Slow start helps end season

TERRY JONES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:42 AM ET

In the end the Edmonton Oilers were a mentally and physically finished team. Mostly mentally.

In the end, they gave us the perfect game to remember them by as they expired from mathematical playoff contention last night.

The Oilers gave us one last empty effort at the start of a game to match the rest.

Why would you have expected anything different than for this team to be a no-show at home for this one?

It was their last chance to stay alive in the playoff drive against a lowly Los Angeles Kings team which had played the night before and had very little interest in busting their butts for 60 minutes.

UNINVOLVED

The Oilers were so uninvolved from the opening faceoff you had to wonder if they'd held the team party the night before or possibly purchased their plane tickets home on their way to the rink. The way they came to the game, they might as well have decided to text it in.

We've seen it over and over and over so I don't know why we ought to be shocked by this team not being able to bring anything resembling interest much less intensity, desire, desperation, will, character and anything resembling a refuse-to-lose mentality.

They gave up two goals in the first four minutes, committed an incredible 19 turnovers in the first period and ended up losing 2-1 while the St. Louis Blues knocked them out of the playoff race mathematically on the out-of-town scoreboard.

"We didn't have any jump at the start. It was a terrible start, virtually from everybody," said coach Craig MacTavish who pleaded in an Edmonton Sun headline for his hockey club to show up for the start of this one last make-or-break game.

"It's confusing. When you need a game that bad, you have to factor breaks and bad luck out of the equation," he said of grabbing the game like that by the throat early and never letting go.

"It sort of framed the year," said the coach who at least managed to get his 300th win in here the other night against Vancouver.

"It's an indication of a lot of games we played and came up short," MacTavish continued.

"There's lots of time for analysis now," he added of a hockey team which has been analyzed to death, so to speak.

"It's not just the game tonight that I'm going to wrap myself around. A lot of nights were like this," he said.

Indeed. The Oilers lost 23 of 40 home games and good luck with the last one with Calgary losing last night in Vancouver and the Flames needing it to win the division title.

"The last two games are going to be tough to play," said Sam Gagner of the home-and-home series against the provincial rivals.

"It's a pretty bad feeling in here, a pretty awful feeling. after coming into this season really excited to get it going and then hovering around the middle of the pack for a while and faltering in the end. It's a tough thing to deal with," he said.

"We faltered at the worst possible time of the year. The last couple of weeks we didn't get the results regardless of how we played. It's very disappointing," said captain Ethan Moreau.

FALLING FLAT

Faltering? Try falling flat and their faces in a pile of poop.

The Oilers won two of their last nine and probably two of their last 11 when it's over! That's not faltering.

And this wasn't faltering either.

Dwayne Roloson, so heroic in keeping this team alive, allowed an abomination of a five-hole goal in the first minute and Dennis Grebeshkov turned the puck over to leave a rebound shot into a yawning net to make it 2-0 inside the first four minutes.

Five minutes in the shots were 9-3! Not long later they were 13-4!

"We got off to a slow start. That's what lost us the game," said Tom Gilbert. "It's so frustrating. There were such high expectations at the start of the year.

The fans tried to show their support until these Humpty Dumptys put themselves back together again.

The Oilers body language was so bad you figured they'd come out and find a soft spot in the canvas in the second period and go softly into the off-season. To their credit they took the game over in the second period. But they couldn't get it back.

In the end, when it was over, the game and their mathematical playoff hopes, they gave them one last boo in a season which had to set some sort of record for an Oiler team being booed at home.


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