Mild response by Oilers

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:34 AM ET

The do-over was supposed to be different.

When the Edmonton Oilers bungled their way to a mistake-filled 4-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Boxing Day, Craig MacTavish afforded his team the benefit of the doubt, believing the defeat was a one-off - the product of two days off, no jump and a season-high 33 turnovers.

What MacTavish got in the encore last night at Rexall Place was a better effort but another bad start punctuated by suspect goaltending - which is anything but a one-off - as the Oilers spotted the Wild a 3-0 lead in a 4-2 defeat that was lost between the pipes.

Sound familiar?

CONKLIN BEATEN ON FIRST TWO SHOTS

"I thought we were, by-and-large, a lot better tonight in a lot of areas of the game," said MacTavish, who saw Ty Conklin beaten on the first two shots he faced. "It was a tough start to overcome.

"It's the same demons. It's happened in a handful of games now where you have a good territorial period in the first period and outshoot the opposition. At the end of the day, you're in here trying to evaluate whether they were good goals, bad goals or indifferent.

"It's the same path. You need a save to get us out of the period, but we didn't get it."

Brian Rolston's 3-0 goal 6:08 into the second period stood up as the winner as the Oilers outshot Minnesota 30-23 but didn't get anything easily from Manny Fernandez in losing back-to-back games in regulation time for the first time since Nov. 7-8.

"It's frustrating, especially on the first two shots of the game," said Conklin, who didn't hide in a silent dressing room.

"If you take each goal by itself, it's not like they were terrible goals, but one of them has to get stopped.

"If one of those doesn't go in, it's a completely different game and mindset going into the second period."

In a watch-the-paint-dry display that is Minnesota's trademark, it took the teams 7:35 to get the first shot on goal - two shots by the Oilers in a flurry. Fernandez stopped both. Conklin didn't fare as well.

First, Randy Robitaille sifted a snapshot past him from the face-off dot at 8:43 with Marc-Andre Bergeron providing a screen. Then, Marian Gaborik made it 2-0 when he was allowed to waltz into the slot and pick up his own blocked shot before rattling it past Conklin.

"They're a team you can't fall behind on," said Chris Pronger. "They play that defensive system. If you fall behind early it's an uphill battle and you exert a lot of energy trying to claw your way back."

Perhaps realizing they were in for 40 minutes of coma-inducing trapping from the Wild, many in a capacity crowd heckled Conklin when he gloved a shot from centre by Pascal Dupuis at the buzzer to end the first period.

"Once they get the lead they sit back even more," Ryan Smyth said. "They sit back and play well defensively."

When Rolston beat Conklin on a 5-on-3 power play, it was time for the Oilers to trot out their Comeback Kids routine one more time.

NO COMEBACK LAST NIGHT

The Oilers, who swiped two points in Vancouver by twice coming back from two-goal deficits in a 5-4 overtime win on Dec. 17 before spotting Calgary a two-goal lead and rallying to beat the Flames by the same score Dec. 19, would have no such luck this night.

Steve Staios cut it to 3-1 with a one-timer from the point 9:17 into the second and Ales Hemsky got the joint jumping a minute into the third when he lifted Smyth's rebound into a yawning cage. But Fernandez buckled down and Gaborik hit an empty net at 19:36 to close the deal.

"They play a frustrating brand of hockey," Pronger said. "We've got to get that first goal.

"You start deviating from your game plan and pressing a bit. That's exactly what they want.

"You're playing into their hands."


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