Kings stumble against Edmonton in Game 7

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Edmonton Oilers battles against Rasmus Kupari of the Los Angeles Kings during the third period in Game Seven of the First Round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on May 14, 2022 in Edmonton, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers celebrates a goal against the Los Angeles Kings during the third period in Game Seven of the First Round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on May 14, 2022 in Edmonton, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

Zach Hyman of the Edmonton Oilers shoots the puck against goaltender Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings during the second period in Game Seven of the First Round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on May 14, 2022 in Edmonton, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

Zack Kassian of the Edmonton Oilers battles along the boards against Mikey Anderson of the Los Angeles Kings during the second period in Game Seven of the First Round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on May 14, 2022 in Edmonton, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

Cody Ceci of the Edmonton Oilers battles against Mikey Anderson of the Los Angeles Kings during the second period in Game Seven of the First Round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on May 14, 2022 in Edmonton, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

Derek Ryan of the Edmonton Oilers battles against Olli Maatta of the Los Angeles Kings during the second period in Game Seven of the First Round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on May 14, 2022 in Edmonton, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

Evander Kane of the Edmonton Oilers fails to get the puck past goaltender Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings during the second period in Game Seven of the First Round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on May 14, 2022 in Edmonton, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

Zach Hyman of the Edmonton Oilers attacks as Troy Stecher and goaltender Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings defend the net during the second period in Game Seven of the First Round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on May 14, 2022 in Edmonton, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

Cody Ceci, Leon Draisaitl and Darnell Nurse of the Edmonton Oilers celebrate a goal against the Los Angeles Kings during the second period in Game Seven of the First Round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on May 14, 2022 in Edmonton, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

Kris Russell of the Edmonton Oilers defends against Brendan Lemieux of the Los Angeles Kings during the third period in Game Seven of the First Round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on May 14, 2022 in Edmonton, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

Zach Hyman of the Edmonton Oilers battles against Troy Stecher of the Los Angeles Kings during the third period in Game Seven of the First Round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on May 14, 2022 in Edmonton, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

Connor McDavid and goaltender Mike Smith of the Edmonton Oilers celebrate their victory against the Los Angeles Kings during the third period in Game Seven of the First Round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on May 14, 2022 in Edmonton, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar, right, and Edmonton Oilers left wing Zach Hyman chase the puck during the first period in Game 7 of a first-round series in the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Edmonton, Alberta. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)

Los Angeles Kings center Trevor Moore, right, and Edmonton Oilers right wing Josh Archibald vie for the puck during the first period in Game 7 of a first-round series in the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Edmonton, Alberta. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)

Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, left, blocks the net on Edmonton Oilers left wing Zach Hyman during the second period in Game 7 of a first-round series in the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Edmonton, Alberta. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)

Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, left, comes out of the net to check Edmonton Oilers defenseman Evan Bouchard during the second period in Game 7 of a first-round series in the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Edmonton, Alberta. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)

Edmonton Oilers defenseman Cody Ceci, center, celebrates his goal against the Los Angeles Kings with teammates during the second period in Game 7 of a first-round series in the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Edmonton, Alberta. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)

Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, left, kicks away a loose puck as Edmonton Oilers right wing Kailer Yamamoto closes in during the second period in Game 7 of a first-round series in the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Edmonton, Alberta. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)

Los Angeles Kings defenseman Sean Durzi, left, keeps Edmonton Oilers left wing Zach Hyman away from the net during the second period in Game 7 of a first-round series in the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Edmonton, Alberta. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)

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For the Kings, three warriors went into a meaningful battle for the first time in a generation and one competed valiantly for the last time in his career.

Winger Dustin Brown, the Kings’ all-time leader in games played and captain of the 55-year-old franchise’s only two championship rosters, played the final match of his illustrious 1388-game tenure, a 2-0 road loss to the Edmonton Oilers in Game 7 of a riveting first-round series.

“I’m gonna miss him a lot,” said current captain Anze Kopitar as he choked back tears.

Kings coach Todd McLellan said that even beyond Kopitar’s emotional moment,  there were “a lot of water-filled eyes in there, of grown men,” referring to his team’s dressing room.

“The hurt in the locker room was deep, team-wise, but it was very deep for Brownie,” McLellan said. “It’s very rare in this sporting world that one individual spends that many years, wins championships and finishes the night with his team.”

A first-round draft pick back in 2003, Brown was joined on the ice by his close friend Kopitar and longtime goalie Jonathan Quick, who had won all four game 7s of their careers before Saturday night at Rogers Place. Quick gave the Kings a puncher’s chance, stopping 39 shots.

Center Connor McDavid further cemented his status as the world’s best player by logging a game-high 27:23, scoring a goal and setting up another by defenseman Cody Ceci. In the series, the Oilers out-scored the Kings 18-4 with McDavid on the ice. Mike Smith made 29 saves in his sixth career postseason shutout. Edmonton advanced in the playoffs for the first time since 2017.

The Kings had not played in a Game 7 since 2014. With their loss in Edmonton they have still not won a playoff series since that same year. Their performance over 89 games this season, one that many thought would be unremarkable, was more than commendable despite Saturday’s result.

“I’m very proud of the group we have, and the character and the strength, mentally, that we gained this year,” center Phillip Danault said. “I think the experience we got this year is going to bring us a long way for the next few years.”

The Kings fought to the final buzzer –– winger Alex Iafallo dove desperately to break up an empty-net chance for winger Zach Hyman with 18 seconds remaining –– but to no avail.

“Obviously it was a bad ending, but I think we gave it all,” Danault said.

In the third period, the Kings mostly struggled to generate offense and with 3:53 to play it was none other than McDavid driving the dagger into their collective heart. He beat defenseman Sean Durzi to the inside, drew a hooking penalty, hit the net with a backhanded wraparound shot, then lifted his own rebound off his backhand and above a prone Quick.

He’s the best player in the world. He showed that in the last two games,” forward Leon Draisaitl said of McDavid after the game. “It’s not skill … I mean, there’s lots of skill obviously with him, that’s a given. It’s the will. You can see it in his eyes. You can feel it every shift that he’s out there. He’s determined. There was just no way that he, or us, were going to be denied. He led the way. He was amazing.”

The closing stanza began with a strong shift for the Kings and then witnessed a near disaster when winger Josh Archibald had a breakaway. He slid the puck between Quick’s legs, where his glove was resting behind him to reject the shot and keep the Kings’ deficit at one. The second and third periods were also connected by a struck post in each frame that aided Quick’s cause.

The ice tilted heavily toward the Oilers in the second period as they out-shot the Kings 24-11 and forced Quick to earn every cent of his salary for the year in 20 minutes. McDavid deked, dangled, danced and dished to winger Kailer Yamamoto for a point-blank chance that Quick stymied, one of his 23 saves in the stanza.

“An outstanding effort by (Quick), especially in the second period when we were under siege,” McLellan said. “They got a step up on us every shift and we were receiving for almost 20 minutes straight.”

The Kings saved their best chance, or perhaps their only good one, for last when winger Brendan Lemieux generated two attempts from close range as the intermission loomed.

Having gathered momentum as the seconds ticked away, Edmonton’s second-period crescendo reached its peak with a goal 13:15 into the frame.

McDavid and his linemates cycled the puck below the goalline as Ceci snuck down to the right faceoff dot, where McDavid found him with a brisk pass for a short-side shot. Ceci, who had 28 points in 78 games this season, notched six in seven games, as many as any Kings player in the series. McDavid’s 14 points pace the NHL in the postseason to date.

Just before the halfway point of the game, winger Evander Kane nearly gave Edmonton its first lead but could not push the puck over the goalline, where it was halted with a score-saving swipe by winger Andreas Athanasiou. Quick endured another close call when center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins put a shot through him that ended up going wide later in the stanza.

Winger Adrian Kempe took the puck hard to the net only to send it wide before defenseman Matt Roy fired a one-timer, all that soon after the Oilers had turned up the heat in the Kings’ zone. The Kings played a conservative game offensively and other than dominating the faceoff circle for stretches they were on the short end of the possession figures through 40 minutes.

Nearing the six-minute mark of the second period, Edmonton sustained pressure and tested Quick. Their dangerous shift ended when Kopitar pinned Draisaitl against the boards and separated him from the puck before clearing it.

The first period was structured and physical but unspectacular with the two teams combining for more  blocked shots (19) than shots on goal (18). The Kings limited top-quality chances for Edmonton. When their skaters faltered, the Kings’ goalie sparkled, including a string of saves in quick succession, two on Kane and a third on Ceci.

Yet in the end, Quick’s acrobatics were not enough, and the playoff experience of a new generation of Kings began with a series loss. So, too, did that of Quick, Brown, Kopitar and injured defenseman Drew Doughty, who endured first-round defeats in 2010 and 2011 before a stretch that saw them reach the conference finals three times and win two Stanley Cups across three campaigns.

“It hurts, but you take that, you suck it in and you come back next year, and you’re even stronger,” Danault said.