It wasn't a turkey.
But there was little gravy left for the Edmonton Oil Kings as they fell 4-1 to the Brandon Wheat Kings yesterday in front of a sparse Thanksgiving crowd at Rexall Place.
"It's tough when you play a very skilled hockey team, but I thought if we stuck with our structure -- and we did early -- it could have been a better game," said Oil Kings head coach Steve Pleau.
"I don't think we got blown out of the building by any stretch of the imagination. I just thought we allowed their skill to dictate."
Led by their Big Three power forwards Brayden Schenn, Scott Glennie and Matt Calvert, the speedy Wheaties repeatedly transitioned from the neutral zone to pressure the injury-depleted Oil Kings' defence.
"They have a fantastic group over there and they do a good job of pressuring," said veteran OK defenceman Drew Nichol. "I think we did a good job of keeping them to the outside, keeping the shots away."
What proved to be Brandon's winning goal came at 5:29 of the second period when Schenn swept past the front of the Edmonton net then sent a pass back to Calvert, who was to the left of netminder Torrie Jung.
Midway through the third, Brandon's Brodie Melnychuk, from the left point, found Schenn to the left of Jung. Schenn shot it across the crease and bounced it off OK rookie Michael St. Croix to regain a two-goal lead.
Michael Ferland put it away late, snapping home a point- shot rebound.
The real undoing was the Oil Kings' power play. Or lack of one.
"You don't even have to score when you get a power play," said Pleau. "But you've got to continue the momentum. You usually get a power play because you're playing good five-on-five. You've got to keep that going. We didn't."
Big Czech winger Tomas Vincour -- an assist shy of a Gordie Howe hat trick yesterday -- agreed.
"We were the better team five-on-five. But our big issue is the power play. If you want to score on the PP you have to scramble in front of the net, go to the blue (paint)."
Pleau placed the blame squarely on one person.
"When you're that disorganized on the power play, there is only one person you can look at -- and that's me. I run the power play.
"You can't push the panic button, (but) we'll watch some video, try and get our personnel a little more comfortable and we'll go from there."