If the Edmonton Oilers plan to return to the playoffs, winning key games against Pacific Division opponents is a must, especially when that foe is the Anaheim Ducks.
Edmonton, which missed the postseason the past two years, travels to Honda Center on Sunday to play the Ducks in the second game of a back-to-back set and third of its four-game road trip.
The Oilers gave up three first-period goals, Los Angeles chased goaltender Mikko Koskinen after just eight shots and Kings goalie Jonathan Quick blanked Edmonton 4-0 on only 16 shots faced Saturday night.
Edmonton trails Anaheim by four points for the second wild-card spot and will face the Ducks for the second of their four meetings this season, both in Southern California.
Allowing goals has been a nuisance for the Oilers, particularly in a 10-game stretch before arriving in California, as pucks keep zipping past Koskinen and fellow netminder Cam Talbot.
In that 10-game stretch dating back to a 6-4 road win over the Colorado Avalanche on Dec. 11, the Oilers allowed 40 goals, which resulted in a 2-7-1 record and left them looking up at the teams they are chasing in the standings, including Anaheim.
The most glaring span of poor play was from Dec. 16 to New Year's Eve, when Edmonton lost six consecutive games -- all in regulation -- and was outscored 29-15.
In half of the games, the offense tallied three or more goals and Edmonton still lost, but Koskinen's 29-save performance in a 3-1 road win over the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday broke Edmonton's six-game losing streak and the Finnish backstop's own stretch of four consecutive losses.
Edmonton received a lift when Alex Chiasson drew back into the lineup against the Kings. The right wing, who led the NHL in shooting percentage (32 percent) entering Saturday's game, was a bright spot in the first half.
The offseason free-agent acquisition was having a career year with 16 goals in 31 games before missing three games after blocking a shot against the Vancouver Canucks on Dec. 27.
"The goals are going to come and go. He obviously has a hot stick right now. He's a real good player for us," said Oilers coach Ken Hitchcock of Chiasson, who played on the second line with Tobias Rieder and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Meanwhile, the Ducks continue to have trouble scoring, and they will need an offensive spark against Edmonton in the fourth of a season-high six-game homestand.
On Friday, forwards Daniel Sprong and Carter Rowney scored goals to give the Ducks a 2-1 second-period lead, but Tomas Nosek and Max Pacioretty tallied 31 seconds apart to lift the Vegas Golden Knights to a 3-2 win.
The Ducks killed off all three Vegas power plays and even tallied once on the man advantage, but the Golden Knights applied pressure all game and outshot the home side 42-27.
Anaheim fell to 0-5-2 in its last seven, recording just 11 goals along the way, and coach Randy Carlyle said the stars on his team need to step up and make plays.
"We had our fair share of chances, but our finishes need to improve. Especially in these tight games, difference-makers have to make the difference for us," Carlyle said.
Updated January 6, 2019