SUN Hockey Pool

Heart failure in Tampa

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:48 AM ET

TAMPA BAY, Fla. -- How can you lose to those stiffs?

No, that's not what Oilers fans are saying about last night's hapless defeat in Tampa Bay. It's what everybody else in the NHL is going to be saying about Edmonton.

It's a pretty damning indictment on your hockey club when you lose a pair of must-win games to the 30th and 29th place teams in the NHL in a span of one week.

But there were the Oilers, getting rung up by the last place team in the Eastern Conference -- just four games after losing at home to the last place team in the West.

"They came with a lot of pressure and we just didn't handle it well," said forward Marty Reasoner, after a 4-3 loss to Tampa to go with the 3-1 loss to Los Angeles.

"We couldn't get the puck out of our own end. When you give their top players extra chances, they'll make you pay for it, and obviously they did."

Marty St. Louis had three points, Vinnie Lecavalier had two, Brad Richards had a goal.

The Oilers? They were lukewarm most of the night and brutal in the second period.

It was their second lifeless effort of their five-game trip through the worst division in the NHL. Two goals late in the third period made it look more respectable than it was.

"The letdown in the second period really hurt," said Shawn Horcoff.

"We're not the type of team that can take periods off and win. It's frustrating in that respect. We have to regroup and play like we did in the first and third."

The Bolts have been playing better of late, winning four of their previous six, while the Oilers have been showing no consistency whatsoever.

"It was two teams in similar situations," said Tampa coach John Tortorella, whose club ended a five-game home ice losing streak. "We're just fighting to stay alive and stay in the hunt."

It started out looking a lot like the 15th place team in one division playing the 14th place team in the other. The shots were 4-3 Edmonton through 15 scrambly minutes.

After that, it looked like two teams headed in entirely different directions. Richards scored 38 seconds into the second period while the Oilers were scrambling around like they were on fire. Craig MacDonald scored at 4:29 when Tom Gilbert made a lazy clearing pass.

And with Edmonton looking to get back in the game on the power play, Jarret Stoll whiffed on a point shot, setting up a turn of events that led to a Marty St. Louis breakaway at 9:17.

The Kid Line showed Edmonton's only life. Andrew Cogliano scored in the second period and they set up a Steve Staios goal to make it 4-2 in the third.

Ales Hemsky scored with 1:18 left to play to make it exciting, but it was too little and too late.

"The kids played well again tonight," said head coach Craig MacTavish. "Very encouraging signs out of those young players. They're putting the games together."

The rest of the team, not so much. When Hemsky, Horcoff and Dustin Penner aren't going, the Oilers lose. And the big three were M.I.A. last night -- minus three after the first three Tampa goals.

It's never a good sign when your big line doesn't show up for a big game, but they've been good more than they've been bad over the last while.

The rest of the veterans haven't been picking up any of the slack.

Stoll doesn't have a point in five games, Ethan Moreau doesn't have a point in six and Reasoner doesn't have a point in seven.


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