SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers fail to capitalize

Oilers forward Dustin Penner (centre) celebrates a second period goal with teammates Andrew...

Oilers forward Dustin Penner (centre) celebrates a second period goal with teammates Andrew Cogliano (left) and Ales Hemsky on Sunday. (QMI Agency/Jason Braverman)

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:48 AM ET

ATLANTA -- They had been in town waiting around half a week for this contest.

Yet the Edmonton Oilers were unable to exploit a quirk in the schedule and fell 3-2 to the Atlanta Thrashers, who were playing their third game in four days.

"It's disappointing," said Oilers centre Shawn Horcoff. "In a lot of ways we seemed to be in a lot of these games, but we've been unable to finish them. We had opportunities to score and right now, we're not capitalizing. The puck's just not going in."

Vyacheslav Kozlov scored the game winner 12 minutes into the third period, converting a centring feed from Todd White and firing a shot past Oilers goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin.

The Oilers had a number of chances to tie the game, but are currently having issues finding the target.

Patrick O'Sullivan found himself alone in the slot, carefully teed up his shot, but missed the net as Thrashers goaltender Johan Hedberg was trying to scramble back into it.

Then with time winding down and the extra attacker on the ice, Horcoff was stopped on a one-timer on a cross-ice feed from Ales Hemsky.

COULDA, SHOULDA ...

"He saw me as he was coming across," said Horcoff. "But still, I have to get it up a little higher and make it a little harder on him. Or maybe I shouldn't be as far away, I shouldn't be drifting out as far, instead getting in a little tighter and that way I can shoot the puck sooner before he gets across.

"But it's tough, there are 11 guys on the ice, you're trying to find a lane there, you're moving left and right and you are just trying to do your best in order to get the puck on net."

The Oilers arrived in Atlanta following their 3-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday. They'll conclude their five-game road trip tonight against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Thrashers, meanwhile had a road game against the New York Rangers Thursday and hosted the Los Angeles Kings Friday.

"I think we had a slow start and picked ourselves up later on," said Oiler head coach Pat Quinn. "We had ourselves some troubled moments in our defensive zone coverage.

"I thought we had some pretty good chances to score and then we had a miscue killing the one penalty. It looked like we were going to get a goal and next thing you know, they have a breakaway going on the other way. I think that backed us off a little bit."

Horcoff and Sheldon Souray were both back in the lineup for the Oilers. Horcoff returned after missing four games with a shoulder injury, while Souray was playing for the first time since getting tripped into the end boards by Calgary Flames winger Jarome Iginla on Oct. 8.

Souray's return meant defenceman Dean Arsene, who's spent his entire nine-year professional career in the minors, had to put off his NHL debut.

Zack Bogosian had opened the scoring for the Thrashers in a lacklustre first period.

EARLY LEAD

Horcoff tied the game early in the second, getting a stick on a point shot from Steve Staios. Dustin Penner put the visitors up later in the frame, converting a feed from Andrew Cogliano and burying it past Hedberg.

The Oilers should have gotten out of the period up a goal, but turned over the puck just inside the Thrashers blue-line while killing a penalty.

Cogliano tried to lay the puck off to Sheldon Souray who was checked on the play, allowing Rich Peverley to send Maxim Afinogenov in all alone on a breakaway the other way.

Afinogenov undressed Khabibulin and slid the puck into the net with just 22 seconds left in the frame.

"We were around the net and I got the puck in the slot area," Cogliano said. "Shelly was calling for it, and you figure when you give it to Shelly there, he's going to bomb it through the net. That's what figured and I don't think anybody saw the late guy coming, we don't know where he came from. If anything he should have been in front of the net not behind Shelly.

"I think it was just a bad bounce, it could have easily been a goal for us, but it was a goal for them."

DEREK.VANDIEST@SUNMEDIA.CA


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