ANAHEIM -- They were being outshot badly, they couldn't win a faceoff to save their lives, they were outmuscled and outhustled and they couldn't get a decent breakout going if you spotted them two passes and the entire neutral zone.
The Edmonton Oilers were basically trotting out all the same cruddy habits they were lucky to get away with in the home opener against Colorado.
Only this time they weren't playing Peter Budaj. They were playing former Conn Smythe winner J.S. Giguere and the Anaheim Ducks, an 0-3 club that absolutely couldn't afford to lose another game.
In short, it was a desperate team against one that was going to be if it kept playing like that.
"Man, we were pretty lucky to come out of the first half of the game in the shape we were in," said defenceman Sheldon Souray, after the Oilers regrouped from their ruinous start in time to pull out a 3-2 victory.
"We were playing Russian roulette there at the beginning, but our goaltending was awesome tonight and we just stayed with it."
Outshot 12-5 in the first period and 18-7 when Rob Niedermayer made it 2-1 in the second, the Oilers looked dead in the water, but back-to-back Chris Pronger penalties midway through the second period helped them get off their heels and change the momentum for good.
"We got playing at about the halfway point of the game," said head coach Craig MacTavish. "We had five shots with about 13 minutes left in the second period and we ended up with 17 at the end of the second."
Thanks to the power plays.
"Absolutely," said MacTavish. "Erik Cole just engaged him the one time, just played him hard and Pronger ended up taking a (cross-checking) penalty, and then he took another one after that. That made a big difference. Sometimes you need a power play to get your momentum turned."
Niedermayer made it 2-1 in the second and the Pond was rocking, but Pronger's penalties settled Edmonton down and led to Souray's even strength goal at 18:33.
After that, Edmonton took charge.
"I think we just found our legs," said Souray. "The nerves and the rust or whatever just seemed to wear off as the game went on. And we kept coming. We weren't resting on the lead when we had it, we went for it.
"There were a lot more positive things tonight. Having a game like we had in the first one maybe prepares you better for this one.":
SAVED BY GARON
The Ducks came out flying after a stern morning lecture from head coach Randy Carlyle and the Oilers didn't seem to have an answer, other than Mathieu Garon. In a continuation of the Colorado game, they lost 69% of their faceoffs and spent most of the first period in their own end. But their goaltending was good so they escaped 1-1 on a goal from Shawn Horcoff and a reply from Anaheim's Kent Huskins.
"I like the way I'm playing," said Garon, who beat his old team even though the Oilers were outshot 35-28. "These games are not necessarily easy, they were coming hard to the net, lots of deflections, lots of screens.
"But the second half was a lot different for us this time. In the first half you have to give Anaheim credit, they played really good, but in the second half we kind of took it from them and played a little bit better."
Another Duck penalty (Corey Perry for goaltender interference) led to Lubomir Visnovsky's power-play goal, his first as an Oiler, four minutes into the third period to put Edmonton up 3-2.
The Ducks tried frantically to tie it, pulling their goalie with 1:05 left and spending most of that time in Edmonton's zone (because the Oilers lost all the ensuing draws), but they couldn't find the equalizer.