It's two-team gag tag

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:38 AM ET

DETROIT -- It's a game of gag tag.

They've become twisted sisters in the race of disgrace for the final playoff place.

You take it.

No, you have it.

No, it's yours.

The Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks are playing choke/counter choke for the final playoff position.

"It's there for the taking and no one wants to grab it. We both keep taking our kicks at the can and haven't done it," said Shawn Horcoff after a 2-0 loss to the Detroit Red Wings here last night.

"We know how bad we feel. We know they feel the same way," said Oilers' coach Craig MacTavish, of the Canucks.

Is it possible both clubs could keep trading losses in their remaining games playing this ghastly game of 'Whatever you can't do, I can't do either.'?

"If we back in we'll take it," said MacTavish, beside himself with his uptight team which has allowed the playoff race to turn what little they've had under their helmets into 100% mental mush.

PATHETIC PERFORMANCE

First the Oilers produce a pathetic performance in St. Louis to lose to the worst team in the NHL West. Edmonton loses control of their destiny.

Monkey see. Vancouver Canucks do.

Outscored 3-0 at home in the first period, the Canucks lose to Anaheim to return control to the Oilers.

Monkey see. Edmonton Oilers do.

The loss last night transfers control back to the Canucks.

Vancouver is up (should we say down?) again tonight at home in San Jose. Will they return control to Edmonton?

If the Canucks win their three remaining games - back-to-back, home-and-home with the Sharks and a home game against Colorado - Vancouver is in the playoffs no matter what the Oilers do.

The Oilers' magic number is five. It would take a combination of points achieved by the Oilers and not achieved by the Canucks totalling five for Edmonton to finish ahead of Vancouver. Two Edmonton wins and a Vancouver overtime or shootout loss would do it.

Other than the fact the other team on the ice was Detroit, not St. Louis, it was the same sorry story here last night.

"It was a game reminiscent of the game we played in St. Louis. We had a little more jump. But we had four penalties in the first period. We had four in St. Louis. It was the same scenario," said MacTavish. "We broke down in needless penalties early in the game. This is not the time of year to take needless penalties early on. Why take the chance?"

RAN INTO A HOT GOALIE

The Wings scored on the power play, and the Oilers chased the game the rest of the way.

"We got back in the game in the second, and gave up an early goal in the third. Then we ran into a hot goalie. Too little, too late. We can't put the puck in the back of the net. Same story as St. Louis," continued MacTavish.

With one goal in their last six periods, the Oilers return home to play Anaheim tomorrow and Colorado to conclude the season on Monday.

And the Oilers aren't going to be returning home to the kind of positive atmosphere they'd hoped, unless the Canucks lose again tomorrow night and everybody gets into the warped way these two teams are going down the stretch.

MacTavish says it's tough to be positive.

"I'm not very positive. I don't have a positive attitude right now."

The toughest thing to explain is why his team is so tight.

"I don't know what that does for you. How does that serve you? Uptight is a useless emotion. If you need to get a hit to eliminate it, then go out and get a hit. Whatever it takes to get rid of that nervousness."

Except taking a penalty.

"We're still in this thing. We have two games to go at home. Two more wins and we can still get in," suggested Shawn Horcoff.

You should know the Oilers haven't put together back-to-back consecutive-game home wins since before the Grey Cup, and only twice all season.

Whatever. Maybe they'll both lose them all. In that event, the Oilers would be the team in the playoffs.

The result of what's been happening here with the two Canadian teams is that the prize for making the playoffs for either Vancouver or Edmonton is now probably going to be the Red Wings.

HOME-ICE ADVANTAGE

Detroit, now 55-15-8, clinched the President's Trophy for finishing first overall here last night to win home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs.

The Wings haven't lost a game in regulation since March 7 and have managed at least one point in every game of their last 17.

Maybe that's why neither the Oilers nor Canucks seem to want that final playoff position. Why bother?


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