SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers master the last-minute breakdown

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:40 PM ET

There’s a fine line between a snake bitten team and a team that just plain bites.

The Edmonton Oilers hope like heck they’re standing on the right side of it this morning.

If hockey games were 59 minutes long, they’d be undefeated and flying high right now, but with only a shootout win and a pair of bizarre last minute/second losses to show for the first three games of the season, they’re starting to wonder if Lady Luck is betting against them in Pro-Line.

“There’s a lot of goals that are bouncing off of people and different things like that,” said Sam Gagner. “Last game, them tying it with 1.5 seconds left, it was a pretty heartbreaking loss for us.”

With the Blue Man group taking over Rexall Place, the Blew It, Man, Group, held an optional skate at Millennium Place yesterday, where they scratched bald patches in their heads trying to figure out who they wronged in a previous life.

They’ve only played three times and have already posted two of the most crushing defeats you’ll ever see.

Nikolai Khabibulin’s now famous blooper with 49 seconds left in the third period lost them their home opener last Saturday and a wholesale breakdown on the final shift resulted in an even more spectacular implosion with 1.5 seconds left in the third period on Thursday.

Both games were against Calgary, no less, just in case those gaping wounds needed a little more salt.

“It just feels like we’re not getting what we really deserve,” sighed Andrew Cogliano. “I think we’re playing a style of games that we deserve wins. There’s a lot of positives in our game right now, it’s a big change from last year.

“We feel good about our team. We’re in a situation right now where we’re working through a lot of things and getting some unlucky bounces, but when those bounces start going our way we’ll start winning games handily because I think we’re playing really well.”

They did play the Flames, who appear to be an upper echelon team, straight up for 125 minutes, give or take 1.5 seconds, and have been tougher (although, according to Quinn’s comments on Thursday, not quite tough enough) and more entertaining than they’ve been in years, but the road to an early spring is paved with hard-fought losses.

If they are to maintain the optimism and psychological momentum they brought into this season, they need something good to happen.

“We just have to stick with the game plan and work hard,” said Gagner. “It’s an 82 game season, I’m sure we’re going to get some bounces as well. We want to focus on the process in here and the things we’re doing right.

“If you want to be a playoff team you need results as well, but we feel it’s going to come. If you continue to do a lot of things right, good things are going to happen for you.”

If they could only get Lady Luck to drop a few bucks on the Habs, or, better yet, learn how to run out the final minute of a hockey game, they’re convinced they’ll be on their way.

“I think we played well enough that we could have more points, but at the same time a little bit of adversity will test us early in the season,” said Steve Staios. “I think that as a group together we can try and build off that.

"We have to learn how to play in those tight situations and close games out. Facing this type of adversity where we’re playing good games and not getting points might a bit of a rallying cry for us.”


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