SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers show they're learning

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:33 AM ET

In the past, the Edmonton Oilers probably would have folded like a card player with a lousy hand.

They would have lost the game, shook their fists in the air and cursed the fates for being so cruel.

Yet despite missing a glorious opportunity to put the game out of reach, then having the Calgary Flames score a goal minutes later to get back in the contest, the Oilers were able to keep their composure en route to their fourth straight victory Sunday night at Rexall Place.

"We've got a little bit more experience in our lineup now," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish. "We know how we want to play. We're at a stage where we're pretty familiar with what we want to do and we've had good illustrations at this point of the season as to what's effective in protecting the lead and what's ineffective in protecting the lead."

As recently as two weeks ago, the Oilers found themselves in a similar situation against the Minnesota Wild. With a 4-2 lead in the third period, Kyle Brodziak had a golden opportunity to put the Oilers up by three, but couldn't lift the puck over the Wild's fallen goaltender.

Minnesota came back to score a goal moments later, then tied the game before pulling out the win in overtime.

HIT THE POST

On Sunday, Andrew Cogliano hit the post on an open net in the third period, which would have given the Oilers a three-goal lead and given Edmonton fans plenty of time to heckle.

Instead the Flames came back and scored moments later to cut the lead to 2-1, keeping the issue in doubt. But Calgary never really threatened to score the tying goal and the Oilers were able to win their third consecutive game in regulation.

"There've been times this year where we've lost those games," said Oilers defenceman Sheldon Souray. "But we're gaining a little bit of experience. We're learning what it takes to win in tight games. It's not a hot potato out there at the end, guys are keeping their composure, especially the young guys.

"It's one thing for us older guys, you expect us to be solid and dependable, but the young guys have really played well."

The loss in Minnesota marked Edmonton's fourth consecutive blown lead in a five-game losing skid that put the Oilers in the hole they've just climbed out of.

Tonight against the Los Angeles Kings, the Oilers have an opportunity to get above the .500 mark for the first time since winning the opening two games of the season.

MORE AGGRESSIVE

"We're becoming more aggressive with the lead and that's the difference," MacTavish said. "The mentality is to stay aggressive. We're not just retreating. We're not playing with the mindset that you don't want to make the five-star mistake that ends it."

Against the Flames, the Oilers kept up the pressure despite holding on to a one-goal lead and in fact had the best chance to score when Ethan Moreau fired a shot off the crossbar.

"We were pretty calm on our bench, we didn't panic and we had a lot of good chances after that," Moreau said. "The most positive thing is that we created a lot of scoring chances after it was 2-1, we didn't sit back. We just kept going, we knew we could put a lot of pressure on their defence and we just kept doing that."

The Oilers actually out-shot the Flames in the third period.

They also had a hot goaltender in Mathieu Garon to bail them out. Garon has started the last six games and is a big reason for the Oilers current streak. He was named the NHL second star of the week yesterday.

"You can't discount the way he's been playing," MacTavish said. "If you're up a couple of goals going into the third and they're going to have to score three goals to win, it's tough. It's no small task to beat him the way he's playing."


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