Skinner shuts out Kings to give Oilers commanding 3-1 series lead

The Edmonton Oilers’ offence wasn’t rolling Sunday night, but head coach Kris Knoblauch felt just fine knowing his goalie would get them to the finish line.

Stuart Skinner made 33 saves for his first post-season shutout as the Oilers ground out a 1-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings and took a 3-1 lead in their first-round series.

“I don’t think anyone ever questioned if he was going to make the next save,” Knoblauch said. “We’re very pleased to have him playing the way he did tonight.”

Evan Bouchard blasted a one-timer past Kings goalie David Rittich at 11:49 of the second period, and that was all the run support Edmonton had for Skinner.

The Kings smothered the Oilers’ high-flying offence and limited it to 13 shots, its lowest total in a playoff game since Connor McDavid entered the NHL in 2015.

It still wasn’t enough to tie the series.

“Frustrating, probably, disappointing is a really good word,” interim Kings head coach Jim Hiller said to describe the feeling in the locker room. “Disappointed it’s not 2-2.

“We didn’t get it done. Even though we had a pretty good crack at getting it done.”

Skinner turned away chances from Alex Laferriere and Mikey Anderson early in the third period to keep the Oilers ahead as the Kings made a push. He stood tall again midway through the frame, denying looks from Kevin Fiala and Trevor Moore below the faceoff dot.

Otherwise, the Oilers defence kept the Kings shooting from the outside all night. But that didn’t stop Skinner from taking credit for pulling out the stops.

“It’s a lot of work I’ve put in to try to make saves look easy,” Skinner said. “I don’t think any save is easy in the NHL, it’s a hard league.”

The sophomore netminder faced questions about his play after giving up five goals on 26 shots in a Game 2 loss.

Since then, he’s turned away 60 of 61 and earned two wins in Los Angeles for the Oilers.

“(Just like) any goaltender they’re gonna have an off night, but his biggest strength is the way he rebounds after those nights,” defenceman Mattias Ekholm said. “That’s a sign of a really, really good goaltender.

“I thought he was unbelievable.”

Rittich made 12 saves in his first start of the post-season for Los Angeles.

“I thought he played well, the disappointing thing for him is no goalie is going to win when we can’t score for him,” Hiller said. “He did his job, there’s no question.”

The Oilers can win the best-of-seven matchup in Game 5 at home Wednesday. Game 6, if necessary, would take place next Friday back at arena.

Edmonton’s unstoppable power play went 1-for-1 to improve to 8-for-15 in the series. Los Angeles went 0-for-1 and hasn’t scored in 11 opportunities during these playoffs.

“I don’t think we had a guy tonight who didn’t play well, we didn’t score,” Hiller said. “They scored one on the power play, we lost the special teams battle.

“We didn’t win the special teams battle and we didn’t get the win.”

Desperate not to go down 3-1, the Kings threw their weight at every opportunity to give the rowdy home fans — including actor Will Ferrell — more energy early in the game. Drew Doughty laid out Zach Hyman along the boards for one of several Kings hits through 20 minutes.

L.A.’s tight-checking play continued into the second, but the Oilers struck first thanks to Bouchard and their red-hot power play.

The Kings outshot the Oilers 21-10 after 40 minutes but didn’t test Skinner with many Grade A chances as the Oilers limited them to shots from the perimeter.

In other games Sunday, the Vancouver Canucks took a 3-1 series lead with a 4-3 overtime win over Nashville, while the Winnipeg Jets face elimination after suffering a 5-1 loss to Colorado. The New York Rangers finished off a sweep of the Washington Capitals with a 4-2 win.

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