Bernier's pair burns Oilers

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:51 AM ET

Craig MacTavish was dropping "battle" in his post-game media conference yesterday like Allen Iverson dropped "practice" in his infamous rant of a few years ago.

Iverson, as we all know, doesn't like to practice and most of Edmonton's skill guys, as we all saw last night, seemed allergic to physical contact in a 4-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks.

There was tremendous hype to this game, what with Mats Sundin in town and the division rival Vancouver Canucks six points up in the standings, but the Oilers couldn't get started until it was too late.

"When you get three power plays in the first period and get outbattled in virtually every one ...," began MacTavish, whose club seemed like it was playing not to lose, and wound up falling eight points behind the Canucks.

"The kids (Andrew Cogliano, Robert Nilsson and Sam Gagner) battled pretty hard, not battled so much, but supported each other in the third power play of the first period.

"Other than that, we got out-battled. We weren't prepared to battle from the start, it looked like, on the power play.

"We had three opportunities and we didn't get a chance. We have to be better. The guys who are out there are out there because they battle. They have to go out there and turn the pucks over. We just got out-battled early on."

Dustin Penner and Shawn Horcoff were two of the key guys MacTavish needed more from. They weren't alone, they were just out there in a lot of key situatuations that went nowhere.

"It's not even winning the battles, it's being committed to the battle," continued MacTavish.

"Fight your hardest. I don't think we applied enough intensity early in the game to grab a game that was much more important to us than it was to them."

Indeed. Despite six minutes of power-play time in the first period, it was scoreless after 20 minutes.

"I thought we could have done a better job in the first offensively, especially on the power play," said Ethan Moreau. "They're a tough team to play against on the power play, they have some strong defence who knock you off the puck, but having said that, it would have been a difference in the game."

Vancouver opened the scoring at 14:07 of the second when Steve Bernier set up Alex Burrows for a one-timer. Edmonton tied it on a Robert Nilsson power play goal at 15:37... then the roof fell in.

And it didn't take long.

Bernier made it 2-1 and 3-1 just 12 seconds apart, at 17:20 and 17:32, burying virtually identical one-timers, as well as the Oilers.

"We had a couple of plays there that we wish we could have back," said Tom Gilbert. "That's what happens when you play teams like this, they can capitalize on those kind of plays.It killed us."

Erik Cole scored to make it interesting at 8:48 of the third period, closing the gap to 3-2, but Vancouver closed the deal on Pavol Demitra's empty netter.

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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