aren’t too high of a number. They need to be better at preventing clean zone entries and allowing the power play to set up, although that’s easier said than done. Finally, if they do get a chance to clear the puck, they need to make sure they are successful at doing so. Todd McLellan talked about that after the final regular season meeting, and this has carried over to the playoffs.

Oilers’ Depth Players Outplayed Kings’ Depth Players

The Oilers are thought of as a team that is top-heavy and led by a few stars. That’s true for the most part, and it was something the Kings needed to take advantage of coming into the series. Specifically, the fourth-line and bottom defensive pairing for the Kings have been playing poorly. Rasmus Kupari and Jaret Anderson-Dolan both played under five minutes in Game 4’s overtime loss, and Alex Edler played under 10 minutes on defense.

Sean Walker Los Angeles Kings
Sean Walker, Los Angeles Kings (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Sean Walker came into the lineup in place of Edler and had a good game. The shot attempts when he was on the ice at five on five were 14-6 in the Kings’ favor. Edler’s shot attempt ratio was 31 for and 68 against in the in the first four games. This is a move that looks like it should have been made earlier, especially if the coach can’t trust Edler to play many minutes in a game. The depth forwards are really where the Kings were outplayed in Game 5.

The third line did not play nearly as well as they did in Game 4, with the exception of Alex Iafallo. Iafallo had his third goal of the series in the first period and saw time with the first line. He took Quinton Byfield’s spot, who has struggled to make an impact in this series. Byfield was a depth player the Kings would have liked to step up this series, but he hasn’t been able to do so. He’s been on the ice for seven goals at five-on-five, the most of any Kings player. He did score the goal to make it 6-3, and hopefully, this will get him going. Some production out of Kupari, Anderson-Dolan, and Carl Grundstrom on the fourth line would do wonders for the Kings.

This was the first game we saw Edmonton get significant contributions from players lower in the lineup. Nick Bjugstad scored two goals, and Brett Kulak scored one. It’s really tough to beat the Oilers if they are going to get three goals from players lower in the lineup while also dominating on the power play. The result can easily be as lopsided as tonight’s game was when that is the case.

Kings’ Goaltending in Question for First Time in Series

Goaltending was a huge part of the story of the Kings’ 2022-23 season. They finished with the sixth-worst team save percentage in the league, and at times it was even ranked lower than that. They seemed to right the ship when they traded for Joonas Korpisalo, and Pheonix Copley was also playing well. After acquiring Korpisalo on March 1, their team save percentage was actually the sixth-best for the remainder of the regular season. Korpisalo has been the unquestioned starter for every game in this series and has played well.

That all changed in Game 5 Korpisalo allowed four goals on 19 shots and was pulled. It’s hard to say that any of the goals were really his fault, but McLellan was likely hoping for the same spark that the Oilers got after pulling Stuart Skinner in Game 4. Making this move does come with a risk, however, and it did not turn out in the Kings’ favor. Copley came in and completely missed when trying to catch a puck and allowed a soft goal for the Oilers’ sixth. As long as the goalie isn’t playing poorly, it’s a good idea to keep your better players on the ice when the game is still within reach.

Joonas Korpisalo Los Angeles Kings
Joonas Korpisalo, Los Angeles Kings (Photo by Rob Curtis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

This doesn’t seem to be the start of a true goaltending controversy, as Copley did not play well or inspire the Kings to come back. If he did either of those things, that may have led to him getting the nod for Game 6. There are three full days off between Games 5 and 6. That should allow enough time for Korpisalo to get his head back in the right space to play, and the break on his body should also help. If he can get back to how he played in Games 1 and 3, the Kings have a chance of sending this series to a Game 7.

Kings Quick Hits

  • Adrian Kempe had a goal and an assist tonight and leads the team with an impressive seven points in five games.
  • The Kings finally ended Leon Draisatil’s streak of being on the ice for every Oilers’ goal of the series, as he was only on the ice for two of their six in this game.
  • As mentioned earlier, the Kings did some shifting of their lines involving Iafallo and Byfield. This could be a permanent change we see them implement for the next game.

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