SUN Hockey Pool

More of the same from Oil

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:42 AM ET

ST. PAUL, Minnesota -- Just when you think things can't get any lower, wham, the bottom falls out of the Edmonton Oilers gutter.

It wasn't just that they lost - nobody expected anything different when the worst team in the NHL dragged its carcass into the Xcel Energy Centre last night - but it's how they stumbled to their 17th defeat in the last 18 games that really burns.

They got shut out. Again. For a franchise record ninth time this season. For the fifth time in the 17 games since Ryan Smyth was traded.

A team that was going to boast seven or eight 20 goal scorers this year is lucky to have one, Petr Sykora, who has two goals in his last 20 games.

The forwards have been an ugly, glaring weakness all season - and they were again last night.

"We have a history of being the opposition goaltender's dream come true," head coach Craig MacTavish seethed after a 3-0 loss to the Wild.

"You get a lot of shots, so your save percentage is growing, but at the end of the day you're forced to make maybe two tough saves."

MAILING IT IN

The Oilers said before the trip that they didn't want to mail it in the rest of the way, but there were a lot of players with stamps all over their sweaters.

In his most stinging criticism yet, MacTavish said a lot of the big-name forwards who were supposed to be leading the team this year have long ago pulled the chute.

"(Joffrey)Lupul and (Raffi)Torres, those are huge, huge absences for us," he said.

MacTavish added that injuries and inexperience on the blueline are no excuse for a hockey team being held to one or zero goals in 13 of the last 18 games.

"I said this to the players," said MacTavish.

"Don't be looking at the young guys as the scapegoat for tonight's game.

"They did fine.

"When your veterans don't provide anything, literally, in the hockey game, and your young guys are holding their own, that's an indictment on them, not an indictment of the situation.

"We need something out of our veterans, we didn't get it out of them in Chicago, we didn't get it out of them againtonight.

"There's some guys who haven't played any good in ... all year."

Torres has three goals in his last 24 games, Lupul has three in his last 33.

IT'S CLEAR

"Since Ryan left it's clear that some guys are not interested in trying to resurrect their game at this point," said MacTavish.

"And all that stuff has consequences at this time. Absolutely."

Torres, whose second period giveaway led to Minnesota's second goal, was at a loss, or, rather, his 17th loss in18 games.

"It's just not working for us, when things are going bad, and you think they can't worse, they do," he said.

"It's not like we're trying not to score.

"We just have to get a little grittier in front of the net. We haven't done a good job of it all year.

"There's nobody to blame but us."

"There's obviously some frustration setting in," added Toby Petersen. "We're throwing everything at the net, but we're running into hot goaltenders. But that's no excuse, this is the NHL, all the goaltenders are good."

Jussi Markkanen let in a couple he'd like back, but MacT wasn't down on him.

"He hasn't gotten to the first commercial break in a while before he's allowed a goal. Today he looked pretty sharp."


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