SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers make a point

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:46 AM ET

MONTREAL -- When the boat is taking on water, you don't complain about the shape of the life raft.

So the Edmonton Oilers, desperate for anything positive after four defeats in their last five games, weren't going to complain about the point they culled out of Montreal last night ... even though it came in a loss, against a team that didn't have its best player and lost its best defenceman for almost the entire third period.

As badly as they needed two for the road, one looks a lot better than none.

"It's an OK way to start the road trip," said head coach Craig MacTavish, after a 3-2 shootout loss to the Canadiens. "It was a hard game, they're a good team. It was a hard-fought game and we had to pay a price to get a point. It's tough to lose in a shootout, but I was pretty happy with the way we played."

The Oilers looked like they weren't leaving Montreal with anything but bad memories, trailing 2-1 late in the third period, but Petr Sykora saved the day, or at least the point, with the equalizer at 15:30.

Montreal clinched the win when Saku Koivu and Alex Kovalev beat Dwayne Roloson in the shootout, while only Ales Hemsky out of Sykora, Fernando Pisani and Jarret Stoll could solve David Aebischer.

"That was probably the most solid game we've had as a team in a long time," said Stoll. "The first period was great, we didn't have any lapses. I thought we did a good job coming back. We just didn't find a way to win. But there were a lot of positives in our game."

Positives, of course, don't pay the bills, or get you in the playoffs, but it's better looking pretty good and losing than looking bad and losing.

"The bottom line is you want to get two points," continued Stoll.

"But it's also how you pay and how you feel your game is. Today, maybe we deserved better, but they played well."

The Oilers, now 7-6-1 on the season and still below the playoff cutline, played perhaps their best first period of the season, outshooting Montreal 16-8, but all they had to show for it was Brad Winchester's first career regular season NHL goal (he had one in the playoffs last year).

"I've been trying to get more puck to the net, and that starts in practice," said Winchester. "It feels pretty nice."

Craig Rivet tied it in the second for Montreal, but with two minutes left in the middle period the Oilers caught an enormous break.

Defenceman Matt Greene stuck his leg out on Mike Johnson, leaving the Habs winger writhing on the ice in agony.

Instead of being turfed from the game, Greene escaped with only two minutes for tripping, but when Sheldon Souray stepped in to drop the gloves, a text-book case where referees should use discretion with the instigator penalty, they slapped him with two, five and 10 - a ridiculous call that effectively ended his night.

With Chris Higgins already out with a sprained ankle, that should have been the gift that Edmonton needed - but they couldn't take advantage.

"If I got his knee it was an accident," said Greene. "I was trying to poke-check him and we just got tangled up."

The Oilers won't have it any easier tonight in Detroit, where they are 2-10 in their last 12 regular season visits. The Wings, meanwhile, have won six-straight games and will have defenceman Mathieu Schneider, who had been out with an injured groin, back in the lineup tonight.

LATE HITS: Winchester finished with two thirds of a Gordie Howe hat-trick. He had a fight with Mike Komisarek to go with the goal, but the assist never came ... It was a tough night for the officials all around: linesman Jean Morin took a skate blade on the jaw stepping into the scrap with Winchester and Komisarek. Nothing a bandage didn't cure.


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