EDMONTON – Home ice has been absolutely no advantage for the Edmonton Oilers these days.
Patrick O’Sullivan and Anze Kopitar had a goal and an assist apiece as the Los Angeles Kings snapped a two-game losing skid, securing a 2-1 victory and handing the Oilers yet another loss at home on Wednesday night. Ales Hemsky had the lone goal for the Oilers, who lost their second straight and fifth in their last six contests.
And although the Oilers (9-10-2) have played more road games than any other team in the NHL, it has been their play at home that has really cost them of late, with six straight losses at Rexall Place going back to their last win on Oct. 18.
“We need to be better at home,” said Oilers forward Andrew Cogliano. “Since we had all those road games, we have to make up the games we lost on the road here at home. We can’t use the excuse that our record is because of all those road games because we are losing our home games now.”
Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish didn’t question his team’s effort, just its ability to put the puck in the net.
“It’s clear the will was there,” he said. “We’re a tight group right now. In particular at home. The will and the try and all of those things based on effort are there. It’s just a lack of execution in some pretty critical areas of the game offensively.”
Veteran Edmonton goaltender Dwayne Roloson feels the team can’t allow a rough stretch shatter their overall confidence.
“If you are pushing that little snowball, it gets bigger and bigger,” he said. “And before long you won’t be able to move it. We have to make sure we stay positive in this locker room and do the things we have to do to be positive and be able to play well our next game and get a win.”
The Kings were also a team in need of a big win coming in. It was just the second win in the last six outings for the Kings, and it came just one night after a humbling 6-2 loss to the Calgary Flames.
“From our perspective it was important to come back from our effort in Calgary,” said Kings head coach Terry Murray. “We came out with that kind of an attitude that we had to get some kind of redemption. We had to go out and show ourselves that we were going to dig in and play hard.”
The Kings (9-9-3) started off the scoring six minutes in with the teams playing four men aside. Oilers starter Dwayne Roloson was able to make a save on a Kopitar screen shot but several players skated past the rebound, allowing O’Sullivan to score as the trailer on the play.
Edmonton battled back to tie the game five minutes later as Dustin Penner drove to the net before sending a backhand pass to Hemsky, who had plenty of time to tuck the puck into an open net past Kings goaltender Jason LaBarbera.
The Kings regained the lead with six minutes remaining in the middle frame as O’Sullivan chipped a pass over the stick of defender Steve Staios and Kopitar was able to bat his fifth of the season out of the air and into the Edmonton net.
Kopitar and O’Sullivan finished with an assist each for L.A., which outshot the Oilers 23-16 through 40 minutes.
Five minutes into a scoreless third there was a dangerous looking boarding call as Staios hit O’Sullivan from behind, but the Kings forward returned to the ice a couple of shifts later.
Both teams are off until Saturday when the Kings play host to Chicago and the Oilers start a short two-game trip in St. Louis.
Notes: LaBarbera got his first start in goal for the Kings since Nov. 1. He started the first 10 games of the season but hadn’t played since. … Recent Oilers call-up Tim Sestito, 24, played in his first NHL game, playing on a line with fellow rookie Liam Reddox and defenceman Ladislav Smid, moved up to a forward line for just the second game in his career. … Kings Jarret Stoll and Matt Greene played their first game in Edmonton since being traded by the Oilers over the summer for Lubomir Visnovsky. Stoll leads the Kings with four road goals this year. …Wednesday was the fourth back-to-back set of games for the Kings, who fell 6-2 to Calgary on Tuesday. It was the first time L.A. has won the second match this season.