There were plenty of reasons for the banged up, 14th-place Edmonton Oilers to roll over and play dead last night.
But they looked around the dressing room, saw 22 reasons why they shouldn't, and rolled over the Calgary Flames instead.
A few hours after they found out leading scorer Shawn Horcoff is lost for the season, the Oilers responded with five goals, equalling their highest offensive output of the season, in a lopsided victory over the shell-shocked Flames.
"He's our best player, and when you lose a guy like that there's only two ways to deal with it," said defenceman Steve Staios. "You can hang your head and complain about it, or come out and play hard."
They circled their wagons and let it be known, for one night anyway, that even though Horcoff and Sheldon Souray aren't available, and Ales Hemsky is playing with a bum wrist, they aren't going away quietly.
"There's lots of things you have to overcome in this game to have success and this is another one of them," said head coach Craig MacTavish, whose club led 2-0 after 20 minutes, 3-0 after 40 and 5-0 when the final horn sounded and the last glove was picked up off the ice at Rexall Place.
"We were really capitalistic on the chances we got, which is something we really haven't been able to do all year long."
Horcoff's absence (he'll have shoulder surgery later this week) will hurt them, but it didn't last night. The first line soldiered on without him, getting goals from Ales Hemsky and Dustin Penner, while Fernando Pisani, Sam Gagner and Staios chipped in singles on Curtis Joseph.
Mathieu Garon stopped 24 shots to post the shutout.
"This was good for everyone's confidence," said Garon. "We scored five goals and defensively we didn't give up many chances. This was really huge for our team."
The Oilers still have a long road ahead of them, sitting six points and five teams back of the final playoff spot. All five teams ahead of them have games in hand. But it was a step in the right direction.
Criticized all year for being easy to play against, they weren't last night. They withstood all the punishment Calgary tried to throw their way, and threw some back .
"Maybe we don't have a lot of guys who will initiate that stuff," said Staios. "But you have to play with that physical edge and courage. As a team, everybody showed up in that department tonight."
The Flames didn't take the loss well, and the contest featured a fistful of fights. Newest Oiler Curtis Glencross gave away three inches and 11 pounds but still went toe to toe with Cory Sarich. Ethan Moreau fed Dion Phaneuf, and Zack Stortini had a couple of wrestling matches with Sarich and Robyn Regehr.
"I saw his gloves go off, so mine had to go off," said Glencross. "It's never a bad thing to drop the mitts. It was good to have a fairly decent tilt my first game out."
"They wanted to get something going, getting ready for Saturday," said Gilbert. "The best thing we can do is go out there and do what we did - score two power-play goals and send them a message."
The teams meet again this weekend in Calgary.
"I think it's a strange tactic for a team like Calgary that relies so heavily on (Miikka) Kiprusoff to be targeting the opposition goaltender," said MacTavish. "Things have a way of coming back at you."