Feeling a touch tight?

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:33 AM ET

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The trade deadline was supposed to arm the Edmonton Oilers for a playoff run.

Two games later, it looks like it cut the legs out from under them.

In the span of one road trip the Oilers have gone from a poised and confident playoff contender to a bunch of nervous jellyfish who've choked their way to three straight losses, including last night's 4-3 bomb in Minnesota.

"A tight team, a very tight team," said head coach Craig MacTavish, after dumb penalties, shaky netminding and a plethora of defensive lapses spelled another collapse.

"Even the most innocuous play in our end we turn into a life and death battle.

LITTLE PUCK AWARENESS

"We had very little puck awareness. Took a lot of penalties. Gave up two five on three goals. We take the lead and the expectation is that bad things are going to happen. When you expect bad things, bad things generally happen."

They did. The Oilers were up 3-2 with 15 minutes to go, but Martin Skoula and Pierre-Marc Bouchard scored at 8:36 and 11:22 to steal the points.

"We've just been terrible with the leads lately," said Shawn Horcoff, who had a goal and and two assists in the defeat. "We've had two, two-goal leads last game (4-3 loss in Columbus), we had a 3-2 lead in the third period this game. We were tied in the third period against San Jose and lost that.

"Usually we pride ourselves on the third period, we've been strong in it all year. We have to get better."

The scary thing is they're not even playing against really good opponents yet. Three straight non-playoff teams have handed them their lunch on this haul, made them look weak and afraid, exposed glaring mistakes on defence and exploited shaky netminding.

Weren't the deadline additions of Sergei Samsonov and Dwayne Roloson supposed to spark this team?

"We thought that, too," said Horcoff, well aware that a playoff berth that once seemed a sure thing is now in real danger.

"I'm not even concerned with the teams that are ahead of us or behind us we need to win games, plain and simple," said Horcoff.

"It's not even worth looking at the standings, it's just who's going to win the most games. There's so many teams in it you have to win."

BACK IN THE MIX

Minnesota, a team they could have buried here, is right back in the mix. Another win tomorrow, very likely, and they're three points back.

"We're right there," said Brian Rolston, who scored two goals, both on five on three power plays, and added two assists.

"We can be in it, we can make the playoffs."

So can the Oil, if they can find a way to stop gagging when the other team puts up a bit of a third-period fight.

"When you need your most composure as a player is in the third period of a tie game," said MacTavish. "We're clearly looking over our shoulders right now. We're the team that's feeling the most amount of pressure.

"We have to turn it around in a hurry."


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