The Edmonton Oilers' 6-5 shootout loss to the Dallas Stars last night was, quite simply, the most bizarre game you will ever see.
Ahead 4-1 but on the brink of the most monumental fold job in memory as the Stars roared back to take a 5-4 lead, the Oilers forced overtime with two seconds left to play on a goal by Ales Hemsky - after Patrick Stefan missed an empty net on a breakaway - then lost it in a shootout.
You read right.
With the Oilers on the verge of a devastating collapse after allowing three third-period goals in just over four minutes, Stefan had a gaping empty net with which to put them away with 10 seconds to play, but wiped out and never even got a shot on goal.
The Oilers raced up the ice, got even with two ticks remaining when Hemsky tucked a puck past Marty Turco but, ultimately got what they deserved on shootout goals by Sergei Zubov and Jussi Jokinen.
Goals by Jere Lehtinen, Philippe Boucher and Niklas Hagman in a span of 4:21 set the stage for this twisted finish on a night the Stars had all the jump when it mattered despite a line-up depleted by injuries and having lost to the Vancouver Canucks in a shootout just 24 hours earlier.
Even without Mike Modano, Eric Lindros and Brenden Morrow, the Stars survived Stefan and had enough to get it done.
The Oilers got the start they were looking for when Ryan Smyth grabbed a Joffrey Lupul rebound in the slot and shovelled a backhand past Mike Smith 49 seconds into the game for his fifth goal in five games since returning from a broken right thumb.
Shawn Horcoff, who didn't look like the same guy who couldn't put a pea past Florida's Ed Belfour in a 4-1 win Tuesday, made it 2-0 when he took a drop pass from Smyth and made the water bottle dance. It was a goal-scorer's goal for a guy who got 22 of them last season.
With the lead cut to 2-1 by Patrik Stefan, Petr Nedved, back in Oilers silks for the first time since 2004, shook off a shaky first period when he banged a Petr Sykora rebound behind Smith on a 5-on-3 advantage four minutes into the second.
When Joffrey Lupul made it 4-1 with this 12th of the season 12:26 into the second, it looked like the Oilers were in the clear. Not so fast.
After Mathias Tjarnqvist cut the lead to two before the end of the second, the wheels fell right off the Oilers. Lehtinen got the Stars within one on a two-man power play three minutes into the third. Boucher tied it on a power play.
Then came Hagman, who got behind Matt Greene on a feed by Stephane Robidas, fought off the Oilers defenceman and slipped a great second effort under Roloson to silence a capacity crowd at 7:40.
AROUND THE RINK: the Oilers played with five defencemen most of the game as rookie Ladislav Smid left with what's being called a sprained shoulder on his first shift in the first period and didn't return ... captain Jason Smith played his 500th game as an Oiler . . . Stefan's goal was his first against the Oilers in 10 career games.