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With Kings playing hard for new coach, flat Oilers have no answers


LOS ANGELES — Live by the new coach, die by the new coach.

In the history of the “new coach bounce,” only two NHL teams have ever had better results in the 35 games after hiring a new guy, than the Edmonton Oilers and Kris Knoblauch. They are the 2008-09 San Jose Sharks (Todd McLellan), and the Pittsburgh Penguins over that season and the next, under new hire Dan Bylsma.

So when the Oilers — hockey’s latest and biggest benefactors of hiring a new bench boss — walked into Crypoto.com Arena to face a Los Angeles Kings team that had fired that same Todd McLellan over the All-Star break, karma was waiting for them. Despite their 27-7 record under Knoblauch going into the game.

With fresh, new interim coach Jim Hiller beginning his tenure behind the Kings bench, Los Angeles was just too much for an Oilers team that simply couldn’t find its first goal in the second game of a California back-to-back, losing 4-0 to the Kings on Saturday.

What is this “new coach bounce?”

“It’s a fresh start for everybody. Everybody wants to make an impression on the new coach,” said Oilers winger Zach Hyman. “You have a new opportunity, everybody starts with a clean slate. Everybody tries to play their very best.

“Everybody starts with a blank slate, a new opportunity,” he continued. “We’ve had it twice since I’ve been here, and that’s what happens. Everybody tries to play their very best because it’s a new opportunity.”

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The Kings had all the jump in this one and completely deserved to win. “They just played better than us, to be honest,” Hyman admitted.

Kings goalie David Rittich (26 saves) made a couple of key stops around which this one might have turned. But Edmonton’s best players just weren’t that good, and for the first time in a while a hero did not emerge from the ranks below.

“It’s weird how the hockey world is,” said third-line winger Warren Foegele. “Probably on that (16-game winning) streak a couple of those goals would have went in. (Hyman) on the back door. (Corey Perry) had a great chance too. Today was one of those games where we just couldn’t get those in.

“Power play, we had a bunch of chances….”

This was a rare night on which Connor McDavid was not dominant, fighting the puck throughout the night on an ice surface that had spent the day underneath an NBA court that hosted the L.A. Clippers and the Detroit Pistons.

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For the second straight night, the line of Ryan McLeod between Foegele and Dylan Holloway was held of the score sheet, though both coach and player saw progress in a line that likely just needs a few more reps to show us what they have.

“I think everyone thought this would probably be the line to start the year,” Foegele said. “This is our time to make the most of it. Try to put our foot down on it.”

It’s a trio that, in theory, has all the elements of a good third line. But against the Ducks and Kings the past two nights, they had zero points and a combined four shots on nets, drawing a couple of penalties.

“Foegele, I thought that was his best game that I’ve seen from him for a while,” Knoblauch said. “So yeah, well, we’ll give it a little bit more time.”

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This was Evander Kane’s 900th NHL game, and after the shutout McDavid remains three assists away from 600.

The last streak standing for Edmonton, which saw its 16-game win streak come to a close on this road trip, is a 19-game skein of allowing three goals or less. That died a quiet death when Quinton Byfield (two goals, three points) potted an empty-netter on Saturday, as the Oilers closed this three-game trip with a 1-2 record.

The Kings, now 8-11-7 since starting the season 16-4-3, needed this one badly. And they played like it, a tight defensive effort that forced Edmonton to roll up its collective sleeves and fight for every inch of space in the offensive zone.

On this night, the NHL’s hottest team didn’t have that kind of effort in it.

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