Wild way to die

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:21 AM ET

You can write it on the tag they may end up putting on their toe.

Official cause of death: Minnesota Wild.

Any resemblance to actual hockey teams named Wild, living or dead, is entirely coincidental when it comes to the playoff scramble in the West. Unless you're the Edmonton Oilers. Then it's a different deal. The Minnesota Wild are their own personal arsenic, hemlock, rat poison ...

Last night Craig MacTavish's team may have gagged the final fatal dose in losing 3-2 to the Wild at Rexall Place.

"Obviously, it's tough to swallow," said Ryan Smyth.

"We had the lead. Those are two points we should have had."

Forget two points.

Those were eight points.

Minnesota won all four games here this year!

"Unacceptable," said Smyth.

At this time of year, a hockey team wants to get on a roll, get something going on the ice and in the stands to create a wave toward the playoffs.

Coming home from a three-game road trip with five points including back-to-back wins in Vancouver and Colorado, you'd figure that to be pretty much built in last night.

But this is Edmonton. And these are the Oilers. And this was Minnesota.

One of the top teams in the league on the road, the Oilers returned to town to open a four-game homestand with the usual result. They have 16 wins to show for 36 home games. They also now have 12 losses to teams in 11th place or lower in the NHL this season.

There's more involved here than the Wild winning all four games against the Oilers in Rexall Place. They weren't just wins. They were rally-killing wins.

BACK FROM THE BREAK

The Oilers were first in their division at Christmas, telling the world they were for real. The Wild came in here and won back-to-back when they got back from the break.

The Oilers had won five of seven when they came home and lost another one to the Wild before the Olympic break.

And there they were last night, a playoff position on a platter coming off two huge back-to-back wins over Vancouver and Colorado on the road, and that Wild card in their deck got them again.

The result took away more than two points.

The Oilers wanted their team to come home and the fans to get that playoff environment going here, to help carry the team on a wave through to games against Los Angeles, Calgary and Phoenix at home before they go back to Minnesota where they've also lost this year to start a four-game road trip.

But that was the Wild out there. And there's no team at killing a game and taking a crowd away than Jacques Lemaire's lot.

"In the matchup against them we kind of fell in the trap of letting them slow us down," said Steve Staios, who along with Matt Greene and Dick Tarnstrom (off an official), were responsible for the turnovers to create three two-on-ones which all ended up in the net.

"The style they play takes away a lot of our assets."

That's the mid-season Wild. Now Minnesota is a team with nothing to lose.

"Teams not having anything to lose take those chances," said Staios of having forwards breaking to create the two-on-ones.

"They lurk behind you like they wouldn't take the chance to do if they were still in the playoff race."

They can lurk all they want if you don't turn the puck over to them.

"We gave them three great opportunities to score and that was the difference," said Shawn Horcoff. "It's frustrating."

In there somewhere is Dwayne Roloson.

Craig MacTavish desperately wants to have 'Roli The Goalie' feel confident and for the team to feel confident in him.

After allowing three goals on three junior hockey fakes in the shootout against Vancouver Thursday, Roloson stopped all three in the shootout in Colorado.

OFF THE HOOK

He was off the hook and coming back to town to face his old team looking like an improvement on what the fans had watched here all year in goal. But after the three two-on-one five-hole goals he gave up last night, the open line shows will be open for goaltending debates again.

You've got to make the big save. There were only three to be made all last night. He didn't make any of them.

The tag for the other toe for cause of death has had goaltending written on it all year.


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