Oilers' Crying Game

Colorado Avalanche forward Ryan Smyth cries as he's honoured prior to his game against the Edmonton...

Colorado Avalanche forward Ryan Smyth cries as he's honoured prior to his game against the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place on Tuesday. (Sun Media/Darryl Dyck)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:57 AM ET

There wasn't a dry eye on the house on Ryan Smyth's return to Edmonton last night - but you'd cry too if you knew you might have to watch 37 more home games like that one.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, though, and despite a 4-2 loss to Colorado, the Edmonton Oilers walked out of Rexall Place feeling better about themselves than they have at any point since the first two games of the season.

MORAL VICTORY

In a results oriented business, wins and losses are usually all that matter, but the Oilers have had so few positives lately they decided to savour a moral victory in lieu of a real one.

"I thought we had a lapse in the game of about seven or eight minutes and it cost us three goals," said head coach Craig MacTavish, whose club lost for the sixth time in seven games.

"Other than that I thought we played very well. Started well, moved the puck, played with some confidence, had a lot of jump on our forecheck, had a lot of opportunities to get back in the game."

And didn't. They generated a lot of shots, but had precious little to show for it falling to 3-6 on the season, last in the Northwest Division and 12th in the Western Conference.

They lost to a divisional opponent for the fifth time in five games this season and were held to two or fewer goals for the sixth time in their last seven games.

"You never as a coach want to get into a habit of rationalizing losses," said MacTavish.

"We feel if we would have executed and played the game for 60 minutes we would have got the win, no question about that, so we're disappointed by the result, but I'm not unhappy with the way that we played.

"We have to come back tomorrow with a pretty positive frame of mind based on what we did tonight and get ready for Minnesota."

There were more bright spots then we've seen lately.

Dustin Penner was good, so was Marc Pouliot. Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano are establishing themselves as the best two players on the team.

But after opening with back-to-back wins over Philadelphia and San Jose, the Oilers are being haunted by the same maladies that sunk them last year - a growing injury list, a barren offence, lack of toughness and intensity and a pathetic power play.

The positive spin is as much about keeping their spirits up so they don't let this snowball into season-crippling slump.

"We're going to try not to let it," said defenceman Steve Staios.

"You go through stretches in the season, whether it's beginning, middle or end, there's always some tough spots, but the better you can deal with it and manage it, especially emotionally and mentally, the quicker that we can get out of it. That's what we're looking for right now."

Twenty-seven shots yielded two goals on another night when the Oilers had the second best hands on the ice.

"It was one of those game that based on how we played, the way that we worked, we should have come out of it with one or two points," said Jarret Stoll, who's stalled on one point in nine games.

"We created chances, but we have to put pucks in the net.

"The finish just isn't there."

Edmonton fell behind 3-1 in the first period, and spent the rest of the night in an unsuccessful game of catchup.

Tom Gilbert cut the lead to 3-2 halfway through the third, but Colorado put it away when Brett Clark flipped one into the empty net at 19:42.

LATE HITS

D Joni Pitkanen has cartilage damage in his knee and will undergo arthroscopic surgery on Friday. The Oilers will have to call up another D, likely Ladislav Smid ... Penner had a goal and an assist and Gagner two assists.


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