The Edmonton Oilers usually beat the Buffalo Sabres pretty much for fun, but they generally don't try to get the job done with one hand tied behind their backs.
That's exactly what they did when the Sabres came calling at Rexall Place last night looking for their first win in Edmonton since March 27, 1998, with a 1-5-1 mark in their last seven visits.
The Oilers spent most of the night playing shorthanded against Buffalo's red-hot power play - ranked second in the NHL and fresh from scoring three times in a 10-1 romp over Los Angeles - playing with fire to the tune of allowing the Sabres 11 cracks with a man advantage.
The Oilers got burned on two of them, on goals by Tim Connolly and the winner by Maxim Afinogenov, while stopper Ryan Miller took care of the rest with 22 saves as the Sabres torched them 3-1.
Isn't that special?
"It's been a common theme for the last three games. We're taking way too many penalties," said a frustrated Ethan Moreau.
"We're so good five-on-five and it really takes away our ability to roll over four lines. It takes a lot of guys out of the game when we take that many penalties."
ONE TICK ON THE CLOCK
Afinogenov got the goal that would stand up 2:23 into the third period with one tick left on the clock on a double-minor to Jarret Stoll for high-sticking.
Miller, who has helped generate speculation that Martin Biron might be on the trading block with his stellar play this season, took care of business at the other end to pick up his 13th win.
"You've got guys sitting there for way too long who we rely on in five-on-five situations," said Michael Peca.
"Once we get to five-on-five, we've got guys who've been sitting there 10-12 minutes and it's hard to get the legs going. It's difficult. It was just a selfish game from start to finish on our side."
Ales Hemsky hogged the spotlight early.
First, he extended his points streak to seven games with the opening goal, sifting a snapshot low to the stick side past Miller on a two-on-one with Shawn Horcoff 3:35 into proceedings.
Later, when Jay McKee sent Hemsky cart-wheeling to the ice with a check in the neutral zone at 17:20, Jason Smith took matters into his own hands and picked up two for being the instigator, five for fighting and a 10-minute misconduct for exacting his payback in a dog pile of players.
The Sabres made them pay as Connolly tied it 1-1 on the ensuing power play, beating Jussi Markkanen five-hole with a wrist shot just 28 seconds after the rhubarb.
"You don't want to see players taking runs at guys in your team," Smith said.
"Hemmer's an important part of our team. I just did something I felt was positive for our team."
FIVE STRAIGHT KILLS
After the Oilers killed five more power-play attempts by the Sabres in the middle period to hit the second intermission even, Afinogenov went to work.
He slipped a puck past Markkanen, again between his pads, with Stoll standing at the gate waiting to get back on the ice.
When Derek Roy parked a one-timer past Markkanen on a feed from Afinogenov with less than seven minutes to play, the Oilers' third straight loss was as good as in the books.
"Our best games are when we play with four lines," Smith said.
"When you're spending half the game in the penalty box, it's tough to do that."
AROUND THE RINK: With Jani Rita drawing back in on the fourth line alongside Todd Harvey and Marty Reasoner, Georges Laraque was a healthy scratch.
RUMOUR DU JOUR: Reports out of Montreal and circulating in Edmonton say the Oilers are talking to the Canadiens about goaltender Jose Theodore. The Oiler names attached to the rumnour are Georges Laraque, prospect Robbie Schremp and one of the team's three goalie.