The most obvious one, of course, is don’t let a three-goal first-period lead get away. But that’s not the only one.
“There’s some things that we have to fix. And there’s some things that we have fixed,” McLellan said Monday before the Kings left for Edmonton, where the best-of-seven series resumes Tuesday with the teams even at two wins apiece. “You have to keep reinforcing the positives. ‘Look what happens when we do certain things. It’s working for us’.
“There’s other areas that we have to repair. And we keep trying to do that.”
Everything was certainly working in the first period of Game 4 when the Kings, buoyed by the return of winger Kevin Fiala, ran out to a 3-0 lead. But that was followed by the second period, when two power-play goals allowed the Oilers to tie the score. The Kings blew another lead in the third period before losing 5-4 in overtime.
So rather than heading to Canada with a chance to win a playoff series for the first time in nine years, the Kings’ meltdown assured them there will be a Game 6 in L.A. on Saturday.
“I think the lesson there is we just need to bear down and find a way to win those games. We can’t give those games back this time of year,” defenseman Matt Roy said when asked what he learned. “Once the game is over, you’ve just got to focus on the next game and just keep moving forward.”
One advantage the Kings may have in doing that is their roster which, with an average age of 26.7 years, is the second-youngest of the 16 playoff teams according to CapFriendly.Tuesday’s game will be the fifth in nine days and three of the previous four went to overtime, meaning both teams have played a lot of hockey in a short amount of time.
“We have energy and I think that’s going to be good for us,” said Roy, whose go-ahead score in the third period Sunday was his first postseason goal.
That youth is tempered with experience since the young Kings battled the Oilers through a seven-game playoff series last spring. So for McLellan, the kind of boost Roy was talking about needs to come from the bench.
“The energy level has to come from some of the players maybe that don’t play as many minutes. When you’re on the bench and you’re maybe not going the next shift, you have to bring something,” he said. “It’s a skill that’s never taught; it’s never talked about because every kid that comes into the league is a superstar. They never have to behave or act [like a bench player] until they end up on a third or fourth line.
“That’s part of us needing to reach them that they’re important even when they’re not on the ice. They can bring something to the group or to the team.”
Asked for an example of a player who has applied those lessons, McLellan pointed to defenseman Mikey Anderson, who has earned himself a spot next to Drew Doughty on the Kings’ top blue line pairing.
“He’s watched, he’s learned, he’s witnessed others do it,” McLellan said. “And now he’s passing it on to the rest of the group.”
One thing the Kings won’t have to worry about in Edmonton is any surprises. Tuesday’s game will be the 20th with the Oilers over the last two seasons, more than twice as many as the team has played against anyone else.
“The experience of having played them now 19 times gives everybody an understanding of what it feels like to play day after day against them. And I don’t think there’s a surprised individual on either team, or in either organization, that it’s gone this way,” McLellan said.
“We’re in a best of three now,” he continued. “If somebody said ‘you know what, let’s just start in Game 5 all even,’ we’d take a swing at that. And that’s what we’re doing.”
Consider it a learning curve.