SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers get moral victory

Oilers defenceman Jason Strudwick finishes a check on Blackhawks winger Kris Versteeg during second...

Oilers defenceman Jason Strudwick finishes a check on Blackhawks winger Kris Versteeg during second period action on Tuesday. (QMI Agency/Amber Bracken)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, EDMONTON SUN

, Last Updated: 8:18 AM ET

The Oilers put another one in the M column on Tuesday.

Just keeping the high-flying Chicago Blackhawks in single digits was a major accomplishment, given that Edmonton was on a 10-game losing streak, their starting six defencemen were a combined minus 44 coming in and the Hawks have held Edmonton's heads in the toilet many times before.

So mark down the closer-than-expected 4-2 loss as a moral victory.

The Oilers played not to lose by six goals, and even though that strategy is impossible to win with and painful to watch, they didn't lose by six goals.

So in lieu of any real success, this will have to do.

Head coach Pat Quinn wasn't interested in any silver linings, though. He thought the Oilers almost looked scared out there, and said that's no way to play.

"The opening game we had in Chicago we played like deer in the headlights," Quinn said of an Oct. 14 loss.

"It was like 'We know this a good team we're playing, so let's see if we can just stand here and maybe nothing bad will happen.' "

Which is how they played again Tuesday.

"We didn't play any offence," said Quinn. "The score flattered us."

True, but in a showdown between the second place team in the NHL and the last place team in the NHL, the score could have humiliated them beyond belief.

So 4-2 might have been the lesser of two evils.

It started out like a lot of Oilers fans feared, with Jonathan Toews scoring on the first shot of the game, a weak wrister 44 seconds after the opening faceoff, to make it 1-0.

"They're obviously a very talented team, they moved the puck well and they have some very skilled players," said Fernando Pisani.

"At the same time, we have to respond better, we can't sit back and go 'Here we go again.'

"We came out pretty flat. They took it to us pretty good in the first period. We just kind of sat back."

Despite not registering their first shot on net until the seven minute mark, Edmonton escaped the first period down only 1-0.

Things went downhill in the second, though.

The Hawks outshot the Oilers 17-7 and outscored them 3-1 on goals from Troy Brouwer, Dustin Byfuglien and Marian Hossa, who must still be having nightmares about almost signing with Edmonton. But that wasn't the worst of it.

The way Chicago's best guys toyed with Edmonton was almost uncomfortable to watch.

"They're a good team at controlling the game," said Ryan Potulny.

"They have the puck a lot, which makes it hard on the opposition because you're always working to get it back."

Edmonton scored late in the second (Pisani) and then five minutes into the third (Potulny), but that was as close as they'd get.

"Third period, who knows?" said Quinn. "We tried to keep the puck a little bit but they were sitting to protect what they had."

LATE HITS: Dustin Penner was minus 1 with no shots or hits on the night. He has three goals in the last 19 games.

"I would have liked to see him pound the guy he was opposite of, but there wasn't any interest in that," said Quinn.

"It's how he's been playing the last two weeks, there seems to be a lifelessness there right now."

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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