Barnburner loss could sting

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:27 AM ET

You knew halfway through the turkey shoot last night that this could be one of those season swinging games for somebody.

"There are going to be a lot of games this year where teams will look back and say that's where we won the division or where we lost it," said Shawn Horcoff.

Lose 7-6 at home qualifies on the down side of that for the Edmonton Oilers.

It was a wild and crazy, wonderful hoot of a hockey game if you won or a ghastly, gawd-awful mess of a match if you lost.

But the standings magnify it.

JUST TWO POINTS APART

Seldom do you see something like we're watching this deep into a season in the NHL's Northwest Division.

The Calgary Flames defeated the Los Angeles Kings 5-3 last night.

As a result, Calgary sits first with 37 points, while Edmonton, Minnesota and Colorado are tied for second with 36 and Vancouver follows with 35.

Seldom do you see a game like we watched here as the the Oilers and Avalanche scored 13 goals and Joe Sakic didn't get a sniff.

"It was almost like first save wins," said Craig MacTavish.

The Oilers coach is usually honest enough in his evaluation of games but tends to downplay bad nights by his netminders.

Not with this performance by Dwayne Roloson who gave up seven in this one, seven the last time the Avs were here and four in two periods the other night in Colorado.

That's 18 goals to Colorado in eight periods.

"Everything was like a funnel into the back of the net," said MacTavish.

"The game just kept getting more and more bizarre. It was the complete opposite of how we normally play. Usually we're able to defend, are getting good goaltending and struggle scoring. Tonight we had no trouble scoring, couldn't defend and didn't get any goaltending. To go into the third period down by two goals and and end up needing five to win ..."

Last night was nightmarish for the Oilers who had a 2-0 lead early. But it coulda, woulda, shoulda been a dream night.

Ales Hemsky set up two sensational goals for Petr Sykora which a Ford Small Star could have scored.

You'd say it was one that even Joffrey Lupul could have scored except he dragged himself out of the doghouse by scoring the goal to tie it up 6-6.

"It was two unbelievable plays by Hemmer - two world class plays by Ales," said MacTavish.

"You hate to waste a couple of plays like that.

"Lupul and Marty Reasoner were terrific. Stoll's line was good. Hemsky was virtually unstoppable in the third period.

"That's what we should be talking about. But ..."

Instead it was a nightmare.

A REAL NIGHTMARE

But whoa. This is the real nightmare.

Project to the end of the season. One Northwest team ends up with 98 points, two more with 97 and two more with 96. The 98-point team finishes first in the division and third in the NHL West and opens the playoffs at home. The 97 point teams end up in seventh and eighth and end up against the top two teams in the first round. And the 96 point teams miss the playoffs.

The divisional games, you have to believe, will make the difference.

After winning the first two against Colorado, the Oilers have now lost three in a row to the Avs.

Colorado is now 8-4-1 vs. the division, Calgary 6-3-1, Edmonton 7-5-0, Minnesota 5-4-1 and Vancouver 4-9-1.

There are goofy games and laughers in every season in sports. But this year, in this division, losing a game like that can be one which you carry around with you all season and remember every morning when you look at the latest set of standings.

MacTavish bottom-lined it.

"You have a host of regrets after a game like that," he said.


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