SUN Hockey Pool

Stinker in St. Louis

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:39 AM ET

ST. LOUIS -- The 47 minutes before the first puck dropped at the Savvis Center last night belonged to Al MacInnis. The next 60 should've belonged to the Edmonton Oilers.

Facing a St. Louis Blues team on a franchise-record 13-game losing streak, riddled by injuries and facing the dubious distinction of missing playoffs for the first time in 25 seasons, the Oilers should've owned the clock after the Blues lifted the No. 2 jersey of Al MacInnis to the rafters at Savvis Center.

But against a team so bad and so out of it 3,000 or so fans who came to see MacInnis honoured didn't even stick around for the first faceoff, the Oilers skipped the pre-game ceremony, opting instead to stand around when the game began.

Spectators, they were, and losers, too, by a 2-1 count thanks to goals by Jamal Mayers and Mark Rycroft and a 36-save performance by 23-year-old rookie stopper Jason Bacashihua.

NOT A BANNER NIGHT FOR OILERS

A banner night for MacInnis, but not the Oilers.

"Against a team like St. Louis, with no disrespect, we're a team playing for something and to get caught the first couple periods was disappointing," understated Michael Peca.

"Just our overall game wasn't clicking like we needed it to. I don't know what it was. I don't know the answers to it."

Between a bad start and a parade of penalties, the Oilers gave the Blues all the margin they'd need to bust their slump as the goal by Rycroft, 90 seconds into the third period, was enough to get it one behind a dazzling effort by Bacashihua.

Instead of vaulting over Colorado back into sixth place, the Oilers now find themselves hanging onto a playoff spot by their fingernails again as they head for Detroit to wrap up this road four-game swing.

"We didn't have the start we needed and I can't give a reason," said Jarret Stoll. "I don't want to give any excuses about the ceremony and whatnot. They had to go through the same thing."

The Oilers looked sluggish and disinterested in the first 20 minutes. Given that, and having to kill of four minor penalties, they were fortunate in the extreme to get to the first intermission on even terms.

That lasted just one minute into the second period when Dwayne Roloson flubbed his angle and let Mayers rip a slapshot past him on the stick side from the right circle for a 1-0 lead.

"There's no corners to be cut that don't cost you in the end," said coach Craig MacTavish. "You've got to play the game. You've got to play a good, solid game. Anything short of our best game is trouble."

BACASHIHUA DIDN'T BUDGE

The Oilers had their heads into it and their legs moving after Mayers found twine, but Bacashihua didn't budge in the second and got the Blues to the dressing room up one through 40 minutes.

When Rycroft made it 2-0, cutting in off the wing, dancing around Peca and going top shelf on Roloson, the Blues left the rest to Bacashihua, making just his second start after being out since Jan. 22 with a shoulder injury.

The Oilers tossed everything they had at Bacashihua in the third, but he frustrated them until Chris Pronger blew a slapshot past him on a power play and with Edmonton's net empty with 25 seconds to go.

"These guys have had some success against us," said Ryan Smyth, who had an eight-game points streak snapped. "They seem to give us trouble.

"We have to make sure we're a desperate team and that we're focused on what we have to do. We can't count on anybody else. We have to take care of ourselves."

AROUND THE RINK: Pronger played his 800th NHL game . . . Todd Harvey drew back in the lineup on left wing on the fourth line in place of Brad Winchester ... Georges Laraque was a healthy scratch for the fourth straight game.


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