Fine art of losing

Edmonton Oilers' Ryan Smyth can't get his stick on the puck as he's checked by Dallas Stars' Sergei...

Edmonton Oilers' Ryan Smyth can't get his stick on the puck as he's checked by Dallas Stars' Sergei Zubov in front of Stars goalie Marty Turco during action at Rexall Place last night. (Edmonton Sun/Darryl Dyck)

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 2:04 PM ET

The Edmonton Oilers set out with every intention of winning a hockey game against the Dallas Stars at Rexall Place last night.

What they did instead for 40 minutes was script a manual on how to lose - a step-by-step chapter and verse on what not to do.

The Oilers were outplayed and outshot in the first period. They allowed the first goal.

They trailed after two periods. Just to push their luck a bit more, they handed Finn Jussi Jokinen, a perfect 8-0 in shootouts this season, two uncontested cracks at their goaltenders.

GOT WHAT THEY DESERVED

Add it all up, and the Oilers got what they deserved despite a spirited and desperate final 20 minutes - one point in a 4-3 shootout loss in their final glimpse at the Stars before playoffs, if they get that far.

"We weren't as sharp as we have been up until that point," coach Craig MacTavish said about his team's third-period rally.

"We were very impressive in the third period. It looked like we were pretty flat at the end of two, but a great third period."

Down 3-1, the Oilers got third-period goals by Ryan Smyth and Shawn Horcoff before Sergei Zubov and Jokinen, who ran his shootout record to nine goals in nine attempts, beat Mike Morrison to decide it.

Morrison, in for starter Ty Conklin after spending 65 minutes on the bench, couldn't keep Zubov and Jokinen, who also scored on his penalty shot, off the sheet, or the Stars from winning their ninth straight shootout.

"The kid hasn't missed. It's unbelievable," said Horcoff, tipping his cap to Jokinen.

"What do you do? It's impressive."

Outshot 10-4 in the first period and trailing 1-0 when Philippe Boucher beat Conklin, the Oilers got even when Dick Tarnstrom finished a slick passing play with Horcoff and Ales Hemsky, one-timing the puck past Marty Turco.

When Antti Miettinen beat Conklin on the stick side with a snapshot from the slot that began with a turnover at the blueline, the Oilers trailed 2-1. Then, it got worse.

Steve Staios hauled an in-the-clear Jokinen off balance and the penalty shot was whistled by Mr. Sure Shot, who took the rubber at centre, glided in and snapped it past Conklin on the stick side at 14:37.

Thanks for coming, right?

Not yet.

Smyth shoved the rebound of a Chris Pronger shot past Turco for his fourth goal in the last five games to make it 3-2 four minutes into the third. Then Horcoff tied it when he lifted a Pronger rebound up and over Turco with just over nine minutes to play.

"It's encouraging the way we played in the third period," offered Horcoff, looking for positives.

"They're one of the best teams in our conference and we dominated them.

'MANY CHANCES'

"We had many chances, not just to get a point out of the game, but to win."

When Zubov and Jokinen beat Morrison on the first two shots and Turco foiled Hemsky, it was up to Smyth.

Turco stiffed him with the paddle save.

"They made quick work of us in the shootout," MacTavish remarked.

"I just thought through the first couple of periods the game didn't flow.

"We started hunting for the home-run ball and we got spread out and they picked us apart."

PECA RETURNS: Michael Peca returned to action after missing six games with a strained groin.

Peca, who last played Feb. 6 against Anaheim, took a regular shift between Todd Harvey and Georges Laraque on the fourth line.

But he also saw time on special teams, finishing with 15:55 of ice time.

Peca was held off the score sheet, recording one shot and finishing even.

"I felt good," Peca said. "Coming in, the groin maybe wasn't as much of a concern as maybe what my effectiveness would be having not played a game in over a month."

AROUND THE RINK: Yan Stastny was reassigned to Iowa of the AHL to make room for Peca on the roster ... Tarnstrom's 1-1 goal was his sixth of the season, but his first with the Oilers.


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