Oilers pull a no-show

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:29 AM ET

ST. LOUIS -- It's as pathetic a performance as you're ever going to see from a team with its playoff life on the line.

Four games to go in their season and these sweethearts were going against a sad-sack squad which had just set a franchise record with 13 straight losses.

Four games to play with a playoff position on the line, and these darlings were playing a team which had played the night before in Nashville.

And the Edmonton Oilers didn't show up. Didn't get into it. Didn't get interested until it was too late. And they lined up to testify to the fact when it was over.

"I don't know why we weren't ready. Especially for that big of a game this late in the season. I have no answer for you," said Ryan Smyth after losing 2-1 to the worst team in the West.

"We didn't have the effort," said Ales Hemsky.

"That was a game we had to win and we didn't play hard until the third period."

The Oilers may have sewered their season - lost the final playoff position - because they couldn't beat up on a bum. Again. It's not like this is a rare occurrence. It's the norm.

Since the Olympic break, the Oilers have played a dozen games against teams currently not in a playoff position. They've only won four of them.

The good news is that they have none of them left.

Whatever happens in what remains of the playoff race, the Oilers no longer have control of their own destiny. That transferred to the Vancouver Canucks here last night.

"We didn't want to give that up," said Chris Pronger.

"Well, we just gave that up. It's not there now!"

If Vancouver wins their four remaining games, the Oilers can no longer finish ahead of them by winning their three remaining games.

SCOREBOARD WATCHING

"Now we're into scoreboard watching," said Pronger.

"Now we have to do all that garbage we didn't want to."

They'll be watching for the result of Anaheim-Vancouver tonight hoping the Canucks find a way to come up as empty as they did last night in what was supposed to be a gimme game.

"We didn't want to put any energy in," said Pronger. "We didn't show up tonight. We didn't work tonight."

With four games to go?

In arguably the wildest race for playoff positions in history?

How do you explain that?

"If I had an answer, I'd give you one," said Pronger, who scored a power-play goal at 19:35 of the third period to get the Oilers' only goal on the night his former St. Louis Blues defence partner Al MacInnis's number was retired.

"It's the same old story. Inconsistent play at all the wrong times."

Getting hosed by video review officials, like they did the other night in Minnesota, and would have again the next night in Chicago if Ryan Smyth hadn't scored in overtime, is one thing. But there was nobody to look around and blame in this one, other than maybe Blues netminder Jason Bacashihua, who played great late when the Oilers suddenly decided to give it a go.

"We were the perfect guests again," said coach Craig MacTavish.

The Oilers seem to specialize in a number of things this season. One of them is not being able to beat anybody on a banner raising night. They're 0-3.

Paul Coffey. Mark Messier. MacInnis.

"I wondered why St. Louis would pick this night to retire his number. Because we're the perfect guests, that's why.

TOO MANY PENALTIES

"We felt our way into the game. We took way too many penalties. When we finally got interested, we ran into a hot goalie," continued MacTavish.

In the middle of the season, there's no excuse for the way the Oilers showed up and didn't put in the work to win.

But with four games to go and a playoff position on the line?

"We didn't have anybody ready to play at the start of the game. I don't care who we're playing, we can't do that. Our record against out-of-the-playoff teams proves that. We've played that scenario out a million times. What got us is that we didn't go out to earn it," suggested MacTavish.

"I can't explain it. There is no explanation for it. We're not good enough to win without working no matter what team we're playing.

"When we don't come to earn it, we're left holding the bag like we did tonight.

"That's one that could end up biting us in the rear end. We just made it real difficult on ourselves.

"I guess we'll put ourselves in the bag and ship ourselves to Detroit and try win a game against a much tougher team in a much tougher building."

If it wasn't three games from the end of the season in a mad playoff race, a bag skate would be in order.


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