'Vortex of death'

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:27 AM ET

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Just two weeks ago the Edmonton Oilers were in a happy place.

They had clawed their way back to the break-even mark, had put together a three-game winning streak for the first time this season, and were starting to get healthy.

Yet losing three consecutive games where they held three consecutive leads has the Oilers sliding in the wrong direction heading on a four-game road trip starting tonight in Minnesota against the Wild.

"I'd like to wrap it up, put a bow on our last three games like a Christmas present and take solace and satisfaction in the fact that we were in every game," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish.

"But emotionally they're tough games to overcome. And you go through that process where you jokingly at times call it 'the vortex of death' where you feel so bad after games and you get up the next morning and you still have the hangover from the feeling of the night before.

"Then you go through practice and you try to build some optimism and energy. It's disappointing and it's tough to overcome that disappointment, but we're going to be able to do it."

What makes the last three losses disappointing is the fact the Oilers held the lead in all three games.

They were up 1-0 on the New Jersey Devils, 2-1 on the Chicago Blackhawks and 1-0 on the Anaheim Ducks.

Yet they let the Devils hang around and conceded a pair of goals in the third period. In Chicago a late goal in the second and an early one in the third did them in.

Then Thursday against the Ducks, Doug Weight scored the winner with 3:39 left in the third period.

"We have to play with a little more hunger, a little more desperation," said Oilers defenceman Sheldon Souray.

"There are things that we're doing better, but there are things that we have to do better on. It's a fine line, but we're not too far away.

"We need to play with a little more desperation and have a little better sense of where the game is going and taking advantage of the situations.

"I look back at the Jersey game and how in control we were in the first period, then in the second period we were flat but were still winning the game. Then we come out with no juice in the third."

Tonight's game in Minnesota is the first of a four-game road trip for the Oilers. They'll also take on Columbus, St. Louis and Nashville before returning to Edmonton for a five-game homestand.

Being three games under .500, they'll be in serious trouble if they come home empty-handed.

"It's not unfamiliar territory for me and the club, every game the pressure mounts," said MacTavish.

"There's a dark side to all of this and we want to avoid that by playing very well. We've played okay, but we're a goal short here or there and now we have to do it on the road where we have some success in the past."


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