Hawks in a walk

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:29 AM ET

CHICAGO -- Craig MacTavish had more than a few misgivings going into last night's game at the United Center against the Chicago Blackhawks, and his Edmonton Oilers lived down to them.

Long before the puck dropped, MacTavish was talking about being "leery" about facing a Blackhawks team he called "energized," and his gut-feeling proved to be bang-on as the Oilers fumbled and bumbled and hooked and held their way to a 4-1 loss.

Good foreshadowing. Bad result.

"I've been standing here in this exact spot for, I'll bet, four of the last five games we've been in Chicago talking about the same stupidity," MacTavish fumed.

"It's frustrating. At some point, you get tired of it. What it takes is a disciplined, concerted, energetic effort and I'm not standing here talking about our shortcomings."

LOSS WAS DESERVED

Winners of three straight games after a 2-0 win over Dallas Friday, the Oilers took the first seven minor penalties, fell behind by two goals and got one back on a second-period penalty shot by Jarret Stoll before getting the result they deserved.

Three hit goalposts, too little discipline and too much Martin Havlat, who scored a goal and had an assist in his second game back from a sprained ankle, beat the Oilers and gave Chicago points for a seventh straight game under new coach Denis Savard.

"We got away from all the things we had been doing well," continued MacTavish.

"You wonder why. We've been making a living on good, smart plays, moving the puck up ice, not turning the puck over, staying out of the penalty box and going hard to the net.

"Quite clearly, they were going to call everything. We had to adjust. We couldn't adjust. We just kept taking (penalties)."

Despite losing 5-4 in overtime the night before in Minnesota while the Oilers had a day off after blanking Dallas, the Blackhawks had all the jump in the first period - aided in great part by five Edmonton minors.

First, Tuomo Ruutu was allowed to stand around and bang a rebound past Dwayne Roloson 8:26 into the game. When Bryan Smolinski made it 2-0 five minutes later, taking a cross-crease feed from Havlat after a Toby Petersen turnover, the Oilers were in a hole.

"When you take as many penalties as we did, it's difficult to get into the flow," said captain Jason Smith. "We were probably a bit too active with our sticks in certain situations. The penalty killing did a great job to keep us in the game."

When Shawn Horcoff took a tripping penalty one second into the second period to put the Oilers down two men, the Blackhawks feeble power play had a chance to put this one away. It didn't.

Enter Stoll, who sold ref Kerry Fraser on a Jassen Cullimore hook 4:34 into the period and then sifted a shot between Nikolai Khabibulin's legs on the ensuing penalty shot to make it 2-1. Game on.

HAVLAT WALTZED IN

At least until Havlat, who now has 18 points in the nine games he's played, waltzed in on Roloson and tucked a backhand top shelf four minutes into the third period.

"It kills a lot of guys. It burns out a lot of guys," said Stoll of having to kill off 10 power plays, including three 5-on-3 situations.

"A lot of good players sit on the bench and get out of the game. We survived it, but it still kills you. We had to be more disciplined."


Videos

Photos