Golden goose gone

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:57 AM ET

And then there was one.

The Edmonton Oilers began last night with a realistic shot at catching three teams - Vancouver, Calgary and Colorado - for the eighth and final playoff spot.

Sixty frustrating minutes later, two of those golden geese flew away for good.

Faced with the biggest game of their season, the biggest game since Game 7 of the 2007 Cup final, actually, the Oilers' sticks went cold at exactly the wrong time.

The 4-1 loss to Vancouver wasn't the rowdy street fight that broke out last time they met, but this defeat hurts a heck of a lot worse.

The Canucks pulled away for good, moving seven points up with seven games to go, while a few miles south the Calgary Flames also pulled out of reach (seven points up, with a game in hand), by virtue of their win over Colorado.

All that leaves Edmonton is Ryan Smyth and the Avalanche, who remain five points up. They meet at Rexall Place on Saturday afternoon.

BIG DECISION

The big decision for head coach Craig MacTavish going into last night was who to start in goal - Dwayne Roloson, who was riding a three-game winning streak, but looked kind of shaky against Phoenix last game, or Mathieu Garon, who'd been sensational all year, but hadn't started in three games.

He went with Roloson, who let in four goals on 21 shots.

At the other end, there was no such debate over who the Canucks would start, and Roberto Luongo was all the Oilers could handle and then some, winning on a night his team was outshot 34-21.

They can still pull to within three points of Colorado if they beat them here on Saturday afternoon, a game they have to win to stay in the race.

As it stands, Edmonton's tragic number is five: The Oil and Avs have seven games left each, and any combination of Oilers regulation losses and Avs wins totalling five and it's over.

It won't be easy, just like it wasn't easy last night.

Tom Gilbert scored the first goal. Unfortunately for Edmonton, he scored it on the Oilers, putting it past Roloson in his attempt to clear a rebound.

Daniel Sedin, who took the original shot, was eventually given credit at 1:09 of the second.

Vancouver made it 2-0 late in the period when Steve Staios turned the puck over at the Vancouver blueline and couldn't catch Matt Petinger, who ripped one in off the far post.

Despite 24 shots through 40 minutes, the Oilers couldn't find the scoreboard and trailed 2-0 at the second intermission.

LATE HOPE

There was still hope, though. A third period rally and they were right back in it. Unfortunately for Edmonton, that candle blew out five minutes into the third, when Ryan Shannon turned Ladislav Smid inside out and slid a pass to Taylor Pyatt in the slot.

Three nothing.

The Oilers finally got to Luongo at 10:09 of the third, on a Gilbert point shot and the surge of adrenaline had them swarming.

A late power play with six minutes left presented Edmonton with its best chance to climb back into the game, but Trevor Linden tripped Ales Hemsky in the offensive zone and then scored on the ensuing turnover.

A Oilers power play that was so lethal in the eight-goal outburst against Phoenix went 0-for-6 against Vancouver, in large part to Luongo's theatrics.


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