Kings Game 2 Plus/Minus: Fourth Line Struggles & Vilardi Shines
Here are some pluses & minuses from the game.
For the second straight game, the Los Angeles Kings went into the first intermission down 2-0 to the Edmonton Oilers. And unlike in Game one, the Kings couldn't complete the comeback and steal a win.
The Kings didn't register a shot until 18 minutes into the first period and were dominated for large parts of the game.
A strong second half of the second period which saw the Kings tie the game wasn't enough to get them over the line.
Here are some pluses & minuses from the game.
– Fourth Lines Struggles
With the Oilers dressing 11 forwards and seven defensemen, they were able to give some extra shifts to Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid, getting them away from Phil Danault and Anze Kopitar.
Early in the game it was clear this would be a problem for the Kings. As Draisaitl had his way with the Kings' fourth line all night.
It was the fourth line that failed to get the puck deep which led to the Oilers opener. Rasmus Kupari and Arthur Kaliyev exchanged the puck just inside the offensive blue line, but turned it over high in the zone.
This allowed Draisaitl to attack with speed leading to the first goal two minutes in.
Their next shift they again failed to get the puck deep, leading to another flurry of chances for Edmonton.
They struggled their way through the second but did get a big chance late with Kupari ringing the post on a partial breakaway.
But in the third, after the Kings grabbed all the momentum to end the second, the fourth line faltered again.
This time it was a neutral zone turnover which led to a Klim Kostin rush chance that beat Korpisalo.
In just 4:24 of time on ice, the line managed to concede two goals, allow eight shot attempts against with just two for and allow five shots on goal against while mustering just one themselves.
The Kings need depth to win this series and didn't get it on Wednesday.
I don't like singling out players, but Kaliyev really struggled in Game two. He looked a few steps behind and outside of one good chance on the power play did very little to help the team.
Kaliyev finished with just 5:46 of even strength time on ice, the lowest of any Kings player.
It will be interesting to see if he stays in the lineup for Game three given his power play threat. But I wouldn't be surprised to see Jaret Anderson-Dolan replace him either.
+ Gabe Vilardi's Return
No one wanted to place expectations too high on Gabe Vilardi in his return to the lineup. But boy did he deliver.
It took about a period and a half to get going — he even admitted to the ESPN intermission panel that the first period was moving too fast for him — but once he got his feet under him he looked great.
It was his goal that tied the game late in the second. With Vilardi pulling a nifty little move to beat Stuart Skinner at his post from below the goal line off the rush.
And in the third period he looked like the teams most dangerous player.
When Vilardi is on, he controls and drives play for his line and he did that in the second half of the game.
He even had a few shifts at center, something Todd McLellan's mentioned as a possibility before. With Blake Lizotte struggling to match Edmonton's physicality, I'll be interested to see if McLellan uses Vilardi up the middle more consistently as the series goes on.
He didn't get many looks on the power play in this game, but I imagine he's moved back onto the top unit next game.
– The Power Play
Two huge goals at important times overshadowed what was a struggling power play two start Games one. And those struggles carried over into Game two.
Then Kings did generate a few nice chances with cross ice feeds to set up Adrian Kempe, Viktor Arvidsson and Kaliyev with a single one-timer each. But it wasn't enough.
The Kings were too stagnate and allowed Skinner too many clean looks at shots.
There has to be some credit given to the Edmonton penalty kill who shut down a lot of what the Kings were trying to do.
As mentioned above, I'd expect Vilardi back on the top unit in Game three. Which should give the top unit a big boost.
They'll still need to get Kevin Fiala back and playing at 100% before we see huge improvements. But Vilardi will give them a new element.
+ Joonas Korpisalo
Yes, he should have saved the Oilers third goal. But had it not been for some excellent play from Korpisalo early in the game, the Kings could have been blown out.
He made a few big time saves, including one on a McDavid clear cut chance. And even fought off a few second and third chances.
He gave the Kings an opportunity to win that game and it was the team in front of him that faltered, not the other way around.
He finished with 33 saves and 0.46 goals saved above expected.
It's been said several times about Korpsialo and Pheonix Copley, but it's clear his calming presence has a knock on effect for the whole team.
He never seems panicked and is never scrambling around in the net. Which settles the team down in front of him.
If he can continue this solid play for the rest of the series, the Kings have a good chance of winning.
Korpisalo's outplayed Skinner in the two games and is giving the Kings an edge in the goalie department. They just need to give him the necessary support.
He's proving that his solid performance in the COVID bubble wasn't a fluke. And that he can step up when games matter most during the postseason.