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NHL playoffs: Edmonton Oilers overwhelm L.A. Kings in Game 3 win


The bronze likeness of former Kings broadcaster Bob Miller, frozen in mid wave outside Arena, was dressed for a celebration Friday, with dozens of black, white and silver balloons floating above and behind him as he stared, unblinking, over a stretch of Olympic Boulevard that had been taken over by a street festival.

Give Los Angeles a reason to party and you won’t have to ask twice for someone to throw one. In this case, it was the return of the NHL playoffs.

“There is pent-up excitement for sure,” said Arthur Whang, 48, a Woodland Hills employment lawyer and longtime Kings season-ticket-holder. “There’s nothing worse than irrelevant games in the second half of the regular season.

“Hockey’s been rough the last few years.”

How rough? Until Friday, the Kings hadn’t played a postseason game at home in more than four years; they haven’t won one here in eight years. The last home win was so long ago, in fact, the arena was still called the Staples Center then and Miller was a flesh-and-blood announcer, not a statue.

So call it the Curse of Bob Miller because the Kings haven’t tasted victory in a home playoff game since the Hall of Famer was cast in bronze. And even though the real-life Miller came back for a cameo on the team’s pregame TV show Friday, briefly sharing Star Plaza with his heavy-metal doppelganger, the hex continued with the Edmonton Oilers riding a hat trick from Evander Kane and two-goal performances from Zach Hyman and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to an 8-2 victory.

Kings fans Arthur Whang, his wife Lindsey and daughters Charlotte and Penelope attend Game 3 of the Western Conference quarterfinals Friday.

(Kevin Baxter / Los Angeles Times)

“I can summarize it all up for it. We weren’t any good,” Kings coach Todd McLellan said in a one-question, 31-second postgame news conference. “We’re really disappointed. We got trapped playing their game. You can ask me about individuals, I’ll give you the same answer for all of them. They weren’t any good. And we have to regroup.”

The result extended the Kings’ playoff losing streak at home to six games while the margin of defeat matched the most one-sided loss in 32 years. The other six-goal loss came Wednesday in Edmonton.

Yet despite losing twice in routs within a 72-hour period, the Kings are down just 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, which continues Sunday in Los Angeles.

“That’s a big slap in the face,” forward Phillip Danault said. “But luckily it’s only 2-1 so we’ve got to regroup and step up step up a team.”

The mood was buoyant outside the arena three hours before the opening faceoff, with a sun-splashed crowd in purple Kings’ jerseys and blue-and-orange Edmonton Oilers’ sweaters gathering in front of a stage to hear live music. Nearby, kids crowded into a small street hockey rink.

But after the puck dropped the celebration ended early for most in the sellout crowd, with Leon Draisaitl and Hyman giving the Oilers a 2-0 lead before many fans had found their seats. After Hyman’s goal — Edmonton’s fifth power-play score of the series — the building fell silent.

Edmonton Oilers center Ryan McLeod controls the puck in front of Kings forwards Phillip Danault and Blake Lizotte.

Edmonton Oilers center Ryan McLeod, right, controls the puck in front of Kings forwards Phillip Danault, center, and Blake Lizotte during the second period of Game 3 Friday.

(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

When Kane and Hyman doubled the lead with goals 75 seconds apart early in the second period, the silence turned to rumbles of disapproval. McLellan responded by pulling goalie Jonathan Quick, who had given up 13 goals in less than eight periods, but that hardly made a difference with Kane welcoming backup Cal Petersen with a goal two minutes later.

The Kings eventually answered with second-period goals from Anze Kopitar and Danault, with Danault’s coming on the power play. That was significant since it was the team’s first score with the man advantage in 11 chances in the series.

But Edmonton pulled both those back in the third period on goals 81 seconds apart from Nugent-Hopkins, after which the stairways filled as fans headed for the exits. Kane then closed the rout with his third goal of the game in the final minute.

Cody Ceci had three assists and Connor McDavid two for the Oilers, who have outscored the Kings 17-6 in the series.

“We didn’t play good enough tonight. We didn’t play good enough last game,” defensemen Alex Edler said. “We’ll do whatever we can to tie it up in next game. We’ve just got to look forward to the next game.”

If the Kings’ postseason absence, their longest in a dozen years, seemed lengthy, for Whang, a fan since the 1990s and a season-ticket-holder since 2013, it ended earlier than anticipated. He thought the team’s rebuild would take a couple of more seasons, making this playoff series a pleasant surprise — even if, after Friday’s result, it’s one he doesn’t expect to last.

“I worry about this series, but it’s all gravy,” said Whang, who was decked out in a silver Quick sweater while wife Lindsey wore a black No. 11 Kopitar jersey. “No expectations except to compete and learn. Of course, you hope they can pull a 2012 again.”

That was the season the Kings finished third in the Pacific Division, then caught fire in the playoffs, winning their first Stanley Cup on their home ice. They repeated in 2014, again lifting the Cup in Los Angeles.

Three years later Miller retired and the Kings, like the bronze broadcaster in front of their building, have been stuck in place ever since.

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