The bronze likeness of former Kings broadcaster Bob Miller, frozen amid waves outside Crypto.com Arena, was dressed for a celebration on Friday, with dozens of black, white and silver balloons floating overhead. above and behind him as he stared, unblinking, down 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 someone twice to throw one. In this case, it was the return of the NHL playoffs.
“There’s definitely some pent-up excitement,” said Arthur Whang, 48, a Woodland Hills employment lawyer and longtime Kings season ticket holder. “There’s nothing worse than dull games in the second half of the regular season.
“Hockey has been tough the past few years.
How rough? Until Friday, the Kings hadn’t played a home playoff game 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 back 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 though the real Miller returned for an appearance on the team’s pre-game TV show on Friday, briefly sharing Star Plaza with his heavy metal lookalike, the Hexagon continued with the Edmonton Oilers riding a hat trick from Evander Kane and two performance goals from Zach Hyman and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to an 8-2 victory.
“I can sum it all up for this. We were no good,” Kings coach Todd McLellan said in a one-question-and-31-second postgame press conference. “We are really disappointed. We got trapped playing their game. You can ask me questions about individuals, I’ll give you the same answer for each one. They weren’t good. And we have to regroup.
The result extended the Kings’ home playoff losing streak to six games, while the margin of loss matched the most one-sided loss in 32 years. The other six-goal loss came Wednesday in Edmonton.
Still, despite losing twice in routs in 72 hours, the Kings only lost a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, which continues Sunday in Los Angeles.
“It’s a big slap in the face,” said forward Phillip Danault. “But luckily it’s only 2-1, so we have to regroup and strengthen the team.”
The mood was good outside the arena three hours before the opening puck drop, with a sun-splashed crowd dressed in purple Kings jerseys and blue and orange Edmonton Oilers jerseys gathering outside a stage for listening to live music. Nearby, children crowded into a small street hockey rink.
But after the puck dropped, the celebration ended early for most sold-out spectators, 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.
When Kane and Hyman doubled the lead with goals 75 seconds apart early in the second period, the silence turned to rumblings of disapproval. McLellan responded by retiring goaltender Jonathan Quick, who had allowed 13 goals in less than eight periods, but that made little difference, with Kane accommodating substitute Cal Petersen with a goal two minutes later.
The Kings eventually fought back with second-period goals from Anze Kopitar and Danault, with Danault coming on the power play. This was significant as it was the team’s first score with the man advantage in 11 occasions in the series.
But Edmonton pulled both back in the third period with goals 81 seconds apart from Nugent-Hopkins, after which the stairs filled up 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 outscored the Kings 17-6 in the series.
“We didn’t play well enough tonight. We didn’t play the last game well enough,” said defenders Alex Edler. “We will do everything we can to equalize in the next game. We just have to look forward to the next game.
While the Kings’ absence from the playoffs, their longest in a dozen years, seemed long, for Whang, a fan since the 1990s and a subscriber since 2013, it ended sooner than expected. He thought it would take a few more seasons to rebuild the team, making this playoff run a pleasant surprise – although after Friday’s result he doesn’t expect it to last.
“I’m worried about this streak, but it’s all in the sauce,” said Whang, who wore a silver Quick jersey while his wife Lindsey wore a black No. 11 Kopitar jersey. “No expectations except to compete and learn. Of course, you hope they can shoot a 2012 again.”
It was the season the Kings finished third in the Pacific Division and then blazed into the playoffs, winning their first Stanley Cup on home soil. They repeated in 2014, lifting the Cup again in Los Angeles.
Three years later, Miller retired and the Kings, like the bronze broadcaster in front of their building, have remained in place ever since.