ATLANTA — They have three points from their first three games, which is probably appropriate considering how the Edmonton Oilers have played so far on this road trip.
A case could be made the Oilers should have at least been able to earn a point in a 3-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres Wednesday, but the power play that was so effective in a win over the Colorado Avalanche abandoned them.
The Oilers finished 1-for-7 with the man advantage against the Sabres and squandered a late five-minute power play awarded to the visitors after Clarke MacArthur drove Liam Reddox face-first into the boards.
“We keep letting points off the hook,” said Oilers head coach Pat Quinn. “We’ve played reasonable through stretches of the game (Wednesday), we did it the other night and again on Long Island last week.
“But we’re not a mentally strong team that goes and gets those points. We go and let other people take it from us, so we’ve got to get better. It’s not good enough just to play well sometimes we have to have more.”
In Buffalo, the Oilers played well after taking the first period off.
Had it not been for Nikolai Khabibulin the outcome could have been all but decided after the opening 20 minutes as the Oilers were out-shot 15-8 in the opening frame.
However, they found their skating legs in the second, territorially took control of the contest and out-shot the Sabres 14-5. Yet only Patrick O’Sullivan was able to beat Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller. That goal came on a two-man advantage.
Earlier in the period, O’Sullivan had hit the post with an effort in front that Miller got a piece of. Zack Stortini was also robbed by Miller in the period.
“We feel we should have got at least a point,” O’Sullivan said. “But the one positive thing is that we’re certainly playing a lot harder. The last three games we’ve been committed as a team to play the way we want to. We didn’t get the result, but we certainly put a lot more pressure and played better in front of our goalie, limiting the other team’s shots.
"You have to take the positives out of it, we have two games left on this road trip and we have to continue to build on the fact we have improved our play lately.”
After being out-shot for 14 straight games, the Oilers have managed to reverse the trend in their last two contests. They dominated stretches of the game against the Ottawa Senators, out-shooting them 34-25, yet still had to settle for a point in 4-3 overtime loss.
Against the Sabres, they didn’t even get that, despite spending nearly 15 minutes on the power play.
“I think we’re playing well, we’re getting lots of shots and that was a huge focus for our team,” said Oilers forward Gilbert Brule. “Unfortunately we squandered that five-minute power play (Wednesday), that was a good opportunity for us and we should have capitalized on it.”
The Oilers took the day off Thursday and will practice Friday in Atlanta in preparation for their game against the Thrashers Sunday afternoon.
The last time the Oilers were in town, two seasons ago, they beat the Thrashers 4-2.
The five-game road trip will then conclude the following night in Columbus against the Blue Jackets.
Despite playing better on this trip than they have all year away from home, the Oilers still need to get positive results. Moral victories don’t mean much to Quinn.
“Not a thing,” he said. “I know you get encouraged and you think it’s coming. But we give teams too many gaps in there and we’re making too many bad mistakes that cost us.
"We keep making mistakes and you'd probably think that you can get them corrected at some point.”