EDMONTON — The Dallas Stars had lost 10 in a row on the road.
The Oilers had lost 16 of their last 17.
You can’t script that kind of drama - a team that can’t win away from home against a team that can’t win anywhere.
It’s like Pat Quinn and Ken Hitchcock going head-to-head in a high jump contest... not exactly a case of the sky is the limit, but entertaining and competitive nonetheless.
And Friday night was just that, with both sides looking across the ice thinking ‘Hey, we can beat these guys.’
In the end, the Stars found a way to win and the Oilers found yet another new and creative way to lose.
“We’re running out of feet to shoot ourselves in,” sighed Dustin Penner, after the Edmonton completed a hard-fought comeback by tying it 3-3 with 62 seconds left in regulation, then promptly lost it on James Neal’s winner 39 seconds later.
“We feel like we deserve a better fate. We battled back and got one late, it was a good feeling, we were confident we could pull it out in overtime.”
But they never even got there.
It’s turning into a Greek tragedy here. After dominating the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday, only to get hosed by a horrible call in overtime, they storm back from 3-1 down in this one, only to watch their shutdown line shut down their chance to finally get a win.
“We make the wrong mistakes at the wrong times and they end up in the back of our net and really cost us,” said Sam Gagner, who scored twice in the comeback, all for nothing as it turned out.
“It’s really frustrating. We’ve had the intensity and the passion the last couple of games. You can see that we care in here and we want to turn this around. To lose that way is definitely frustrating.”
This makes it 10 in a row and 1-15-2 in the last 18.
“Right now it’s tough,” said Penner, who was plus two on a two-assist night. “We’re doing a lot of things right and only a few things wrong, but the few things seem to burn us. It’s unbelievable.”
Edmonton fell behind early thanks to some serious penalty trouble, four minors in a five-minute span, including a five-on-three for a full two minutes. The shots were 17-2 and the score was 2-0 when the smoke cleared.
The Oilers looked done.
But Edmonton isn’t quitting, and Ryan Potulny closed it to 2-1 before the first intermission.
After Jamie Benn made it 3-1, Edmonton clawed back again on Gagner’s first of the night. By the end of the second period the shots were 25-23 Edmonton.
The Oilers pressed like madmen in the third, but couldn’t find the equalizer until Mike Modano punted Gagner’s rebound into his own net at 18:58.
Finally, a well-earned break.
Quinn sent out Ethan Moreau, Shawn Horcoff, Potulny, Jason Strudwick and Denis Grebeshkov out to close the deal, but they wound up scrambling around their own end until Dallas had won.
“It’s something new every time,” said Gilbert. “You could feel it, we felt like we were going to come back in this game. Guys were working hard, taking the body, doing the right things. We put ourselves into a situation to tie it. Emotions were pretty high.”
For 39 seconds, anyway.
“It’s frustrating,” said Gilbert. “That’s the best way to describe it.”