SUN Hockey Pool

Officially frustrating

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 12:00 PM ET

ST. LOUIS -- Well, you certainly can't accuse NHL off-ice officials of a lack of brass and stubbornness.

Of screwing up and making bad calls? Yes, but not of giving the Edmonton Oilers a break that was probably deserved, but clearly wasn't forthcoming, in Friday's 4-3 overtime win over the Chicago Blackhawks.

After botching and bungling a review on a Michael Peca goal that clearly should have counted in a 2-1 shootout loss to Minnesota Thursday -- and admitting it -- it's fair to say the NHL owed the Oilers one.

But when a goal by Fernando Pisani against Chicago 3:02 into overtime was reviewed, the ruling was the same, and equally questionable: No goal. Owe them one? Not a chance.

"I'm going the other way," said coach Craig MacTavish, asked if officials showed integrity in resisting the urge to give his team the benefit of the doubt on the Pisani review.

"They so didn't want to be aided by the fact (allowing the goal by Pisani) was the easy move that they did everything they could not to give it to us just to show the integrity, to try to prove the integrity that they had.

"I don't know. You can look at it any way you want. It's a win in the books right now. At least they took the time this time."

Replays showed that the puck that bounced off Pisani crossed the goal line before Nikolai Khabibulin covered it with his trapper. Again, as was the case with Peca, off-ice officials didn't see it that way.

Ryan Smyth prevented an even bigger debate than what the blown call the night before generated when he potted the winner with his second goal of the game 16 seconds later.

"The first one (Peca) was easier to explain because they didn't have the feed that showed it over, apparently," MacTavish said.

"Last night, it looked to me like it was pretty tough to say that wasn't across the line ... they said they didn't have it conclusively over. I thought it was over. It looked over. Then the glove comes on it. Their position is that the puck, when you put the glove on it, could actually squirt forward in the glove. But when you put together the overhead and the side view, I don't know ... "

KUDOS FOR SMYTH ... Smyth has an eight-game points streak -- a run which includes five goals and six assists -- on the go as the Oilers take on the St. Louis Blues tonight.

He's playing easily his best hockey of this season -- and of his career -- to hear MacTavish tell it.

"His play is inspirational for everybody," the Oilers head coach said.

"Just that dogged determination. It's such an important factor in his game and everybody's game, but he has more of it, seemingly, than anybody else."

Smyth needs three more goals to equal his career-best of 39 and four more points to equal the 70 he collected in 2000-01. He has three game-winners in the 36 he's scored.

"He's never been as complete a player as he is now," MacTavish said. "He's continuing to learn the game. He's one of our most dependable players defensively and positionally, where, in the distant past, it was a little bit of a weakness in his game."

AROUND THE RINK ... MacTavish is contemplating inserting Georges Laraque into the lineup tonight after three straight games as a healthy scratch ... If not Laraque, then Todd Harvey, who sat out in Chicago, will go ... Expect Dwayne Roloson to make his 17th consecutive start despite looking very bad allowing the tying goal by Kyle Calder with 1:59 to play in regulation time against the Blackhawks Friday.


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