For all the tradition Rexall Place has been steeped in for 26 NHL campaigns, the Edmonton Oilers have been anything but dominant within the confines of their own rink this season.
Last night, an evening when the Oilers marked their celebrated past by unveiling 22 new championship banners to replace the dusty originals, they filed out against the San Jose Sharks with a modest 4-3-1 record at home and once again had their hands full -- this time with an opponent that came in having lost five straight games.
Not the stuff of dynasties past, but Ryan Smyth's shootout goal and a 21-save performance by Mike Morrison in his first NHL start on home ice got it done in a 2-1 decision, sending the Sharks into the night frustrated for a sixth straight game and the Oilers packing to Minnesota and Calgary with two points they needed.
Still, a banner night it wasn't.
COOLED OFF CONSIDERABLY
"This was a scrambly game," said Smyth. "It was back and forth, in the neutral zone more or less, but we'll study some film here and look forward to that game in Minny."
On a night the Oilers' red-hot power play cooled off considerably to the tune of 0-for-5, Smyth settled it on the final shot in the first round of the shootout with a stick side snapper past Evgeni Nabokov as Morrison one-upped the Sharks' stopper in a dandy display of goaltending.
"It was kind of a weird game," said Morrison, who stopped two of three San Jose shots in the shootout. "I knew it was going to be a sloppy goal or something. The one we got on them shows you the way the game was.
"Goalies hate me for saying this, but I'm a big fan of shootouts. You can say you got a point at least at that point ... anything can happen."
The Oilers' power play -- 7-for-24 in its last three games -- had every chance to get something going in the opening 20 minutes thanks to three chances with the man advantage, but didn't generate any Grade A chances on Nabokov, aside from a one-timer that was teed-up from the circle by Marc-Andre Bergeron.
So inept were the Oilers at gaining the offensive zone at times, the Sharks' stopper was twice able to handle the puck and clear the zone himself.
The Sharks made the Oilers pay as their power play, ranked a tepid 27th coming in, hit the board when Patrick Marleau one-timed a Brad Stuart pass to the top shelf past Morrison. Outshot 11-6, they led 1-0.
"We just felt like if we kept playing hard and creating chances, good things would happen," said Marty Reasoner, who scored the 1-1 goal. "We've had games in the past where that wasn't the case, but that's the attitude you have to have."
By the time the Oilers fumbled their way through a minor to Scott Parker for knocking Bergeron into Morrison late in the second period, they were 0-for-5 and the faithful were restless -- with good reason.
SEEMED A CERTAIN GOAL
Denied what seemed a certain goal when Rob Davison stopped a Mike Peca shot on the goal line with 90 seconds left in the second, the Oilers got even as Reasoner, Ethan Moreau and Fernando Pisani hacked and whacked until Reasoner coaxed a rebound past Nabokov, setting up the shootout.
"I had one or two moves and that was one of them," said Smyth, who saw Ales Hemsky beat Nabokov to the stick side one shot earlier. "I saw Hemmer go there and I thought he wouldn't think I'd try it."
BANNER NIGHT: As part of a ceremony marking replacement of the banners, five-longtime members of the franchise carried the five original Stanley Cup banners off the ice.
AROUND THE RINK ... Attendance was 16,583, ending a streak of 20 straight sell-outs of 16,839 dating back to the final 12 games of the 2003-04 season.