SUN Hockey Pool

Party hardly in Minny

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:02 AM ET

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Craig MacTavish has been worrying all week -- even as his players were lighting up opponents and chasing goaltenders -- about Edmonton's offence.

He's been around the game long enough, seen better hands than these go cold and knew their high-octane attack could stall at any moment.

With no warning, for no apparent reason.

Well, any moment was last night. After scoring 28 goals in their previous six games, all those golden sticks turned to stone at just the wrong time -- in a crushing 3-1 loss to Minnesota that reduces their margin for error in the playoff race to virtually nothing.

"It was just one of those games where nothing was going in," said defenceman Tom Gilbert. "For the most part we were neck and neck; they just put a few more pucks in than we did."

Two days after scoring five on these same Wild, and four days after scoring seven on Colorado, the Oilers couldn't buy one when they needed it most. The shots were close, the balance of play was close, but Minny scored and Edmonton didn't.

"We hit a few posts. If those go in, it could have changed the outcome of the game," said Fernando Pisani, who scored Edmonton's only goal.

"We had some good opportunities to hit the net, we just didn't capitalize. It's one of those games ... a few inches here or there.

"I thought we played well tonight, we were just a few opportunities short."

The Oilers are still alive, but they have to win tomorrow in Denver. Heck, they pretty well have to run the table in their last four games to give themselves a slim hope of playing in mid April.

"It's obviously frustrating to lose this game, especially when you only have four games left," said Gilbert. "But there's nothing we can do about it. We still have a shot."

TASTE OF THEIR MEDICINE

After jumping all over their opponents the last few weeks, and scoring three times in the first five minutes last game against the Wild, Edmonton got a taste of its own medicine in the rematch.

Branko Radivojevic scored at 2:59 of the first period, Derek Boogaard beat Zack Stortini in a lopsided scrap on the ensuing faceoff and Sean Hill pinched in from the point and made it 2-0 on a power play goal at 7:19.

Things were going wrong in a hurry.

Midway through the second, the back-breaker: Brian Rolston's shorthanded goal to make it 3-0.

This is not a team you want to fall behind against. The Wild are 31-0-3 when leading after 40 minutes.

"They're a team that once they get that first goal, they really clog it up," said Sam Gagner.

"We were getting chances, but weren't penetrating and getting rebounds."

It wasn't like the Oilers didn't have their chances, but unlike so many games during this run, everything they touched didn't automatically turn to goals. Andrew Cogliano fanned on a wide-open one-timer, Gagner hit the post in the second, Marc Pouliot hit a post, Pisani wiped out in the face of a wide open net.

A power play that was scoring for fun a few days ago went zero-for-six, extending its drought to four games.

TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE

They finally reached the scoreboard when Pisani buried one five minutes into the third. Too little, too late.

Now it's off to Denver, where a loss will be fatal.

"We have to look at the postives," said Gagner. "We're not out of anything yet. This just makes the next one against Colorado even more important.

"At this point in the year you can't get down. We have to be excited about going in there."


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