SUN Hockey Pool

Got one!

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:54 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- Staring at three consecutive losses in a season-swinging series with the Vancouver Canucks and called out by GM Kevin Lowe, the Edmonton Oilers filed out of the dressing room last night acutely aware of the task at hand and what was at stake.

Win in regulation, and they'd mitigate 4-1 and 4-3 shootout losses to the Canucks and break even by scratching out three of a possible six points, pulling even with them in Western Conference playoff standings.

Lose, and the Oilers would fall four points back and, like so many seasons past, be fighting for their playoff lives with 11 games to go as they hopped a flight for Denver and a date with the Colorado Avalanche tonight.

They responded with their best effort the of the pivotal trifecta, and by packing the two points they desperately needed with them on the way to the Mile High City with a 3-2 victory.

Desperation looked good on them.

"We weren't feeling great about the first two games," said Steve Staios, who scored the winner 2:07 into the third period.

"That was a pretty gutsy effort by us in their building. It's not like we beat a team that wasn't playing well. It was a great game."

Lowe called out his veterans Friday and they answered as Ryan Smyth scored the 1-0 goal shorthanded, Sergei Samsonov notched his second in Edmonton silks and Staios accounted for the winner as the Oilers snapped a three-game losing streak.

"There's a sense of urgency we've got to find in this locker room," said Smyth. "We've got to maintain focus. It's one shift and one period at a time and then go from there.

"It's just of matter of us playing to the level we're capable of. Once we believe that, we're a tough team to play against. Enough saying things, it's time to go out there and do it."

The Oilers got the start they were looking for shorthanded when Smyth and Shawn Horcoff, both held pointless in their last three games, combined on a 2-on-1 as Smyth beat Alex Auld at 9:48 to get things started.

That leaded lasted just 22 seconds into the second period, when rookie Ryan Kesler banged his own rebound past Dwayne Roloson to pull the Canucks even.

Scoreless in nine attempts in the first two games of the series, the Oilers power play got plugged in again as Samsonov coaxed a loose puck past Auld in a scramble for his 20th of the season and a 2-1 lead.

When Staios made it 3-1 two minutes into the third, slipping Rem Murray's rebound behind Auld, it looked like the Oilers were in the clear, but when Brendan Morrison cut it to 3-2 at 4:11, it was game on again.

That's when Roloson, under fire for his play since coming over from Minnesota at the trade deadline, got stubborn - he refused to budge the rest of the way.

"We did a great job defensively," said Roloson. "We played a smart game. We didn't try to create things that weren't there. I just tried to give our guys a chance to win."

There's still no margin for error, but the Oilers filed out of the rink last night feeling better than when they walked in.

"Teams are so close, it's probably going to come down to the team that doesn't trivialize the little things," said Ethan Moreau, who played his backside off.

"It means chipping pucks into and out of the zone the right way, blocking shots, who's harder on the puck and who's better on the draws, all of that stuff. At this time of year, that wins games. If you do that, everything else falls into place."


Videos

Photos