Get outta here!

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:35 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- The skate is now on the other foot, and the fit is rather uncomfortable.

When the Vancouver Canucks stumbled into Alberta to face the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place Tuesday, their struggles and inadequacies had been duly documented.

The Canucks arrived one game removed from a season-high five-game losing streak. They'd lost six of their last seven. They'd fallen out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference. And they absolutely, positively needed to beat the Oilers.

The Canucks went out and did it, by a 4-1 count, turning a flat start and several undisciplined penalties by the Oilers into their first win in six tries in the season series - and a one-point lead in the standings.

Tonight, it's the Oilers who'll take the opening face-off with just two wins in their last eight games. It's the Oilers who are barely clinging to a post-season spot. It's the Oilers who absolutely, positively, have to win.

We'll find out what they're made of.

"It will tell us a lot about what the future holds for us," said coach Craig MacTavish.

"Not just in the result. Things happen in the game of hockey. We need a much better effort from everybody in most aspects of the game."

Stinging from a 7-3 butt-kicking from Detroit at home, the Canucks held a team meeting to clear the air Monday, then went out and beat the odds and the Oilers.

The Oilers, meanwhile, closed the dressing room doors in the aftermath of the loss and kept them shut for 15 minutes. Suffice to say, MacTavish did most of the talking.

"They had their backs against the wall and they came out more desperate than us," admits Georges Laraque. "Now, we have our backs against the wall and we're the desperate team.

"We absolutely need these next two games. This is the position we've put ourselves into and we're aware of that."

The Oilers said the right things going into Tuesday. They talked the talk, but they didn't walk the walk.

They let the Canucks dictate the pace early. Trailing 2-0 in the first 10 minutes and rattled by some marginal calls by referee Marc Joannette, the Oilers didn't respond with a "screw you" determination but rather opted for "screw us" frustration.

They gave Joannette and Paul Devorski every opportunity to keep blowing themselves blue in the face with their lack of discipline. The striped shirts obliged.

The Canucks had 10 power plays, and while they scored on just one of them - the eventual winner by Daniel Sedin - the Oilers never really gave themselves a chance to get back in the game.

"We're very disappointed the way the game went," captain Jason Smith said. "We talked about being ready, about being focused and coming out and executing well. We didn't do that. We need to be better right from the start of the game."

Most disconcerting was that some of the supposed leaders showed the least smarts, gamesmanship or composure.

Ethan Moreau took three minors. Two of them, a cross-checking call and an elbowing penalty on Mattias Ohlund, were bonehead material. Steve Staios took a stupid deuce for roughing.

"It's got to be managed intensity," MacTavish said. "It was mismanaged intensity in that game. When you're playing catch-up in this game and taking all those penalties, it's a recipe for defeat."

Now it's the Oilers who have 60 minutes to get things straight. It's the Oilers who'll fall three points back - with the third game set for Saturday and a stop in Denver Sunday before they get home - if they don't win tonight.

"We do this to ourselves every year," Laraque said. "We put ourselves in a position where we have to battle like this until the end of the season. It's frustrating. We can't go back. That's the way it is."

It's a tough spot to be sure, but the Oilers have nobody to blame for that but themselves.

"We've got to answer back and it's in a much tougher building now," said MacTavish. "It's well documented how important these games are for both teams. We've got to bounce back."

We'll find out what they're made of.


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