DENVER -- After a humiliating 7-1 loss to the Avalanche, in which the Edmonton Oilers looked like something the dog spit up, you almost shuddered to think what would happen in the rematch four days later in Colorado.
Would the Oilers get even?
Yeah. Even worse.
They didn't stink the joint out for 60 minutes, but their spectacular third period collapse was every bit as crushing and devastating. Every bit as big an indictment on their character and poise.
"We've got a 3-2 lead with six minutes to go and we lose the game 5-3,'' said head coach Craig MacTavish, who almost couldn't believe what he was saying. "By the same stupid mistakes that we've been making time and time again. Junior-league player mentality.''
With Edmonton up 3-2 late in the game. Alex Tanguay tied it at 13:35, Patrice Brisebois won it at 19:11 and Steve Konowalchuk rubbed some salt in the wound at 19:31.
"You get kicked in the groin so much you eventually start to pay attention and hopefully we're at that point now,'' said MacTavish.
"The problem I have right now is it's rampant. Rampant through the team. The turnovers. Just get the puck in deep, it's not a complex game.''
BOTH AGAINST THE OILERS
The Oilers looked OK for the first 54 minutes, storming back from a 2-0 goal deficit with some decent goaltending and an unexpected contribution from the power play, but that's small consolation against a team with only two wins in its last seven games, both of them against you.
"We do a good job getting back in the hockey game, take the lead in the third period, get a four-minute power play and we take a penalty through laziness,'' MacTavish said of a back-break hooking call on Jarret Stoll that laid the groundwork for Edmonton's seventh straight defeat.
"That negates the power play and after that it was just a combination of poor decisions on our part and shots finding holes on our goaltenders.''
And now the Oil are closing in on the franchise record 11-game losing streak, a tailspin that cost Ted Green his job in 1993.
"When you're learning the same lessons over and over again it gets to be blatant stupidity,'' said MacTavish. "They didn't dominate us, it was ongoing opportunities that we provided them. It's hard to address this each and every night.''
Igor Ulanov made the first big blunder, throwing it up the middle of the ice in his own end, right to Antti Laaksonen, who made it 1-0 early in the second.
Four minutes later rookie Wojtek Wolski made it 2-0 on the power play, marking the sixth time in eight games Edmonton has fallen behind by that score. And it looked like the house of cards was about to collapse again.
Then Marc-Andre Bergeron and Raffi Torres scored four minutes apart inthe second and it looked like the Avs were about to collapse.
"We got ourselves back in the game by battling hard,'' said Jason Smith. "But we're making too many errors. Mental errors, physical errors.When you give a team with that much talent chances like that they're going to end up in your net.''
WIPED OUT BY PENALTY
They did. With eight minutes to go the Oilers on a four-minute power play, Stoll wiped it out with a hooking penalty.On the ensuing four-on-four Tanguay's centering pass hit Radek Dvorak, who hasn't scored on the other team's net since Oct. 10, and it was 3-3.
"What's your stick doing there,'' said MacTavish. "You're right in front of your own goaltender. You've got your stick on the ice above the goal line. Another mental mistake from a veteran.''