Not enough 'Juice'

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:38 AM ET

CHICAGO -- With as many brilliant efforts as he's provided, nobody in the Edmonton Oilers dressing room was about to point a finger at the masked man in the corner after a 3-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks last night.

Jussi Markkanen had been on a roll with 13 consecutive starts when he led the Oilers out of the tunnel at the United Center, but if you ride a stopper that long, the wheels are bound to fall off sooner or later.

This game was that time, as Markkanen allowed three goals on his first five shots on a night the Oilers played well enough to win, but couldn't get a big stop early. Markkanen was outdone by Nikolai Khabibulin, who until recently has been wearing a balaclava on paydays.

ONE BAD PERIOD

Juice was that bad.

"Absolutely," said Markkanen, asked if he'd had a bad night. "I think we beat them in every category of the game other than goaltending. He was really good and I had one bad period."

Two first-period goals by Mark Bell and one by Duncan Keith, who put the hosts on the board with Chicago's first shot, did the deed. Markkanen, as in so many games recently, was the storyline - for different reasons.

Khabibulin, roasted recently for a 5-10-0 record juxtaposed with his $6.75-million salary - the contract he signed with Chicago as a free agent is worth $27 million - was good when he had to be, with 26 saves.

Markkanen didn't have his good stuff.

Keith's 1-0 goal came on a snapshot from just inside the blue-line. Bell's second, to put the Blackhawks up 3-0, was a snapshot from the top of the circles that dipped under Markkanen's arm.

"I should stop all of them, at least two of them," Markkanen said. "I guess I wasn't ready. The third one I didn't see, but I should get that one, too."

PISANI SCORES

Fernando Pisani cut it to 3-1 when he swiped a puck from Adrian Aucoin at the Chicago blue-line and tucked it five-hole behind Khabibulin 7:22 into the second.

Shawn Horcoff had a chance to get the Oilers within one with six minutes to go in the second, but rattled the puck off the pipe as Chicago made it to the dressing room two goals to the good.

"Juice is a competitor. He's played some great games for us in this stretch," said Steve Staios. "I know he wants those goals back, but that's the time we have to bail him out at the other end of the rink. The one off the crossbar could have made a difference. We have to have the ability to have a big game offensively for him."

The Oilers' on-again, off-again power play didn't help in that regard one bit. It stiffed to the tune of 0-for-8.

"Jussi came back and made some saves, but we couldn't score a goal on the power play," lamented Craig MacTavish. "We needed one power-play goal.

"It's the old story about lack of timely offence. When the sun and the moon are aligned, we look like we're competent enough offensively. In a game like tonight, we have every opportunity to get ourselves back in the game and we can't do it."

AROUND THE RINK: Don't be surprised if MacTavish goes with Mike Morrison against Colorado tonight.


Videos

Photos