'We're not out of it': Kings look to even Oilers series in Game 4

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 26: Kings Phillip Danault tries to get a shot on goal as Oilers goalie Stuart Skinner and Vincent Desharnais defend in the first period in game 3 of the first round of the Stanley Cup Finals. (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)

If the Kings-Oilers series were a title fight instead of a hockey playoff series, even a blind referee might consider stopping it.

Through three games, the Kings have been outshot, outskated, outhit and outscored. Boy, have they been outscored: Edmonton twice led the opener of the first-round series by four goals and the Oilers won Game 3 on Friday by five, 6-1.

The Kings’ penalty kill has been deadly ... for the Kings, as the Oilers have scored seven times in 14 man-advantage opportunities. The Kings, meanwhile, have been shut out on their 10 power plays.

Pick any stat and chances are the Oilers have a big edge.

Except one.

For all of Edmonton’s dominance, the Oilers lead the best-of-seven series by only a game, meaning the Kings can even things by climbing off the canvas to win Game 4 on Sunday night at Arena.

Read more: Frustrated Kings have no answer for high-scoring Oilers in Game 3 blowout loss

“I know for sure it's two for them, one for us,” Kings coach Jim Hiller said. “And you need four wins for the series.”

In other words, it isn’t over until it’s over — even if it really looks as if it’s over. That, apparently, is the Kings’ story and they’re sticking to it.

“It’s 2 to 1 in the series,” defenseman Matt Roy agreed. “We could have lost 10-1. It doesn't matter. It’s just 2-1 and we're gonna bounce back and get ready to go.”

“There's stuff you can learn from any game, win or lose,” he continued. “So we'll take a look at things and go from there.”

The Kings have been here before, of course, losing to the Oilers in the first round of the playoffs each of the last two years. That’s not exactly encouraging. Two years ago they split their first two playoff games with the Oilers on the road, then lost Game 3 at home by six goals. Through three games of that series, the Kings had been outscored 17-6.

This year the Kings split the first two games with the Oilers on the road, then lost Game 3 at home by five goals. Through three games of this series, the Kings have been outscored 17-10.

In the Kings’ locker room, that doesn’t matter.

“Like I said, it’s 2 to 1,” Roy repeated. “We’re still in the series, we’re not out of it. And no one’s going to quit in here.”

Read more: For Kings (and Lakers and Clippers), home is where the playoff action is

Yet the Kings clearly have a lot of work to do and precious little time to get it done.

For starters, they have to button down a penalty kill that ranked second in the NHL, yet has given up as many power-play goals in three postseason games as it did in its last 11 regular-season games. And the team hasn’t been able to slow, must less stop, the Oilers’ trio of Zach Hyman, Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid, who combined for five goals and three assists in the Game 3 rout and have 10 goals and 13 assists in the series.

Then there is the Kings' power play, which is scoreless in the playoffs.

“I'm not worried, to be honest,” forward Kevin Fiala said. “Obviously it's not been good these three games, but we are a good power play. We [have] good players and we are going to figure it out.

“The last three games we haven't been connected. Usually we just see each other almost blindly and puck movement is way faster than it is right now. Like I said, I'm not worried. We're going to, for sure, figure it out.”

Maybe, but the Kings’ frustration clearly boiled over in the third period Friday, when they took 12 penalties, among them one for fighting, one for unsportsmanlike conduct, one for an illegal check to the head, two for misconduct and five for roughing.

At least they were putting up a fight. It would be hard to say they were doing much of that in the first period.

“I don't know, from the beginning it feels like we're not there,” Fiala said. “They were more hungry. You just have to be ready.”

Then Fiala repeated the team mantra: “It's one game. Obviously, we wanted this one and they wanted it.

“But, you know, right now it's 2 to 1. We have to think positive. We have to look at some things and we have to get better. And we will.”

A win Sunday and the series is even, the Kings kept repeating. What went unspoken is that a loss means the series will be all but over.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.